MODULE 5 – Preparing for the Behavioral Interview

Objective

To prepare for a behavioral interview! By the end of this module, you will learn what a behavioral interview is and how best to prepare for it. 

Individual Activities

In this module, you will prepare answers to a few commonly asked questions to jump start your preparation. In general, your answers should be concise and include relevant and engaging details.  Consider what you have learned from your experiences and how they have helped you improve the way you function in your work.  Many times, a story may be reframed to answer more than one question. Ideally, you will generate a bank of  stories that you can rely on and modify as needed to answer a range of interview questions.

  1. Read OCS’s guide and watch this OCS video on the behavioral interview.  Learn about the STAR (STAR = situation, task, action, result) framework which is a useful device for structuring your answers.  
  2. Review lists of commonly asked behavioral interview questions to familiarize yourself with the format and range of questions you might be asked in an interview setting.
    1. OCS sample behavioral interview questions
    2. Behavioral Based Interview Questions (courtesy of Harvard)
  3. Use the STAR framework to develop at least one story to answer each of the questions below.  
    1. Tell me about a time when you worked in a team setting
    2. Tell me about a conflict you had and how you resolved it
  4. Prepare an answer for the ‘Tell me about yourself’ question. This is a common, open-ended question that gives you the opportunity to sell your strengths and accomplishments in a narrative that also highlights your personality as well as your interest in a job or industry. Review our advice and see this example of a great answer. Consider these tips:
    1. Be brief – no more than 2 minutes!  Your answer should not reiterate your resume or provide a detailed chronological history. Instead, you want to tell an engaging story that makes the employer understand why you are a great fit!
    2. Do your research so that you highlight key skills required for a job that you are potentially interested in. Be sure to consider your transferable skills that all employers value, such as  written and oral communications, problem solving, critical thinking, and initiative.
    3. This question is a key opportunity to complement the information on your resume by providing a narrative arc around your motivation: why are you interested in this industry, job function or position? How has this interest been reflected in your experiences and activities?
    4. Use these additional resources to help you craft your answer: Example Answers; LinkedIn Video on Interviewing (Note: You will need to sign up for Linkedin Learning, which is free for Yale students and Postdocs).

Group Activities

  1. The best thing to do in order to prepare for a behavioral interview is to practice, practice, practice! Take turns working as a group or break into pairs to practice your answers to the following questions:
    1. Tell me about yourself
    2. Tell me about a time when you worked in a team setting
    3. Tell me about a conflict you had and how you resolved it
  2. Provide feedback:
    1. What are you learning about the other person’s skills, attitude, adaptability and ability to manage difficult circumstances or work in a team?
    2. Why does the story help you understand why this person would be a strong contributor in a workplace?  
    3. Is the story engaging and capture your attention?
    4. Do you understand why this person might be interested in a particular job, industry or function? (from “Tell me about yourself”)
  3. If time remains, then choose additional behavioral questions from this list to practice.

Additional Resources & Information

If you are looking for more advice and ways to practice behavioral interview questions, take a look at the resources below.  

Optional Activity

Use the STAR framework to develop answers to additional interview questions that you haven’t yet covered.