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Job Interview Skills: Answering Behavioral Questions

Behavioral-based job interviews are a growing trend. Most Fortune 500 companies now use behavioral-based questions to select the right candidate for a position. This lesson makes students aware of this growing trend and teaches them how to properly answer behavioral questions.


Warm up

In small groups or pairs, have students discuss the following questions:

What was your last job interview like? What questions did your interviewer ask you? Were any of the questions difficult to answer?


Introducing Behavioral Interviews

Tell your students about behavioral job interview questions. Behavioral job interview questions are questions an interviewer asks about a specific incident from a candidate’s past. The candidate is expected to answer the question by providing specific details of how he or she handled the situation. The philosophy behind these questions is that past actions are the best indicator of future actions. Give students a few examples of behavioral interview questions.

Examples of common behavioral interview questions:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to work with someone who was not doing his/her part. How did you handle the situation?
  • What was the biggest mistake you have ever made at work? How did you learn from it?
  • Tell me about a time when you were under a lot of pressure at work. How did you handle the situation?
  • Tell me about a time when you set a goal for yourself and achieved it.  
  • Have you ever been able to convince someone to change their mind about something? Tell me about it.


How to Respond to Behavioral Interview Questions

Show your students the video below. Tell students to watch the video and answer the following questions:

What is the STAR technique?

What are some common mistakes people make when answering behavioral interview questions?

After watching the video, go over the answers to the questions with them.


Structured Practice

Tell students to select two of the behavioral questions they were given as examples (the ones written in red above). Tell students to prepare responses to the questions using the STAR technique discussed in the video. Give students about five minutes, and then put them in small groups. Have students give their answers to the questions while the other members of the group listen. Walk around the room and make sure that students are using the STAR technique correctly and giving specific details in their responses.

When they are finished, meet as a class again. Choose a couple of students who had good responses to the questions. Ask them to give their answers in front of the whole class. Point out the positive characteristics of their responses.


Mock Job Interview

Tell students that they are going to have a mock job interview. Tell them to imagine that they will be interviewing for the same job they have now but at a different company location.

Put student in pairs. Ask students to briefly tell each other about their current jobs and what skills they need to do their job well.

Give students a copy of the behavioral interview questions found in this article. Tell students to select four of the questions to ask their partner. Tell them to select questions that are relevant to the position that their partner is interviewing for.

Once students have chosen four questions to ask their partner, give students about 15 minutes to interview each other. Again, remind students to respond to the questions using the STAR technique.


Wrapping up

After the mock job interviews, meet as a class and get some quick feedback from the activity. For homework, ask students to read two short articles — one about the advantages of behavioral interviews, and one about the disadvantages of behavioral interviews (called “competency-based interviews” in the article).

Tell students to read the articles and be prepared to discuss the following questions during the next class:

  • Do you think interviews with behavioral questions are more effective than traditional interviews? Why or why not?
  • Do you think behavioral interviews are inappropriate in certain scenarios? Explain.

Start the next class by having students discuss these questions in small groups.