man interviewing woman for a job

Preparing for Behavioral or Experience Based Interviews

Past performance is a strong predictor of future  performance. This is why many interviews use behavioural or experience based question formats. Behavioural or experience based questions ask candidates to share examples of situations where they have demonstrated skills, competencies or capabilities critical to success.

Ensuring that you have your best examples ‘top of mind’ during an interview takes careful preparation. In advance of your interview, mine your career for examples or situations that most effectively demonstrate the competencies or capabilities that you bring to this particular role. Be sure to consider the most relevant examples from your current role but also reflect on early career experiences that will point to a progression of your skills and leadership. Relevant stories from volunteer roles can also help to showcase the diversity of your skills. Make sure to identify your successes but also be prepared to share some ‘lessons learned.’ Come to the interview with three to five polished stories up your sleeve.

During the interview, use the STAR approach when sharing these experiences or situations:

  • ST – outline the situation you were in and the task you needed to accomplish. Make sure that the chosen example is specific and provides enough relevant details to properly frame your story. It is important not to assume the interviewers understand the context in which you were working. Discuss the number of people involved, and any impediments to success, resource or time constraints you were facing.
  • A – describe the actions you took. While it is important to recognize team members, make sure that in sharing your experience you are highlighting the specific role you played on the team. Again, be specific. Describe your actions in a step-by-step sequence, and make sure to mention anything that was unique about your approach or methods.
  • R – share the results. Describe what happened, what was accomplished, the impact you had and any lessons you learned from the experience. Try to provide any relevant metrics or feedback that will help to put your accomplishment in perspective.

Prepare for your interview by practicing responses out loud. Do it in the car, in the shower, or while walking your dog — the more you practice, the more comfortable you will become sharing your stories with confidence. Ask a friend or family member to provide you with feedback, as an outside set of ears can help you polish your response and may even offer a new outlook or angle on your experiences.