Most people know how to prepare for a job interview – they ready themselves to talk about their strengths, weaknesses, former job responsibilities and hopes for the future. But candidates should also be prepared to answer behavioral interview questions.

Behavioral Interview

Behavioral interview questions are designed to get at the heart of how a candidate will respond to specific workplace situations. Employers who are eager to hire the right person the first time are turning to behavioral interviewing to find the best candidates for their open positions.

The underlying premise of behavioral interviewing is that past behavior predicts future behavior. That’s why these questions often include phrases such as “Tell me about a time when …” “Have you ever…” and “How did you handle that situation?”

Most job seekers feel confident making sure the resume is up to date, picking out appropriate clothing for a position, and researching a company. Candidates should put the same effort behind ensuring they can effectively respond to behavior-based questions.

To start, read the job posting for key phrases that indicate skills or qualities that are important to the employer. After you do this, think of a few examples of specific workplace situations you’ve faced that relate to these skills and qualities. For example, if a posting lists “strong customer-service skills” as a required quality, be ready to talk about a time when you provided exceptional customer service or dealt with a difficult customer.

You should also prepare to talk about past work situations that didn’t go as smoothly as you wanted them to. This shows that you’re self-aware and capable of recognizing when you haven’t met expectations. An interviewer may ask questions such as “Tell me about a time when you delivered bad news and it didn’t go well” or “Tell me about a time when you were unable to satisfy a customer.” Tell the interviewer not only what happened, but also what lessons you learned from the situation. If a similar event came up at a later date and you handled it effectively, share that as well. It’s proof that the lesson was learned and led to improved performance.

Behavioral questions can cover a whole range of topics, from relationships with coworkers to patience with repetitive tasks. Some people are intimidated by these questions because they’re afraid they’ll say the wrong thing. The best way to build confidence is preparation. Reading job descriptions carefully and practicing your answers ahead of time are great ways to build confidence.