Behavioral interviewing is a technique that asks candidates questions that draw upon past experiences and actions as opposed to questions that attempt to illicit a response to a theoretical situation or questions that simply ask the candidate how they view themselves. The idea behind this style of interviewing is to find out how a person HAS reacted in particular situations instead of hearing how they view themselves. In addition, it is an attempt to bring more specifics to the table as traditional interviewing styles lend themselves toward very vague answers that often do not paint a clear picture of a candidate's fit within an organization. Let's take a look at some examples of each of the interviewing styles.
Describe your strenths and weaknesses.
What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
If you had difficulty with another employee, how would you handle the situation?
Describe a time that you had to make an important decision. What was it and how did you handle the situation?
Sometimes working with others can be challenging. Describe a time when you had to work with a person that you conflicted with and how you resolved the situation.
You will often find that behavioral interviews generally take longer and can often involve a panel of interviewers. This can be a little intimidating if you are not used to it. I remember an interview once in front of 6 panel members that lasted for 3 hours. Very exhausting indeed.
How will you know which type of interview you will be doing beforehand? Well, you most likely won't know, however, there is a rule of thumb that can help you make an educated guess. If it is a large corporation, there is a much better chance that the interview will be behavioral. If it is a small company, it will most likely not be a behavioral interview. The reason for this is that larger companies have HR departments whose job it is to make sure that as a company they are using the most effective methods of candidate selection and tend to have the resources to develop these types of programs. Smaller businesses typically do not have the time or budget that larger corporations have and would tend to view something like this as a very low priority.
The questions that you get in a behavioral interview will tend to be more difficult and thought provoking than the traditional style. Most interviewers understand this fact and will understand if you need a little time to think of an example, but if you take too long on too many questions, it may appear to them that you aren't very self-aware or have not been through the types of experiences that they would like an employee to be able to deal with.
Make sure that you are giving examples that actually answer the question. I have given many of these interviews where the applicant was obviously nervous and their answers had nothing to do with the questions being asked. Unfortunately, if this happens often enough throughout the course of the interview, it might make you look like an idiot to the interviewers. If the question honestly does not apply to any of your past experiences at all, then it is probably best to say so rather than give an example that is completely irrelevant.
Be specific! Provide actual instances, dates, people involved and other information that you can recall. It will lend credibility to your story.
To a degree you can prepare for the interview. Using the links at the bottom of this article, go through some of the sample questions and try to think of examples. You may find similar questions in your actual interview.