“Give me an example when you faced competing priorities and how you dealt with them.”

Behavioral style interviews place a great deal of importance on examples skills and traits. They focus on self-management, interpersonal, communication, and overall problem solving skills.  Employers analyze their positions and work cultures for the skills and traits needed, then formulate example-based questions to gather this information from candidates.  They may structure a whole interview this way or may introduce this style of questioning mixed with other interview styles.


Before the interview

  • Analyze positions and research work cultures.
  • Identify examples that substantiate your skills, traits, and work style, and how they relate to the position and work culture.
  • Think before you respond and ask for clarification if necessary to insure that your example is on target. You may be asked to follow up a general description with an example.

During the interview, follow these simple steps each time you encounter an example-based question:

  • Listen to what the employer is asking and ask clarifying questions.  This is especially important if you are taken by surprise by the focus of the question.
  • Tell the interviewer you would like to take a minute and think up a good example.  Interviewers will be okay with this pause as long as you tell them you are pausing to think.  Pausing reduces the likelihood that you introduce a poor example because it just pops into your head and you speak prematurely.
  • Once you have an example, tell the interviewer that you would like to give them a brief summary of the example to insure you are answering the questions. Too many candidates spend too much time talking before they know they have hit the target and end up at a disadvantage due to their rambling.
  • Answer your questions using STAR [Situation > Task (or goal) > Action > Results] to walk the interviewer through your story - from the situation you were presented with, the task you had to complete, the actions you took, and the end result. Leaving out one of these stages (especially the result) can lessen the impact of your story. Then straight forwardly ask  “Is that what you were looking for?”

If you are off target, the employer will say so and you can adjust and proceed.

If you are on target, an interviewer will either ask for more details or will ask specific questions meant to understand your thinking, actions and learning outcomes of the experience highlighted.

Behavioral style interviews can be rigorous and uncomfortable for the person who is unprepared for this style of interviewing.  

Practice interviews conducted by Career Services can help you master the analysis that must precede the interview and the actual handling of this frequently used style of questioning.

You can meet with a career counselor to go over interviewing or to set up a practice interviews. Simply call (315) 443-3616 or visit OrangeLink. (Myslice> Student Services>Career Services> OrangeLink>Schedule an Appointment) set-up an appointment.