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From Stress to Success: Mastering Behavior Interviews as a Manager

Mastering the Behavior Job Interview: A Step-by-Step Guide



The behavior job interview has been a staple in the hiring process for managers since the 1970s. However, many managers struggle when faced with this specific type of interview, as they are still fixated on memorizing generic interview questions and providing cookie-cutter answers. In this article, we will outline the key steps to successfully maneuvering a behavior job interview.


Step #1: List Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Before the interview, make a list of your strengths, weaknesses, strong behaviors, and toxic or self-sabotaging behaviors. Organizing your thoughts in this manner helps you clearly see what you want to discuss and what you should tactfully avoid during the interview. Remember, the behavior job interview aims to evaluate your problem-solving skills, so focusing on your strengths is crucial.


Step #2: Study the Job Posting

Carefully read through the job posting and identify any relevant skills and experiences required for the position. If you are familiar with behavior job interviews, you may already have a collection of stories with specific details to draw upon. Keeping a journal is an effective way to remember all pertinent information, although you won’t be able to use all of it. Select only the most impactful points that support the skills and experience sought and have a positive conclusion.


Step #3: Convert Your Stories into Bullet Points

Choose 5-6 of your best stories and convert them into bullet points. While you won’t know the exact questions you will be asked, it’s essential to avoid absolute specifics. The interview panel will unlikely prompt you to share the story that showcases you in the best light. Therefore, focusing on the tasks you were responsible for and your specific role within a team is crucial. Remember to frame your stories as narratives, rather than lists of tasks.


Step #4: Highlight the Benefits for the Company

Reflect on the accomplishments and outcomes of your efforts. Did they save money, increase revenue, reduce waste, or minimize employee turnover? If the project did not yield a tangible, measurable benefit, consider altering the focus or selecting a different story. Additionally, incorporating dates, times, and first names makes your story more believable and authentic.


Step #5: Refine and Edit Your Stories

Write out various versions of your stories, set them aside for two days, and then revisit them for editing. Repeat this process twice. Request an editor’s assistance in checking your grammar and vernacular. Additionally, ask a career coach, recruiter, or other manager to review your stories and identify any negative, toxic, or accusatory language. Remove undesirable elements from your stories and commit them to memory, so they do not resurface under stress.


Step #6: Organize Stories from Most Recent to Most Distant

Arrange your stories in chronological order, from the most recent to the most distant. Include distant stories only if they significantly benefited the company. While it may be tempting to showcase your greatest successes, consider the financial impact on the company. If a particular project did not yield substantial financial benefits, unless prompted directly, it may not be the most advantageous story to share. Keep updating your stories with recent tweaks or improvements, even if the original project occurred several years ago.


Step #7: Listen Carefully and Respond Effectively

During the job interview, actively listen to the questions and demonstrate comprehension by reiterating the question back to the interviewer. This technique ensures that you address the specific concerns they want to hear about, avoiding misplaced responses. Behavioral questions often attempt to trip you up, so take a moment if necessary to gather your thoughts.


Step #8: Prepare for Stressful Situations

Assume that the interviewers will purposefully try to catch you off guard and create stressful scenarios. Practice your answers with a friend and consider videotaping yourself to become aware of your body language and confidence level. Sticking to the facts is an effective way to exude confidence, as experienced interviewers will detect exaggerations or lies through a series of follow-up questions.


Step #9: Understand the Difference between Traditional and Behavioral Interviews

Traditional interviews primarily focus on subjective opinions, with questions about strengths and weaknesses. In contrast, behavioral interviews require specific skills and experiences, as employers seek candidates who can effectively apply those skills without significant training. Ensure your answers align with this distinction, using past tense to describe your experiences.


Step #10: Stay Calm and Focused

Take deep breaths and maintain focus throughout the interview. Controlled breathing aids clear thinking and prevents shallow or rapid breathing, which can hinder your ability to perform well. Remember to stay calm and good luck!



By following these step-by-step guidelines, you can confidently navigate a behavior job interview. Remember to highlight your strengths, select impactful stories, and articulate the benefits for the company. With adequate preparation and a calm demeanor, you can excel in any behavior job interview.


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