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Behavioral Interviewing

Behavioral interviewing is an interviewing technique that helps employers predict how a candidate will perform on the job and fit into the organization. The theory behind these questions is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past behavior in a similar situation. By finding out what actions you took and/or how you reacted in past situations, the employer gets a sense for how you will probably respond to circumstances in the position they are considering you for.

Why do Employers use Behavioral Interviewing?

This technique provides employers with objective information that they don't get from a traditional interview question. For example, if an employer asks, "Do you work well with people from diverse cultures?" your response will most likely be "yes." If the employer says, "Tell me about a time when you had to work with people from diverse cultures," you will respond with a story about a situation where this was the case. The employer will then be able to judge for him/herself whether you actually do perform well, according to his/her standards. This also gives you the opportunity to prove by example that you can handle the task at hand.

How to Prepare

  • Refresh your memory about your achievements and highlights of both your school and work careers over the past few years.
  • Consider how you handled challenging problems or obstacles and be able to summarize the outcomes.
  • Demonstrate past behaviors by drawing on many experiences: internships, classes and projects, activities, sports participation, community service, and full or part-time jobs.
  • Decision making, leadership, organizational skills, problem solving, and team building are among the many topics that behavioral questions probe into, so any experiences which involve these areas would be good to use as behavioral examples.
  • "Script" your stories using "S-A-R" prior to your interview. Practice telling them.

How to Answer Questions - The S-T-A-R Method:

  • Structure your answers in three parts:
    1. Situation: What initially happened? Describe a specific event or situation, not a general description or your opinion. Give enough detail so that the interviewer will understand, but not so much that you lose track of your point. If you believe you have never encountered the situation about which they are asking, come up with a related circumstance, as most behavioral interview questions address somewhat general situations that people encounter.
    2. Task: What task or goal did you set out to accomplish given the situation?
    3. Action you took: Detail your efforts and remember to keep the focus on what you did; do not get distracted by evaluating or complaining about group members or other people who were involved.
    4. Results you achieved: Tell the interviewer how "the story ended." The outcome should be a positive one, showing accomplishments or how things were better because of your actions. If it was not, state what you learned.

  • Listen carefully to what the interviewer asks so that you can give an answer that is relevant to the question. If you are unsure, ask for clarification.
  • Use examples from either work, school, or community involvement.
  • Tell a story about something you have done, or talk about an event you were involved in.

Check out these examples of Behavioral Interview Questions.

Career Development Center

Buffalo State College  •  1300 Elmwood Avenue  •  Cleveland Hall 306
Buffalo, New York 14222  •  Phone: (716) 878-5811  •  Fax: (716) 878-3152

askcdc@buffalostate.edu