Top 3 Tips for Interviewers: Preparing Your Candidates for Behavioral Interviews

July 29, 2019 Sarah Beckett
interviewer shaking hands with a job candidate
Behavioral interview questions (also known as competency-based interview questions) are designed to elicit information about a candidate’s experience and accomplishments related to the job you are interviewing for. 
Many candidates will be unfamiliar with this type of interview format. Preparing them for what to expect can help to alleviate a tremendous amount of stress and ultimately lead to not only a better candidate experience, but better-quality hires. 

Although some hiring managers still utilize the once-popular “stress interviews”, there is absolutely no evidence to support that this interviewing style is a good predictor of future performance.

In our experience, if you can make your candidates feel more comfortable, you will end up with a much deeper conversation about their past experiences.


Here are our top three recommendations to prepare your candidates for behavioral interviews:


Tip #1: Explain to candidates the expected format of their answers beforehand

As an interviewer, letting candidates know that you will be asking behavioral questions is a great way to set your candidates at ease. If you want to receive answers in a way that allows you to effectively evaluate the individual’s suitability for the job, it is critical to explain what you are looking for.

Set this context at the beginning of the interview, or even in advance when you are inviting them to the meeting.

Explain to your candidates that you are looking for them to frame their answers according to the following structure:

  • Describe the Situation or task where they demonstrated the competency
  • The Action that they took to complete the task or address the situation
  • The Result of their actions

Without providing the circumstances surrounding the actions and the results produced by those actions, you will be unable to effectively evaluate your candidate. This can cause added stress to the candidate if you are probing into their answers and they are unsure what you are looking for.


(About to interview a candidate or create an interview yourself? Click here to check out our free Hiring Guides.)


Tip #2: Provide the interview questions in advance

It may sound unconventional but consider providing the questions to your candidates in advance. This can help them reflect on past situations where they have demonstrated the competency being evaluated and help set the stage for a better interview.

It can be difficult for some candidates to identify the best situation to effectively demonstrate what the interviewer is looking for on the fly.

Although this tactic may not be well suited for positions where the ability to think fast is a key job requirement, it can be an effective way to make sure your candidates are prepared to have insightful conversations about their past experiences and how it relates to the role you are hiring for.

Many interviewers worry that by providing the questions in advance, you’ll be duped by candidates who craft stories that aren’t altogether true.

To alleviate this concern, make sure your candidates provide references who can attest to the example provided so you can confirm the results discussed were as a result of the direct actions taken by the candidate themselves.


Tip #3: Give your candidates the time to reflect on their answers

If you opt against sending interview questions in advance, you want to make sure that you allow your candidates the time to reflect on their answers.

At the outset of the interview, let your candidates know that it’s ok for them to take some time to collect their thoughts regarding the answer they want to give.

Providing them with some paper during the interview to jot down the question and some key points they want to address can often help keep them on track, and not miss pieces of information they want to share.

If the candidate is not headed down the right path, use probe questions to further elicit details regarding the situation or their actions or to redirect them back into concrete examples, as opposed to hypothetical situations of how they ‘would’ handle a situation.


All in all, creating a better candidate experience can not only help you improve your ability to hire the best candidate, but it leaves those you don’t hire with a good impression of your organization and your interview process.

They will be more likely to recommend your organization to others as well if they felt the interview process was fair and an enjoyable experience.

Are you conducting an interview? Want to ask the right questions to hire the best talent?

We'll show you how. Upload any job description, and we'll walk you through how to create an interview guide in our CompetencyCore software.

Get started on your interview guide by using the form below.



Post last updated: July 29, 2019.

About the Author

Sarah Beckett

Sarah is an experienced marketer with over 12 years experience. She drives HRSG brand marketing strategy and the implementation of all related programs.

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