A behavioral interview is a style of interviewing wherein the job applicant is asked to give examples of situations he has personally been involved in where he demonstrated a particular trait or skill that the interviewer is interested in. A situational interview is a style wherein theoretical or hypothetical situations are given by the interviewer to assess the applicant’s behavior in such a situation. The main difference between behavioral and situational interview is that behavioral interviews focus on past experiences and behavior of the applicant, while situational interviews concentrate on how the applicant will react when confronted with a given situation. These two styles of interviewing are often used in conjunction with each other.
These styles of interviewing job applicants are tailored to specific competencies required for specific job positions, thus specific situations must also be given as examples by the applicant. Vagueness must be avoided. The examples may be ordinary events in his life and not necessarily from previous work experience. These styles can be used to interview both experienced applicants and recent graduates.
For either style, the interviewer needs to identify the required competencies for the job he wants to fill. He must then examine actual situations related to the job where these competencies (or lack thereof) played a critical part in its success (or failure). A set of questions can be developed and framed in such a way that canned responses may be avoided. A rating scale is also prepared after the job is analyzed and the competencies are identified.
For the interviewee, behavioral and situational interviews require him to be well-prepared with specific examples of situations drawn from his past experiences that demonstrate his various competencies. He can examine and make a list of his assets and desirable qualities. He can also look at the job description for the position he will be interviewed for and try to come up with a list of competencies that may be needed for the job. For both of these lists, he can think of situations wherein he had an active role. He should think of problems he encountered in those situations and the steps he took to resolve those problems. He should practice telling his “stories”, which should be concise and to the point. The story should come out naturally and the applicant should be prepared for the interviewer to interrupt him at certain intervals to ask probing questions. Some common competencies interviewers look for in job applicants are skills in decision making, problem solving, communicating, negotiating, leading, working with a team and planning. He may also be asked questions related to working under pressure and, especially if he is applying for a sales position, persuasiveness.
For any kind of interview, the applicant should do some research on the company he is applying to. The company website may have information that may be useful to know. If possible, the applicant should also get some information on who will be interviewing him. Most importantly, it is wise for the applicant to prepare for the different styles of interviews aside from behavioral and situational interview.