A behavioral interview focuses on the applicant’s personality and cultural fit with other employees in the business. This is not to say the technical or credential side of things is a bad investment for an applicant; it may be that such competence is already established or assumed. Above all, be prepared with stories of how you met technical as well as social/cultural challenges.
Admit Faults and Weaknesses
Nobody in a position to hire will believe a candidate is a perfect fit who is impervious to mistakes, weaknesses, or quirks. Behavioral interviews are not “won” by convincing a prospective employer that you are an angel or a robot. It is acceptable and expected that some weaknesses and personality defects exist. The key is to phrase an admission of weaknesses in such a way that the employer doesn’t see a large risk or negative impact on the job at hand. For example, a fear of public speaking is very common; admitting this weakness and pointing out that you’ve practiced recently, even if with sub-par results, will go a long way.
Link your behavior and actions to concrete results. For example, a winning response to “How did you handle personality differences in your previous positions?” could be:
“Another coworker and myself didn’t agree on how to meet the KPPs on time. Instead of duplicating effort and arguing, I suggested we run several small-scale models with a focus on each KPP per model, then combine the results. This approach resulted in KPPs being met 2 weeks before deadline with 15 percent less budgetary outlay then expected. Our project manager and clients were very pleased.”
Note that the interviewer hears a problem turn into a quantifiable positive outcome. This is the slam-dunk that you want to score in behavioral interviews.
Any interview is aimed at getting the best technical and cultural fit for the least perceived risk or friction. Note that this doesn’t imply anything bad about someone who doesn’t fit a particular company. An extrovert may do great in commission-only sales where approaching people and connecting is critical, but in a research job requiring independent work or narrowly-specified expertise, the same personality can be disruptive. To summarize, behavioral interviews focus on how you can navigate the social dynamics of a workplace in order to accomplish your job description.