Behavioral interviews are a key component to the case interview. Yet, if you’re just starting your interview prep journey, you might be even asking, “What are behavioral interviews?”. Or, “How do you pass a behavioral interview?”. Or maybe still, you’re wondering, “What is the STAR method when interviewing?”. All of these are fair questions, and never fear, MC is here to help guide you toward success! A trend we see that we want to make you aware of, is an underemphasis on behavioral interview preparation. This is in lieu of increased case interview preparation. We get it, you want to focus on case prep. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking: “I know my own experience and what I have done, so I can easily wing the behavioral interview.” That’s a recipe for failure. Give appropriate attention to your behavioral interview prep, and set yourself up for success.
These are the candidates that find themselves falling short of landing offers at top firms. Standing out positively is, at the end of the day, the goal in consulting interviews. The average candidate’s lack of focus on behavioral based interview questions makes this part of the interview the metaphorical low hanging fruit we always make sure our candidates use to set themselves apart.
When discussing the behavioral interview, we are asked three questions above all others:
- What are Behavioral Interview Questions?
- How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions?
- What are some examples of common behavioral interview questions?
Let’s decode the behavioral interview by answering these questions.
What are Behavioral Interview Questions?
Behavioral based interview questions are aimed at assessing what case interviews never can on their own. They test how well a candidate would fit at the firm. Deceptive by their “simple” or conversational nature, they assess the candidate in several subtle ways.
What Behavioral Interviews Test For
- They assess the ability of a candidate to prioritize by evaluating if they pick a relevant experience for a particular question.
- Behavioral questions also assess a candidate’s ability to elaborate on that experience in an articulate manner.
- Most importantly, they assess the ability of a candidate to spin meaning out of a life experience and inspire the interviewer’s interest. These areas of assessment add layers of complexity to a seemingly simple part of the interview.
Broken down, the top points of assessment in the behavioral interview are the following: quality of experience, fit with the firm, ability to interface with a CEO, and the airport test.
What you need to understand about behavioral interview questions:
- There is no right answer, but there is a right way to answer: broadly, behavioral answers must explicitly tackle the question and state tangible takeaways from the experience spoken about. Interviewers are keeping an eye out for the triple bottom line impact of your experience. Specifically, they want to know the impact your experience has had on you, the people around you and on the world as a whole.
- Interviewers want to like you, so help them: like most people, interviewers are looking to get along with people they meet. This means the first impression is extremely important. Prepare interesting conversation starters for the first few minutes of open conversation. The easiest way to get along with your interviewer is to be your genuine self and try to not be too nervous.
- The behavioral interview portion is the difference between getting the offer or not: Many candidates can solve a case, but not many can leave the interviewer with a conversation they remember – especially after a day of 10 straight interviews. That is precisely why behavioral interviews can make or break your candidacy at a firm.
Now that the importance and overall reasoning for the behavioral interview is established, the next question that begs tackling is “How should I answer behavioral interview questions?”
How Should I Answer Behavioral Interview Questions?
As with most things consulting related, clarity and structure are paramount to acing the behavioral interview. To answer “how to answer behavioral questions?”, we first cover typical candidate shortcomings before moving on to specific to-dos.
Behavioral Interview Mistakes:
- Lack of preparedness in the story: Writing your resume is very different from talking about the experiences in it. Many candidates think they are prepared after memorizing their resume points – however talking out loud is very different from written communication. It requires more context and different points of emphasis.
- No demonstration of broader skill sets: as with everything in consulting, interviewers are looking for tangibles even in the behavioral interview. This means that without structuring their story around broad themes, interviewees often fall short in this section.
Behavioral Interview Question Tips
- Candidates need to ask the question: what are a few themes that define my learnings and experiences?
- Tailor effective and expressive stories: your story should be memorable, easy to follow and must explicitly call attention to important details.
- Employ the triple bottom line approach: without broader learning and impact, your experience is largely meaningless. The triple bottom line approach is used to advise companies to focus on three fronts: profit, people and the planet. Similarly, your behavioral stories must state their impact on you, the people around you and the wider world.
- Candidates must convey their personality to the interviewer: it is very easy to differentiate between genuineness and pretense, which is why it is critically important that candidates speak about stories that actually hold meaning to their experience.
- Answer this question the same way as your high school essays. Lead with your thesis statement: “When leading my team to deliver a project for X non-profit, I learnt to lead a team through diligent transparency and communication, a skill that led my project team being praised constantly by the client and our suggestions being implemented to impact 2000 individuals in Y region.”
- Keep in mind the important points to hit by following the STAR framework.
- Keep your answer to under 2 minutes, and then give the interview the option to learn more by saying something like: “That’s the high level of my experience. I would love to elaborate if you would like to know more about it.”
In short, the behavioral interview will make or break your chances of landing an offer. Do yourself a favor and spend 2-4 hours preparing 12-15 stories to ensure you’re prepared. After all, there’s nothing worse than acing the case, only to find out that the behavioral interview was the reason you weren’t extended an offer.
Work with our expert coaches on focused behavioral prep today, and don’t leave an offer on the table.
- Case Interview: Complete Prep Guide
- Case Study Interview Questions and Answers
- Fit Interview Prep
- STAR Method: Should it be Used in Fit Interviews?