Main image of article Ace Your Tech Interview: Mastering Behavioral Questions

Of all the types of interviews you will experience in your life, the behavioral interview can be the most exhausting. It can also be the most important when you’re interviewing for a job you really want.

A behavioral interview asks you to walk a recruiter or hiring manager through important, often difficult, points in your career. The aim for employers is to get a sense of your level of experience, comfort level with new and unexpected things, thought process for accomplishing goals, and handling setbacks.

Like any interview, preparation is key. We spoke with several experts about behavioral interviews to give you insight on the best ways to prepare, how to answer questions professionally, and how to approach behavioral interviews and land the job you’ve been wanting.

How Can You Prepare for a Behavioral Interview?

It probably seems impossible to prepare for an interview that feels as though it’s meant to unsettle you… but it’s not. “To excel in behavioral interviews, job seekers should spend time reliving and journaling about their career history and accomplishments,” says Henry Goldbeck, President of Goldbeck Recruiting. “Have intimate and readily available access to as much of your career history memory as possible allows you more options to choose from when answering questions and can be more convincing than scrambling internally for the ‘correct’ answer. It always sucks to leave an interview and then remember something you wish you had mentioned and the more access you have to your history, as well as your knowledge of the position and employer you are applying to, the more you can speak with ease and confidence.”

You know you’ll likely be asked about a “difficult moment” and to explain some wins, for example. Goldberg makes a great point: by considering your experience, you’re better prepared to answer questions confidently instead of stumbling through an answer or leaning to heavily into what you did in your most previous role.

“Imagine having to recount your biggest career accomplishments and most hard-won lessons in a riveting, Oscar-worthy performance,” adds Maria-Diandre Opre, Senior Insight Analyst at Penta Group. “That's essentially what a behavioral interview boils down to—telling engrossing stories that put your skills, values and problem-solving abilities on full display.”

The core premise behind this interview method is pretty straightforward—your past performance provides a window into how you'd handle similar situations in the role you're applying for,” Opre adds. “So when the interviewer asks, ‘Tell me about a time you led through a challenge,’ or something along those lines, they're really trying to gauge qualities like leadership, resilience, strategic thinking, and more.”

“It's important to understand the purpose of the behavioral question: seeing how you respond to various type of situations and evaluating your soft skills, Benjamin Schwartz, Vice President at Monterey Technologies, reminds us: “Remember, the interviewer doesn't know anything about you other than what is in your resume. The behavioral interview gives them insights into how you fit into their organization, so be honest while highlighting your strengths.”

Does the STAR method work for behavioral interviews?

STAR, acronymous for “situation, task, action, result,” is an interview tactic that helps you address a situation, discuss what you did, and the results. In an interview setting, this helps you portray yourself in the most glowing light possible; you get to frame a past situation in whatever way you feel is best.

Rob Boyle, Operations Director at Airswift, tells Dice: “The STAR format is the most common way to structure your answers in behavioral interviews. You start by describing the situation and your responsibility in it, then outline the steps you took and what the outcome of those actions was.”

“STAR is the best method for answering behavioral questions because it ensures you're providing relevant context and helping the interviewer understand how your specific actions resulted in a positive outcome,” Schwartz adds. “You can also add additional helpful information, such as what you learned from the experience and what you might do differently next time.”

“The STAR method just codifies the common sense simple and clear way to answer interview questions which was used long before the term was coined,” Goldberg notes. “As well, always try to answer the question asked and then shut up. Ask for clarification if you are not sure what the interviewer is looking for.  Stay away from stories, and do not avoid difficult questions. If you expect challenges ie: around lack of experience or why you were let go from a position, it is better to bring them up yourself with an honest, positive spin.”

Are Other Interview Methods Helpful for Behavioral Interviews?

“Some may favor alternate methods like CAR (Context-Action-Result) or SHAR (adding in how you overcame hindrances),” Opre tells Dice. “You may even get asked about the long-term aftermath following your initial results. The key is understanding the core structure so you can adapt naturally.

No matter the specific approach, practice is crucial for becoming a masterful storyteller, Opre adds: “The best anecdotes don't just recite facts—they make the interviewer feel like they're right there in the trenches with you through descriptive sensory details, animated delivery, personal perspectives and realistic dialogue. It takes honest self-reflection and plenty of mock repetitions to get there.”

Boyle agrees the CAR method is good, but reminds us that you should use what you feel most comfortable with: “The CAR method is the same basic process at STAR, but the situation and your responsibilities (“task”) are combined under the point of ‘context.’ Either of these methods is smart to follow because it helps you structure your answers, ensuring you’re going into sufficient depth and including the necessary details in an organized way that fully and effectively conveys the information the interviewer is looking for.”

How Difficult are Behavioral Interviews?

It may be hard to talk about yourself and your accomplishments, but don’t get intimidated by behavioral interviews… unless you’re in over your head, advises Goldbeck: “Unless you are totally unqualified the position you are being interviewed for, there’s no reason to fear the behavioral interview. You are being interviewed because the employer hopes you are the solution to their problem.”

“The thing to remember is that behavioral interviews aren't meant to be torturous ordeals,” Opre notes. “They're opportunities to bring your resume achievements into vivid color and give interviewers a genuine sense of what it would be like to have you on their team. With the right preparation and a willingness to be vulnerable, you can turn even the toughest behavioral prompts into moments to create powerful connections and lasting impressions.”

Boyle adds: “I do hear from candidates often that they find behavioral interviews more challenging to prepare for than technical ones. The most difficult part for many is figuring out how to create a story and narrative that is compelling for the interviewer. This is another area where preparing in advance can help, since you’ll have time to clarify the impact of your actions in your own mind before you need to explain it to an interviewer.”


Finding your career narrative can be difficult. For most, it’s hard to reflect on the past and find a way to make it relevant to a job you don’t have. But remember: the behavioral interview isn’t about the job, it’s about you.

Make sure you acknowledge your failures and explain what you learned. Give credit for wins where it’s due; if you got a lot of help from co-workers, that shows you’re resourceful and humble, two characteristics employers love.

Let the interviewer lead the questioning, but control your own narrative. Whether it’s STAR, CAR, or winging it, be sure to put a positive spin on your experiences and your career. If you do, you’re likelier to advance to the next round of interviews.