Behavioral Interviews and Graduate Challenges

October 20, 2020: By Ashley Agnew:

The graduates of 2020 and even 2019 are facing a challenge reminiscent of those in 2008 and 2009 where recession-like conditions impair workplace opportunities. In the wake of Covid, internships have been cancelled, hiring freezes have been deployed, and the interview process has taken on a new look.

While many employers are empathetic to recent grads, they may not necessarily have the resources to hire new talent or the bandwidth to provide mentorship at this time. If you are a business owner in this situation, perhaps you can find the time to offer a new graduate your time for an exploratory call, or perhaps feature some of their work with your network as a means of supporting their efforts in job procurement.  

I have recently had the absolute pleasure of meeting Jennifer Seabra, an ambitious 2020 graduate of The University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business. Like so many others, she is struggling to find a desirable employment opportunity despite her impressive education, potential, and determination. In effort to stay active and assist others in her situation, she recently added an interesting blog to her self-made website, She has kindly agreed to our reposting her piece on behavioral interviews so that it may gain a further reach and possible benefit our readers:

A Guide to Behavioral Interviews: Prep and Practice

By Jennifer Seabra, posted on 10/13/2020 at

I know that interviews can be terrifying. I have one coming up myself and I really had no idea where to start or how to prep. So, I am going to share what I have learned so far so that maybe, we can take your stress down a notch (hopefully). First thing’s first:

What is a Behavioral Interview?

Behavioral interviews are interviews that ask for specific scenarios that you have dealt with in the past that will help predict your behavior in the future. I know, it sounds scary and high pressure, but I swear it is not as bad as it sounds.

So, what do employers get out of it?

  • Insight into how you handle conflict.
  • How you may or may not fit into their culture or team.
  • How you handle pressure.
  • How and if you can handle multi-tasking.
  • If you are a team player or not.
  • If you can “play nice” even with those that have opposing opinions.
  • If you have what it takes to handle a situation on your own.

What are some of the top questions that are frequently asked at BIs?

  1. What was a challenge you had to face and how did you handle it?
  2. Tell us about a time you had to work on a challenging or difficult team project?
  3. If given the chance, would you prefer working in a group or working alone?
  4. Have you had a conflict with someone and if so, how did you go about handling it?
  5. Have you ever had a difficult team member and how did you handle it?

How to handle answering these questions (in the most effective way possible): proposes to use the STAR method:

  • S = Situation. You must ask yourself what the problem or conflict was and then describe the situation to the interviewer in a specific, yet concise way. Practice this part beforehand so you don’t stutter or mumble.

  • T = Task. What did you want to get out of this situation? What is your end goal? What could be done to fix this issue? And how could you achieve that?

  • A = Action. What do you need to do, in specific steps, to achieve your end goal? And what did you actually do?

  • R = Result. What was the result? This is when you talk yourself up and push the positives that came out of this situation. I know it’s hard to praise yourself, but this is the time to do it!

Now, I do have some little tidbits of information from my past experiences for you. Sometimes, especially if you don’t have years of experience, you may not have many happy ending STAR answers to share. It is okay. When you face this, spin it in your favor. If you did not have the desired result, explain that and explain why you believe that occurred and how your response could have improved. Along with that, show your interviewer that you accept responsibility for it and learned from your mistakes and that next time, you will know how to do better. This will tell your interviewer a lot about your character and integrity.

Now the biggest tip: practice, practice, practice! Employers can tell when you have practiced or not based on how you answer questions. Practice your answers to sample questions to you parents, friends, siblings, etc. and get feedback from them. Use this to fine tune your delivery, get rid of any “ums” or “uhs” you may subconsciously say, and appear poised and composed.

I know this is a lot to take in and process. But here is the thing, if you do get hit with a tricky question or something you are not sure how to answer, you don’t need to panic, just take a breathe. It is okay to stop and think about what you want to say, the interviewer does not expect you to have the perfect answer on the spot every time. Think about what this job is, what it requires, what the company’s culture is, and show them that what they need is you.

All in all, if it goes well, fantastic! If it goes not so well, it is practice that you can use to get better! Either way, you will be okay and you will grow, so give it your all and you will be okay.

If you have a job opportunity that you would like to present Jennifer, or if perhaps you have time for an exploratory call to offer insight in the fields of marketing, business development, or organizational behavior, please feel free to reach out on LinkedIn or via the contact information listed on where her resume is also available.