Behavioral Based Interview Questions

Some of you may already have internships secured for the summer or co-ops lined up for the fall, but for those of you out there still looking, Valley has some interviewing tips for you.

Valley had the opportunity to talk with Bob Orndorff, the Associate Director for Employer Relations and Counseling here at Penn State. When it comes to employer relations, Orndorff described this part of his job as a time when he, “meets with recruiters and HR reps every week trying to get them to hire more PSU students as far as internships and full-time positions.” He constantly hears from recruiters on what they are looking for in student candidates.

When it comes to behavioral based interviews, it can be tricky determining the best way to go about answering those types of questions. If you’re wondering what some of the most frequently asked behavioral questions are during an interview, Orndorff has a concrete list of questions to get you started.

  1. Tell me about a conflict you previously had with another person and how you dealt with that conflict? (Orndorff stated that recruiters like asking this question, so be prepared to answer it.)
  2. How do you face adversity?
  3. Tell me about a time when you worked with part of a team or a community and what role did you contribute?
  4.  Have you had any experience working with people from different cultures? If so, what was that like and how did you get along with them?
  5. Can you tell me what you got out of the experience (ie: internship) and how was your interaction with the specific team you worked with? (ie: marking department)
  6. Tell me about a time when you disagreed with something your supervisor asked you to do and how you handled that?

Aside from this list of the most frequently asked behavioral interview questions, Orndorff highly advises knowing your resume inside and out. There will be a lot of questions stemming from your resume.

One of the hardest behavioral based interview questions that a lot of students have a tough time answering is, “What is your biggest weakness?” Orndorff said the best way to go about answering this question is to be selective. He stated, “Pick a weakness that’s not directly related to your core job description, you’re trying to sell yourself and all of your great qualities. Come up with a weakness that’s not going to be a killer.” For example, if you were looking to take a job as a sales person, you wouldn’t want to say that your weakness is meeting people for the first time. In a sales position, you need to be comfortable talking to new people. Aside from being selective in choosing a weakness, Orndorff advised, “You want to choose a genuine weakness and show how it’s been a weakness in the past and show how you’re making adjustments to improve on your weakness. Showing how you’re making improvements lightens the concern among the recruiter.”

Before going into an interview, be prepared to answer all of the above questions, but be careful not to sound too rehearsed when delivering your answers.

If there’s one thing you should know before going into an interview, it’s what most employers look to get out of the interview as well as certain things they want to hear the interviewee (you) say. Orndorff explained that there are, “Three main overarching concerns when it comes to an interview: they want to hear that you’re able to articulate why you want the job, can you do the job effectively and will you fit in? [Employers] want to hear from you why you are genuinely and concretely interested in this professional opportunity. What about this job excites you? Why do you want to work for the company? Do the core values that the company believes in match up to your core values?”

He also wanted to make it clear that employers look for candidates with strong people skills and character traits, because those are skills you can’t train. No one is going to be perfect during an interview, so if you find yourself having given a bad response to a question, use that opportunity to overcome the bad response and showcase your character. After all, employers look for people who can demonstrate good character and integrity.

As some last parting words of advice, Orndorff warned that, “It’s not enough to “wing it” [in an interview], you need to focus on the important areas that the company looks for in a candidate. Come up with good examples that demonstrate the skills the company is looking for  – these skills are important to identify ahead of time.” And his key point of the story, “You are able to be more articulate if you think your stories through beforehand. Know how to express and tell your story.”


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