Behavioral Interviews Guide

Importance of a positive attitude

Pedro Abreu, Senior Associate, Sales Strategy & Operations at LinkedIn
Published: March 21, 2022

Presence | Energy | Awareness

Behavioral interviews are not only question driven, they are people driven. Your attitude is an extremely important component of the behavioral assessment. Verbal and non-verbal cues are being inferred throughout the whole process - you might say the right things at the right time, but how do you sound? Do you look excited or bored? Energized or apathetic? Friendly and warm or cold and distant? Even in written emails, your tone is perceived right away. And all these can be a dealbreaker, so it’s worth paying attention to your attitude and how you present yourself.

Attitude can be seen and shown in multiple ways, but these boil down to three areas you should focus on:

Presence (Top)

Presence is related to how you present yourself and how others feel around you. Have you ever been in a room where you feel comfortable and at ease? Likely that’s because you’re in a familiar place or you’re with someone that goes the extra mile to make you feel welcome. On the other hand, you’ve probably experienced the opposite - being with someone that makes you cringe just by being in their presence. Well, the interviewer is going to be somewhere in that spectrum when meeting you.

Your goal is to make the interviewer feel warm and welcome. It starts with how you look. You should look presentable to the job interview and not like you just step out of bed. This does not mean you need to dress fancy, but presentable is a must.

Secondly, you should try to be at ease - i.e. pay attention to your body language. If you look awkwardly nervous or embarrassed, it’s natural that the other person feels this and not be at ease as well. This makes it harder to get past the initial impressions. Smiling is a great strategy to help you overcome nervousness, it helps you and others feel happier and also helps break the ice.

Thirdly, pay attention to your eyes. Some candidates avoid eye contact, others stare too much, while others have a blank stare that signals they’re somewhere else. These make the interactions weird. Do maintain eye contact - not looking someone in the eyes can be perceived as disrespectful - but keep it casual as in a conversation with a friend.

Remember that mixed with the stress of the interview, it’s easy to be misinterpreted. So, paying attention to your presence goes a long way to avoid any confusions and misunderstandings.

Energy (Top)

One of the biggest turn offs for interviewers is a candidate that doesn’t have energy. Having energy is a proxy to how excited you are about the opportunity in front of you. There’s little to no incentive in hiring someone that doesn’t show enthusiasm and excitement. Many hiring managers even prefer to hire someone that might not have done so well in the interview process or not be as qualified but is genuinely excited over others that lack motivation. The reasoning is simple: if you’re not energized and excited now, you’re likely not going to be while in the job.

Energy, motivation, excitement, and enthusiasm are all highly contagious. People can feel these emotions miles away and be inspired by them. Not everyone can easily show these however. Some folks are more introverted or simply prefer to not show their emotions. But in this case that is a mistake. If you’re genuinely interested in an opportunity, show it. You have more to lose by not showing it - there’s no other way for the interviewer to know you’re truly interested and excited about the role.

How can you show energy?

First, make sure you are indeed excited about the role, the company, and the industry. This will go a long way in energizing you. Second, remember that no one is forcing you to be there. It is an opportunity and you should see it that way - in fact it’s likely that many folks would love to be in your shoes. And third, learn to enjoy the process. Don’t dread it and don’t see the outcome as a measure of your worth, but as a mutual alignment of interests at that given moment.

Awareness (Top)

Being aware - both of yourself and others - is hard. Throughout the interview process awareness is key nonetheless. The ability to read the room, to understand the other person’s cues guides you to better answers and to ask better questions too.

There are three common pitfalls concerning awareness:

  1. Going overboard in the answers: This happens when your answer longs for several minutes, making it hard for the interviewer to follow along and eventually losing interest all together. You can avoid this pitfall by a) restating the question to grasp the underlying objective; b) paying close attention to the body language of the interviewer and stopping after a few minutes to ask him/ her if you should go into more details; and c) rehearsing the answers to some of the most common questions - it helps to build the conciseness muscle.
  2. Failing to understand the question: When you start answering a question, make sure you’re answering what the interviewer is asking. It’s really hard for an interviewer to be listening to something that might have nothing to do with what he/ she is asking. For example, the interviewer might ask you to describe how you build trust with a stakeholder and you go on about the specifics of a project, completely missing the main point about building trust. Plus, when your answer is not in line with what the interviewer is looking for, it forces a follow up question - i.e. you’re now not scoring any points and wasting valuable minutes of the interview.
  3. Not listening: It’s not only awkward but troublesome if you ask the interviewer something he mentioned already. For example, if you ask if the culture of the company is open and welcoming after the interviewer had just mentioned that one of the main reasons for him/ her to join the company was its open culture. This is not good for you as it paints you as someone that doesn’t listen. It could be the pressure of the moment, but for the interviewer you can come across as someone that just doesn’t listen. Best way to avoid this is to pay attention, engage, and do active listening so that your mind doesn’t wonder. Taking notes might also be a viable strategy, but it’s always good to assess the content and tone of the conversation.

Your attitude is extremely important and you might not even be aware it’s being assessed. However, if you check your presence - how you present yourself and how you make others feel; express your energy - energize others with your excitement; and you’re aware - of yourself and what is being said and asked. Then, you’re likely to do a good job and nail the attitude part of the interview.

P.S. Preparing for behavioral interviews?

Get sample interview questions & example answers from PMs and consultants at Bain, Microsoft, BCG & more. Plus, guidance on how to structure your answers!