Faculty Recruiting Support CICS

Behavioral Interviewing

Prepare for non-technical interview rounds

Many employers use non-technical "behavioral interviews" to find the best candidates. Often these questions are asked during initial phone screen interviews, but it's not uncommon for them to be integrated throughout the interview process. Unlike technical interviews, the goal of behavioral interviews is to get to know your soft skills and understand how you will act in different situations.

A great approach to preparing for these interviews is to develop several of your favorite success stories, which you can use to respond to a variety of open-ended questions. Just as with resumes, the S.T.A.R. method can be used to help you share your stories about internships, projects, or other experiences in a structured, logical way.

Situation - Start the story by telling them who, what, when, and where.

Task - Then tell them what you were responsible for or looking to accomplish.

Action(s) - Next detail specific steps you took, integrating relevant skills.

Result(s) - Finish by explaining how you created value and helped others.

We recommend actually writing out these success stories in bullets and then rehearsing them until you feel comfortable and confident without even looking at the notes. Most stories will only be 1-2 mins long.

Another strategy is to use your research to create a list of employer/job specific questions you expect from them. Analyze the job description, website, and notes from previous interactions to predict what they might ask. Then organize your responses in bullets, focusing on keywords, themes, and STAR stories that you want to make sure to share. It's unlikely you will be able to guess all of the questions they will ask, but preparing in this way helps you think from their perspective. And it is an amazing confidence boost when you do guess a question and know you have a well-prepared response!

Schedule Mock Interview

Common behavioral interview questions

See our suggestions on how to organize your response. Great interviewers prepare more and think before they talk!


Tell me about yourself (present, past, future or use resume sections: ed, skills, experience)

Why should we hire you? (share 2-3 reasons, relating to the role/employer)

What are your strengths? (specify 2-3 strengths, with an example)

What is one of your weaknesses? (admit honest weakness then how you're working to improve)


Why do you want to work here?  (use 3 reasons, demonstrating research and/or networking)

What do you know about our company? (highlight major categories such as industry, customers, tech)

What do you know about this role? (summarize job description in ~1 min)


Tell me about a time you... (use S.T.A.R)

showed a bias for action (Amazon)

demonstrated a growth mindset (Microsoft)

managed through ambiguity by balancing competing priorities (Viasat)

brought out the potential in others (MathWorks)

collaborated with a diverse team (Liberty Mutual)

made a quantifiable impact by solving a problem (Google)

invented something new with a positive social impact (IBM)


Why did you choose to study computer science? (share 2-3 reasons, relating to the role)
Why did you choose to attend UMass? (share 2-3 reasons, emphasizing relevant experiences)

What activities do you do outside of class? (highlight 1 or 2, with a short S.T.A.R. story)


Where do you want to be in five years? (describe 1 year goal and 5 year goal, assuming at that employer)

What other types of positions are you considering? (share plan b, but emphasize that position is plan a)

What are your career goals and how would this job help you achieve them? (share 2-3 goals, connecting back to role description)

Recruiters often end the interview by asking, "what questions do you have for us?" Take this opportunity to ask your best questions, integrating information you've learned throughout the interview. Avoid simply reading off a list. Instead, keep it conversational, reacting to their responses and spotlighting how your skills and experience make you a great fit for the role.

In a behavioral interview there are no right or wrong answers, so focus on being genuine, kind, and thoughtful. Your first impression, even before the first questions are asked, is especially important since interviewers are susceptible to confirmation bias. The biggest question they want to answer is, would we want to work with this person? Your goal should be to make this a resounding YES!

If you are ready to practice with us, schedule an appointment and select Interview Coaching.