Behavioral Interviewing —SHOW don’t TELL

When I was journalism major I wrote countless papers. Many of the papers that I would get back had the words, “Show – don’t tell” written on them.

It took a while to figure out what I was not doing and why I was getting this feedback. But once I got it there has been a profound improvement in my writing and ability to tell “stories.”

I now find myself telling my clients the same thing – “Show – Don’t Tell.”

The secret to doing well in a “behavioral interview” is showing the interviewer what you have done — not just telling him or her.

It’s the difference between your stories being flat and uninteresting and sometimes even boring and your stories being fun and interesting to listen to.

As an example, you could say, “I was very angry.” That would be telling.  Or, I could show with the words,

“I stormed into the room and slammed the door and threw the books on the table.” I am no longer telling – I am showing my actions. The difference is that when those descriptions are used most people would get the idea of the emotion.

Action is very important in answering behavioral interviewing. The number one mistake made in behavioral interviewing is not “showing” the Action. Most people want to focus on the problem or event and not the action.

Let’s go back a step and talk about “Behavioral Interviewing.” This method of interviewing is not new – it’s been around since the 70’s when industrial psychologists developed a way of “accurately” predicting whether a person would succeed in a job. They concluded that if candidates were asked questions that requested examples of past behavior it would be an indicator of their future behavior.

So, employers began using this interviewing technique to determine whether you were a good fit for the job. The technique is of growing interest to companies who would like to choose the “right” candidate, especially in today’s market with so many candidates to choose from.

The types of questions that are asked using this technique are used to find out how and what you did in the past and the skill sets you used in the process – if you did it before you can do it again!

The difference between a behavioral question and other questions is what the question asks for. A behavioral question will ask for a very specific incident –“a time.

For example when asked, “Tell me about a time when you solved a problem,” the key words are “a time.” This answer calls for a “specific” example of a “specific” incident.         

When traditional questions are asked they usually include the word “if.”

While preparation is important for every interview, it is essential to prepare for the behavioral interview. You must have examples or stories for anything you have claimed on your resume or that you say in an interview.



There are several methods and acronyms suggested for formatting your stories but the main point to remember is that any story has three key elements:

A beginning – “There was a time….”

A middle – “The action steps I took were…”

An Ending – “The end result was…”

Stories should be interesting and full of action. When you show and don’t just tell – this will happen by itself. Give the interviewer something to remember about you. A savvy interviewer will be able to hear skills from the stories and judge your behavior from your past actions.

The more details and skills you can show and work into your story, the more convincing your story will be. The interviewer will be able to “see” you in action. You will be showing them what you can do.

Preparing your stories before the interview will take the mystique out of behavioral interviewing and allow you to tell the success stories you want your interviewer to see and hear.

By showing them what you can do – HAVE DONE – and who you are you – will enable the interviewer to get a clear picture of you.


                                    BE YOURSELF!!!


I just received my Phase II testing results and I passed!!!!!

Your guidance and tough love along the way helped me tremendously. I want to thank you for everything!

The day before my interview (when I arrived in Atlanta) I felt confident and I was even a bit excited. I couldn’t wait to tell them all about me. During the interview, I was still a bit nervous but I was able to answer every question confidently. By the end of the interview I was certain they knew much more about me than the last time. I even finished my interview a bit early. I was prepared!!

Thanks again!!


I just wanted to drop a note to let you know I passed! I can’t thank you enough for the help and guidance you provided, as this was my 2nd attempt at the FBI phase II…so my last chance!.

 I also want to thank you for accommodating me as I was crunched for time when I reached out to you, but we were definitely able to do what we needed to do!

I also want to thank you for combining 2 into 1, as I had both the DEA & FBI interview within the same week. The only thing I regret is not reaching out to you before my first interview over a year ago.

Your critiques & direction is what got me through this one. I was able to polish up my stories to “tell the story”. It was night and day difference in comparing my first attempt with this one.

 I felt like they “got to know me” during this round….and confidence, confidence, CONFIDENCE! I was even able to introduce some southern humor to lighten the mood & to poke fun at myself a bit, which seemed to lighten their demeanor as well. 

I felt like the lack of confidence and not getting to know the person was my hindering factor for my first round/failure, but with your style of teaching and the materials we discussed….prepped me to portray the real me.

I passed the DEA interview before my FBI one, so that gave me a boost in confidence in and of itself…but going into both with the knowledge gained from your coaching was definitely the deciding factor with both of these.

Now…if you only had a coaching strategy to pass that pesky PFT….I’d be a satisfied customer.😊


As promised, pass or fail I would update you accordingly.

I passed!!!! Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you!!!

I could not have done it without you.  You did for me what I have failed in consistently within my own efforts alone.  

My interview this time around compared to the last was night and day.  I know it seemed like I wasn’t listening to you, but I soaked up every bit of advice you threw at me and followed it to the “T.”  

It wasn’t a perfect interview.  There were a couple of questions that I wasn’t able to discern which factors they were going for as it wasn’t so clear cut; but like you said, “just tell a story.  Anything is better than a zero.” I did exactly that.  

The rest I delivered were great.  Some questions I answered powerfully because I was prepared.  

I was nervous but like you said, I came in there with all the confidence in the world.

 I was “Mr. Personality”  from the beginning and I made them laugh a lot.  

My 5-points felt like my moment and I delivered! 

All in all, I did what you said; it wasn’t perfect but I walked out of there not knowing if I passed or not, but without a doubt I left knowing that they truly got to know ME –  the person.  

This was a huge win for my life Carole.  Thank you!!!!


I hope all is well. I wanted to let you know that I received a passing score! I can’t thank you enough for your work, support and encouragement. From your personal coaching to the exercises, it made a difference. It helped me gain more confidence in myself and allowed me to sit back and pause after each question to give me time to paint the best story. I can also say that this interview was better than my first, especially with regards to laying out the SAR (20/60/20).

Again, thank you for your time and support! It was truly a pleasure working with you.

I recommend you to anyone else who finds themselves struggling with interviews. 


Got the news last night. I PASSED!!! Thank you again for all your help. I know you continue to search for the reasons some pass and others do not. Of course, I do not have that answer, but I can share with you what I think helped me pass the second time. 

1) I left my “suit” at the door. I am an attorney, no doubt about it. But I spoke to the interviewers like I would to some friendly colleagues after work, not like I was talking to a panel of judges. 

2) In preparing I always had emotional intelligence in the back of my mind. I was thinking about opportunities in my stories to discuss my feelings and the feelings of others and how this impacted my decision making. I do not think they are looking for robots.

3) I spent a lot of time, as you know, working on my “why.” And I also went back and listened to the recordings of our sessions. I also sent you a lot of stories and applied your criticisms. This really nailed the story telling formula and proportions into my mind.

Other than that, I think the rest is just putting in the time to find and practice stories that match the eight factors. Having a couple stories for each factor, even if you have to morph them is a safe bet.

I think just sounding prepared gets you further than most people think. 

Thank you again. Regardless of whether I make it through the rest of the process, it was a victory for me to beat this the second time, and I can’t thank you enough for all your help.