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How to answer behavioral interview questions

How to answer behavioral interview questions

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How to answer behavioral interview questions

Transcript

Welcome to this year’s first episode. I wish you all a happy new year. To help you kick-start 2021, I am giving away three free mock interview sessions. The winners will be drawn from all newsletter subscribers, so make sure to sign up on interviewPreparationSimplified.com or just click on the link in the episode description.

Today’s topic is how to answer behavioral-based interview questions. These open-ended questions usually start with “tell me about a time when…” or “give me an example of…” They are asked because past performance is considered to be the best predictor of future performance. For instance, by asking you about a situation when you had to interact with a demanding customer, the interviewer tries to understand how you most likely would behave when facing a similar situation. And apart from having a good example, it’s also crucial to use the right technique for answering these questions. Let me show you how you can use the STAR method, which stands for Situation Task Actions Results, to formulate a good answer.

Step 1: Identify your example, preferably a recent one from the last 1-3 years. There are two aspects to consider: one is complexity and the other is business impact. Choosing a non-trivial situation is essential to demonstrating your problem-solving skills and your ability to handle stressful situations. And the higher the business impact, the better it shows how you can deliver value and produce results, which is the main reason for hiring someone. For example, if you are a project manager, then a customer complaining about the status report format that easily can be fixed is not a good example. But if the situation was about the customer requesting the project be delivered in six months instead of nine to meet new legal requirements and avoid severe fines, then the example is both complex and high impact.

Step 2: Describe the situation and your task. That’s what the ST in the STAR acronym stands for. It should be a short and concise summary to give the interviewer the context of your story. In 1-2 sentences, cover when and where the situation occurred and why this was important. Then, add another 1-2 sentences to explain the objective of your task and what your responsibilities were.

Step 3: Describe your actions. It must be clear what your individual contributions were, so use “I did this and that” instead of “we did this and that.” Make sure you also cover why you decided to act in a certain way. What data did you analyze to make your decisions? What obstacles and constraints did you face, and how did you handle them?

Step 4: Describe the results. There are two types of outcomes you should cover: the first is the actual results, based on the objective you described in step 2 when you explained your task. Make sure to quantify them with concrete numbers. The second type of outcome is your take-away from this situation to show that you are self-aware and willing to work on yourself. What were your lessons-leaned? What did you do well? What would you do differently?

These were the four steps for answering behavioral interview questions. As for all answers, always make sure you don’t disclose any confidential information.

Let me finish this episode with an example. Let’s say the question is, “Tell me about a time when you had to make a difficult decision.”

A good answer could be: “Last year, I worked as a sales specialist responsible for selling refrigerators to smaller companies. We were close to the end of the quarter and hadn’t reached our targets yet. My task was to generate as much revenue as possible. During the quarter’s last week, one of my customers, a startup that had just opened its third restaurant, wanted to buy three of our premium fridges for a total of 30K, which was the exact amount left to hit our targets.

I called them to understand their needs and realized that three of our basic models would be sufficient for them. It was a difficult judgment call, but I sold them the less expensive fridges, even though it meant 15K less in sales. I based my decision on two things: one was our company’s core value, which was, “We always put our customers first.” The second was a gut feeling that building a trustful relationship with this client would lead to more business in the long run. And this was supported by some data that I analyzed from our CRM system. It turned out that 75% of restaurant chains that were once similar in size to this customer scaled quickly, which on average led to a 50% year-over-year revenue growth for us. To not miss our targets, I worked additional hours for the remaining three days of the week and closed three more deals.

We did reach our sales targets, and three months later, the startup announced the launch of its franchise business and chose us for a three-year frame agreement. They told us that they picked us over our competitors despite a slightly higher price point, solely due to my honesty during this previous sales transaction. I cannot disclose the details, but the deal was worth significantly more than the 15K we initially lost in sales.

I learned two things from this situation – that long-term customer relationships can be worth much more than short-term profit. Also, that I should have talked to my manager earlier to get her buy-in for my decision from the beginning.

That’s all for today. Thank you for listening, and I hope this was helpful to you.

How to answer behavioral interview questions

During your job interview, your prospective employer is likely to ask you some behavioral questions. Unlike job-related questions that focus on past performance, behavioral questions help the employer get a better feel for who you are and how you’ll carry yourself on the job.

Here are some of the common behavioral interview questions you can expect, with advice and examples to help you answer them.

Ability to Work and Play Well With Others

1 Tell me about a time you had to work closely with someone whose personality or work style clashed with yours.

It’s okay to be honest here, but don’t bash your former colleague. It’s important to show that you can be flexible and overcome challenges.

“I had a supervisor who was ultra-creative, and so he had a creative person’s impulse-driven approach to projects. I need more structure, so we worked together to develop an Asana project where he could add creative input when inspiration struck, and I had a central place for project notes to keep me on task.”

2 Talk about a time when you made a mistake that affected a colleague. How did you handle it and what was the outcome?

The employer wants to see that you own your mistakes rather than mounting a defense or deflecting blame. Admit something you did, and explain how you corrected the mistake.

“I contacted a lead that my colleague was already working with and ended up taking his sale. When I caught the error, I realized that I’d forgotten to check the client database before reaching out to the lead. I apologized to my colleague and split the commission with him. Then I put some measures in place so that I’d always remember to check the database before getting too enthusiastic about client outreach.”

3 Let’s say you need something important from a coworker and that person isn’t responding. How would you deal with this?

It’s important to show that you’re persistent and able to follow through. Just be careful not to give the impression that you’d be unreasonable or belligerent.

“Things fall through the cracks sometimes. I’d follow up with my coworker by email or Slack, and if that didn’t work I’d check in with him personally. If the problem grew to a point where it was going to be detrimental to the project, I’d ask a supervisor for an assist.”

Time Management Chops

4 Tell me about a time when you had to manage multiple responsibilities. How did you handle that?

If you’re a great multitasker, you may be tempted to brag. Resist the urge. Instead of trying to make yourself sound like a superhero, try showing your capacity to learn.

“My partner left for a new job right in the middle of a major project and her responsibilities fell to me. It was a huge challenge! I spent a day prioritizing the project steps and created a timeline for keeping everything on track. I ended up putting in some extra hours, but the project was completed by deadline.”

5 Let’s say you’re working on a major project and you’re in the weeds. How do you find your way out?

We all end up in the weeds now and then, so don’t blow off this question by saying it’s never happened to you. Even the most productive rockstar can think of a time when things went south.

“I’ve worked hard to get good at time management, so I’m usually in good shape. But I did once get overwhelmed when I was working on my department’s annual report. I had too much information to compile, and I was overthinking it. I called in a couple of my colleagues to help me sort and prioritize, and we got the report finished on time.”

Professionalism and Client-Oriented Skills

6 Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond to deliver exceptional customer service.

Saying that you go above and beyond every day is a cop-out. Think of a story you can relate here that will demonstrate how much you care about providing great customer service.

“We were preparing to give a video presentation to a potential new client when I learned that someone on their team was deaf. The presentation was scheduled for the following morning, so I stayed late captioning the video so she’d be able to experience it. The client was impressed by our attention to detail and we landed the account.”

7 We all deal with difficult customers from time to time. Tell me about a challenging client-facing situation and how you handled it.

The employer wants to see that you can keep a calm head when difficult situations arise, so share a narrative that shows your ability to resolve conflicts.

“We had a customer who complained frequently and was becoming hostile toward customer service reps. I did some investigating and discovered that our CS agents were repeating the same templated scripts to him and he felt as though his complaints weren’t being heard. I helped devise an escalation system so that this endless CS loop wouldn’t happen again. Then I contacted the customer personally to apologize and thank him for helping us find and fix a glitch in our process.”

Flexibility

8 Sometimes we have an all-hands-on-deck situation that may require everyone to work extra hours. How would you handle that?

Like it or not, we’re working more hours these days. Although you don’t want to become a slave to the office, if your prospective employer has asked you this question, you can be sure she’s going to need you to be a team player.

“I try to keep a good work/life balance, so I’d do my best to help my team meet project goals during working hours. That said, crunch times happen. I’m dedicated to putting in the extra hours when they become necessary.”

9 Everyone starts somewhere. Talk about a time when you were new on the job and had a lot to learn. How did you manage that?

Here’s your opportunity to show that you’re eager to learn and keep learning.

“I love being a newbie! It’s exhilarating to learn new things. When I was new to marketing, I immersed myself in the many great blogs, video presentations, and books available about current trends. In fact, I still do that. Things change rapidly in this industry, so I make a point to stay informed.”

Aspirations and Values

10 I’m interested in how you recharge when you’re not working. What do you do with your downtime?

Try to mesh your leisure activities with the company’s values, which you will have researched before your interview. Let’s say the company has an active, energetic culture. Talk about your most active leisure pursuits. If the company has more traditional values, talk up things like volunteer activities.

“I love to recharge with a good long hike on the weekends. Your company culture webpage said that your company went on a team-building kayaking excursion last year. I’d definitely be on board for something like that!”

11 Give me an example of how you set goals for yourself.

The employer wants to know that you’re focused on goals and what process you use to achieve them. Prepare an example that illustrates the steps you took to accomplish something in your career.

“When I wanted to move from staff writing to content management, I started by breaking that goal down into manageable steps. I looked for an entry level position where I could learn the ropes for a couple of years. I worked hard, went to workshops and conferences, and was promoted in my department within the first year. Now I’m here, ready to take it to the next level!”

Behavioral interview questions are hard to answer if you are not prepared for this type of question. Behavioral interview questions are very specific, and ask you to give a ‘detailed example’ as part of your answer. Employers are using more and more behavioral style interview questions in order to understand how you will react in a very specific situation. It is believed that this is the best indicator of your future behaviour.

For example, if an employer knows their workplace goes through a lot of unexpected changes, they probably won’t ask you something simple like – How do you deal with change?

For them to understand how you would deal with that specific environment, they would more likely ask you a targeted behavioral question like – Tell me about a situation in which you have had to adjust to changes that were outside of your control. How did you handle it?

Getting Ready For a Behavioral Interview:

Unfortunately there is no way of knowing for sure if you are going to face a behavioral interview. It is always best to assume you will face at least a few behavioral style questions. By preparing to give detailed answers with good examples you are covered no matter what the question style. When preparing for a possible behavioral job interview you need to:

1. Research the Company & Job Description

The first thing you need to do is thoroughly research the company, its products and its competitors. By doing this you will understand the issues the company faces, potential growth opportunities and get an idea of the company culture. This should give you some clues as to the types of behavioral questions you are likely to face.

2. Review Your Work History

Once you have a good understanding of the company, you then need to gather together all your best accomplishments. To do this, sit down and consider all the key competencies listed below. Think about your work experiences and write down any specific work examples where you have demonstrated these key skills. Just list the projects for now. Once you have your list, go through and tick the most compelling examples that you will craft into answers.

  • Adaptable to Change
  • Teamwork
  • Problem Solving
  • Decision Making
  • Verbal and Written Communicationquestions
  • Leadership
  • Presentation Skills
  • Organization & Planning
  • Customer Focus
  • Initiative
  • Stress Management
  • Creative Thinking

3. Preparing Great Answers

Try and have one example for each of the core competencies above that are relevant to your industry. The best way to turn your work example into a great answer is to use the STAR method. This method starts by describing the situation you faced then the task at hand. it then moves onto your specific action and finishes with the result.

The STAR technique is a widely known and often used acronym to help people develop great answers to any interview questions, and works well for competency based or behavioral types of interview questions.

Behavioral interview questions are very popular in job interviews because they reveal the candidate’s ability to handle difficult situations. If you wonder how to answer behavioral interview questions, you should be prepared to tell a story that was behind the problem and how you resolved the problem successfully.

In this situation, it is best to use the PART strategy, which stands for Problem, Action, Result, and Takeaway. With these four steps, you reveal your qualities and skills that made the resolution to the specific problem. In this manner, you show the interviewer that you are able to face the challenges and resolve the issues effectively.

Let’s reveal more about the PART strategy and how this strategy can help you get a job that you applied for.

How to answer behavioral interview questions

PART Strategy might be your key to find answers to your behavioral interview questions.

Problem

In this part, you should explain a particular problem that you faced in a certain situation. You should explain what kind of problem you had and why the customer or a coworker showed resignation or dissatisfaction.

The problems within the company might be very challenging, and you should describe the source of the problem in a few sentences. Try to be honest and do not explain the situation in an endless story. Be concise and focus on the most relevant aspects of a problem.

Action

Now, after a problem explanation, you should describe the action that you took to solve the problem. That could be some action that calmed the angry customer or changed the perspective of a difficult coworker. Again, you should be honest and you should tell the steps that you took to make things easier for everyone.

You can mention your skillset and the ability to solve the problems. The interviewer will be eager to hear how you tackled the specific challenges.

Result

As a result of the positive action, you should be able to solve the issue. Tell a story about the results of an action that you took and explain how this action brought benefits to the entire team.

The result could be a satisfied customer, better behavior of a coworker, or a better relationship with a boss. No matter what the result was, you should mention how the specific action resulted in a positive outcome.

Takeaway

The last ingredient of the PART strategy is a takeaway. The most realistic takeaway is the one that improves your actual skills and abilities to solve problems. Explain to the recruiter that you learned a new skill at the end of the process, and make sure that you mention what you have learned from solving a specific issue.

Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers

Most of us ask a question: “What are behavioral interview questions?” and now, we present some of the behavioral interview questions examples that are the most common on job interviews.

Let’s also see the behavioral interview example answers that will be the most suitable answers for the exact questions.

How do you set your goals?

I set goals by doing small steps that will make a bigger picture in the future. When I was working in a kitchen as an assistant, I wanted to become a chef, but I didn’t have the relevant knowledge. Then I started saving for the culinary academy where I learned the job. After a few years, I became a chef and I continue to set new goals in my career.

How do you work under pressure?

My team and I faced the situation where we needed to finish the project in 45 days instead of the previously agreed 60 days. I had a meeting with my team and we decided to put all of the less relevant tasks on the side in order to finish the mentioned project on time. We worked hard and managed to complete the project on time.

Summary

Now you have a better understanding of how to answer behavioral interview questions. You can always prepare for the interview questions so that nothing can surprise you. Keep learning about the PART method and get ready for your next dream job interview.

Behavioral interview questions are very common for finance jobs , and yet applicants are often under-prepared for them.

With the right preparation, they can be easy to handle. The key is to have about 5-10 stories you can draw on as examples to use, depending on the type of question they ask you.

There are five types of behavioral questions:

  1. Teamwork
  2. Leadership
  3. Conflict
  4. Failure
  5. Creativity

Pick at least two personal stories that relate to each of the five categories above and you will be able to shape those stories to almost any behavioral question that gets thrown your way! That’s the secret to answering behavioral interview questions.

How to answer behavioral interview questions

Teamwork Behavioral Interview questions

  • “Describe a situation in the past where you demonstrated strong team-work.”
  • “What is your management style?”
  • “Tell me about a time you valued one of your team member’s effort more than your own?”
  • “What do you typically do if you disagree with someone’s idea?”

Leadership Behavioral Interview questions

  • “What does leadership mean to you?”
  • “Can you provide some examples of good and bad leadership?”
  • “How do you show leadership in the face of adversity?”
  • “How would you motivate a disengaged employee?”
  • “What inspires you?”

Handling Conflict Behavioral Interview questions

  • “How do you deal with stress in your personal life?”
  • “Tell me about a time when you did an effective job of managing a conflict?”
  • “What is your conflict resolution style?”

Failure Behavioral Interview Questions

  • “What is one of your biggest weaknesses and how do you deal with it?”
  • “What are some good things about failure?”
  • “Tell me about an investment you made that didn’t go as planned.”
  • “What do you regret doing in your life?”

Creativity Questions

  • “Tell me about a significant challenge you faced in your professional career and how you used creativity to come overcome it.”
  • “Which is more important in business – IQ or EQ?”
  • “What are five things you could use an oven for if it were unable to generate heat ever again?”
  • “Why do poor people spend more money on toilet paper than rich people?”
  • “What is one thing you believe to be true, that most people disagree with you on?”

Behavioral Interview Answers

The good thing and the bad thing about behavioral interview questions is, there are no right or wrong answers. Think about that for a minute. If you can’t be definitively right or wrong, then the assessment must be very subjective.

The interviewer will grade you based on how well you expanded on your ideas.

The key for the interviewer is to determine the following:

  • Do you demonstrate maturity
  • Are you comfortable with ambiguity
  • Can you work as part of a team
  • Do you have emotional intelligence (EQ)
  • Are you quick on your feet
  • Can you think creatively (divergent thinking)
  • Would you fit well in the company culture

More Interview Prep Resources

Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to behavioral interview questions. For more interview questions and answers, check out our other interview guides for:

  • Finance Finance Interview Questions Finance interview questions and answers. This list includes the most common and frequent interview questions and answers for finance jobs and
  • Accounting Accounting Interview Questions Accounting interview questions and answers. This list includes the most common interview questions used to hire for accounting jobs. Some are trickier than they seem at first! This guide covers questions on the income statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement, budgeting, forecasting, and accounting principles
  • Investment banking Investment Banking Interview Questions & Answers Investment banking interview questions and answers. This real form was used by a bank to hire a new analyst or associate. IB interview insights & strategies. Questions are sorted into: bank and industry overview, employment history (resume), technical questions (finance, accounting, valuation), and behavioral (fit)
  • Economics Economics Interview Questions The most common economics interview questions. For anyone with an interview for an analyst position in at a bank or other institution, this is

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How to answer behavioral interview questionsIs this you? “I can’t answer behavioral interview questions because:

  • I have only a few stories (or none).
  • My last relevant job was a while back and I can’t remember what I did.
  • I have stories but I ramble and don’t tell them well.
  • I have no stories because I have no experience. I’m looking for my first job.

It’s true that behavioral interview questions require stories. When you’re asked “Tell me about a time when you …. (blah blah)” or “Describe a situation in which you … (yada yada)”, it’s not enough to reply with generalities about how you would handle the situation. You’re going to have to narrate a specific situation.

If you think you don’t have stories, you’re not alone. Your issue is more common than you think, and more solvable.

“I don’t have enough interview stories (or none).”

If you’ve been interviewing, you may have noticed that having three or four good stories isn’t enough; you end up having to refer to them over and over even in a single interview, let alone the all-day processes common these days. I recommend having at least a dozen stories, preferably 20 or more. Before you throw up your hands in defeat, read on.

One great method to come up with interview stories is to go through job postings and ask yourself “When have I had a good success in doing this task they’ve mentioned?” and “When have I particularly demonstrated this trait or skill?” You don’t need a good answer every time, but when you do, give that story a unique title and jot down a few notes about it. Build your stories list and save it in an easy-to-find place, preferably in a file on your computer, for use as you prepare for your interviews.

Another technique is to google up some lists of behavioral interviews questions, the more the merrier, then think carefully about one after another. Any time you can answer one of them, add that story to your list. Don’t get upset if you don’t have a story to answer the first question you read. Give it a minute and then move on. Keep going. If reading 200 behavioral questions only leads to 10-20 good answers, no sweat, you’ve got a good list right there!

Your resume, LinkedIn profile and recommendations, and any kudos or letters of recommendation you’ve ever received are additional places to look for stories.

Recently I provided interview coaching for a client who thought he only had about four stories because all of his work has revolved around a few large, mission-critical projects. So I pointed out that each of those projects had many phases. I asked him, was there a story in the beginning phrase? A problem he solved cleverly in the middle? Something that almost went wrong toward the end but he fixed it? It turned out those four stories were hiding many smaller ones that were quite meaty enough to stand on their own.

“My last relevant job was a while back and I can’t remember what I did.”

If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, or if your goal is to return to a previous occupation, you may have this issue. You may need to spend some time hanging out on memory lane, so to speak. Maybe have lunch with an old colleague and pool your memories. Look through any notes, performance reviews (never throw these out!) or kudos (ditto!) you may have received.

Or just tell your stories with less detail. “A time I closed a complex deal? Yes, we were a small operation and I did close about half the deals. Some of the complexities included . . . and although I’m having trouble thinking of any one particular deal, I know that the way I managed those was . . . And I know I was successful because I was getting regular raises and bonuses up until the time I resigned. In fact, they offered me a generous raise if I would stay.”

You can also supplement your less-detailed old work stories with stories from volunteer work, education, travel or personal projects you kept busy with between jobs. (And there’s another reason to keep busy between jobs.)

Just don’t make anything up. Experienced interviewers know how to ask follow-up questions and compare one answer to another. Don’t weave any tangled webs! As a last resort, you can admit that you don’t recall the situation they’re asking about, but you can describe how you would handle it now and why you’re confident you would succeed.

I have stories but I ramble and don’t tell them well.

Rambling is an extremely common issue but it can be solved! For one thing, make sure you’re organizing your stories by using a framework like PAR, STAR or SOAR. Also, take a look at my post How to Be Concise in Job Interviews.

“I have no stories because I’m looking for my first job.”

Even if you have never had a job, an internship or even a lemonade stand, you still have experience: life experience, and probably educational experience as well. You can answer a question like “Tell me about a time you had to work with a difficult person” with an example from a team project in school or a home improvement project with a roommate. You have worked with others in your life, and at least one of those others must have been at least a little bit hard to work with!

Sometimes “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” If you can’t find a perfect story, pick any good one, or pick an only-okay one and tell it really well.

Don’t say “I can’t answer behavioral interview questions” until you’ve given these tips a try. It may take hours of diligent work over a period of many days, but you’ll build that list a little at a time–and the interviewer will never know how long it took!

Put your best foot forward at a job interview by learning how to answer these kinds of questions.

What Are Situational and Behavioral Interview Questions?

Situational interview questions are questions that deal with hypothetical situations in the future and what you would do in that situation.

Behavioral interview questions are questions that deal with past work experience and situations. Instead of hypothetical situations, these questions require you to provide concrete examples of previous situations that you have dealt with.

Your answers to behavioral interview questions give a hiring manager insight into your strengths, soft skills, personality and level of experience. When a hiring manager knows how you dealt with a situation in the past, it helps them know how you would handle future situations in the workplace and if your answers to the situational interview questions are accurate. While hiring managers will generally tailor these questions to the specific position they want to fill, below is a list of sample interview questions and answers to help you get started.

Situational Interview Questions and Answers

Q: Tell me how you would build up your team, foment good communication and implement deadlines using virtual communication only.
A: I understand how challenging it is to maintain good relationships at work while working remotely. I would coordinate a short, weekly break room on Zoom or the meeting technology the company uses to give everyone time to socialize. I would also schedule team or one-on-one virtual meetings as needed to provide them with clear instructions on tasks and deadlines.

Q: How would you react and respond to an angry client who is upset about something that isn’t your fault?
A: I would listen to the client patiently and determine the source of their frustration. I would make sure to get their contact information, and then I would do what I can to help solve the problem – even if it wasn’t my fault.

A: I would let my manager know that although I have never performed this type of task, I would be glad to take it on after receiving some guidance. I would ask my manager which co-worker I could approach to show me how to do the task. I would also do some research on my own to not overly burden others.

Q: Tell me about a time when you handled a challenging situation.
A: One of my team members became very sick a few days before an important project was due and had yet to complete their assigned tasks. I called them and had them explain what needed to be done to complete the tasks. Then, I divided the final tasks between our team members. We were able to complete the whole project before the due date, and we secured a new client.

Q: Tell me about a time when you had to be flexible and adaptable.
A: When I moved to working remotely due to COVID, I really had to adapt to working at home. My employees were facing the same challenges, so I had to be flexible in my expectations of others and myself. I found that taking a few minutes at the beginning of each week and prioritizing my top three tasks has helped me to be flexible in what I ask of my employees. We make sure to focus on completing the most important items first.

Q: Give me an example of when you have worked with others who are different from you.
A: When I accepted my internship, I worked with other students from all around the world. It was so interesting to learn about their cultures and see different ways to accomplish tasks. I feel that experience has really helped me to be open to people of different backgrounds and accept new ideas.

  • Following the STAR interview method can help you answer behavioral interview questions and brainstorm potential ways to answer situational interview questions.
  • When answering behavioral interview questions, use measurable results when possible.
  • Since situational interview questions do require some thought and storytelling, don’t be afraid to ask the recruiter for a moment to collect your thoughts.
  • Examine the job posting and think about the challenges you might face and what strengths and skills are needed for the position.

Since remote work is here to stay for the near future, hiring managers are looking to hire someone who is dependable, trustworthy and highly motivated. They are also interested in hiring professionals who work well with others and who are inclusive of other backgrounds and cultures. Ensure that you’re showcasing some of these attributes when answering behavioral and situational interview questions.

We’ve gotten a lot of questions lately around interviews, which is a good thing as it means our readers are putting in the work and getting interviews.

But what we want to talk about today is a very particular type of interview question that hiring managers are increasingly asking these days. This kind of question—a behavioral question—can really be a curveball.

So, let’s get started by talking about what a behavioral question is.

What Is A Behavioral Interview Question?

How to answer behavioral interview questions

It’s a very special type of question. It’s one that requires more than a one-word answer. It’s the type of question where you are not going to respond with just a “yes” or “no.” In contrast, you’re going to have to get into a whole conversation in order to deliver an answer properly.

For example, a behavioral question would look something like, “Tell me about a time when you had to do X or Y…” You’re going to see these questions all the time on interviews because it helps the hiring manager get inside your head and understand how you approach and tackle certain problems.

Remember, an employer wants to make sure that you’re the right fit for the job. It’s not just that you have the experience. It’s also that you have the aptitude and the know-how to apply that experience, so that you can do the job successfully in the way that you need to do it. This is what makes them feel comfortable with you as a hire—and all of this has to come out in your answer.

Now that you understand what a behavioral interview question is, and why it’s so important to answer it thoroughly and correctly, I’m going to give you a methodology you can use to answer each and every one effectively. It’s called the Experience + Learn = Grow model.

It’s a system we’ve designed that allows you to come up with answers that give the employer exactly what they need to hear.

How To Answer A Behavioral Interview Question

How to answer behavioral interview questions

Step 1: Outline an experience that you’ve had that explains why you can do what they’re asking you to do.

Step 2: Talk about what you learned from that experience—how it made you smarter and better in your job.

Step 3: Talk about how you grew as a professional, so that you can take that experience and use it to your advantage going forward.

When you answer behavioral questions using the Experience + Learn = Grow model, you’re mentally taking the hiring manager through the process they need to go through to come to the conclusion that you can do the job.

It’s also important that you ask good questions in an interview, in order to make a great impression.

Example Of A Behavioral Interview Question & Answer

How to answer behavioral interview questions

So, here’s an actual example of a typical behavioral question that you might get asked in your next interview:

“Tell me your greatest accomplishment on the job.”

Now, again, if we are going to use the Experience + Learn = Grow model here, we have to share enough information for them to fully understand that we are capable of doing the job.

Let’s say you’re a customer service representative. Your answer might be:

Experience: “Well, as a customer service representative, the greatest accomplishment I ever had was learning how to deal with difficult customers. I remember a time when I got a call from a really angry customer. We had double-charged her, and she was irate. She was swearing at me and yelling at me on the phone. She was completely out of control, and I didn’t know what to do.”

Learn: “But I realized that if I stepped back for a second and didn’t take what she was saying personally, I could recognize how she was feeling. I could put myself in her shoes. So, I was able to do that. And in doing so, I was able to calmly address her needs, figure out what was going on, get her a credit, and really exceed her expectations. When it was all said and done, she was totally calmed down. She was apologetic for her behavior—for swearing at me—and most importantly, she was grateful and even gave me a four-star review afterwards.”

Grow: “That really taught me the power of patience and empathy. When I’m talking to customers now, every time I get a difficult customer, I’m able to immediately go into that empathy mode so that I can give them a great customer service experience.”

Do you see how this person followed the Experience + Learn = Grow model? By taking the time to map out your answers to questions like this, you can really make sure that you’re covering your bases, and helping the hiring manager understand just how effective you can be in the job.

There are lots of behavioral questions that you can get asked in an interview. In fact, at Work It Daily, we have a list of 18 potential questions that we take our clients through. To give you an idea of some other ones that you might come across, here are two more that you should be prepared to answer:

  1. “What would your co-workers say about you if we asked them?”
  2. “Tell me about a time when you got a difficult and unrealistic request from somebody, but they were really enthusiastic about it. What did you do?”

Those are just a couple more examples of the types of behavioral questions you can get asked, which again require much more than a typical one-word answer.

Most importantly, the Experience + Learn = Grow structure helps you consistently deliver the right answer at the right time!

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Behavioural interview questions are asked to gain an understanding on how you would be likely to handle a range of real-world challenges based on your previous behaviour facing a similar circumstance. Whereas situational questions look at how you would approach certain scenarios, and competency-based questions assess you have the necessary skills required for the role, behavioural questions attempt to ascertain if you have the character traits the interviewer is looking for. These questions are particularly important for an employer to understand how you would fit within in an existing team.

Behavioural interview questions and answers

Such questions tend to be based on the principle that a candidate’s past behaviour is the best predictor of their future behaviour. These questions can touch on a range of areas such as your ability to work as part of a team, client-facing skills, your adaptability, time management skills and more.

Example behavioural interview question #1:

“Give me an example of something you tried in your job that didn’t work. How did you learn from it?”

  • How to answer: For some roles a vital part of your job is being creative. However having great creativity can also mean lost more ideas but not all of your ideas will necessarily work. Realising this and not being disheartened by this, may be important for an employer to understand. When the interviewer asks this question, they will therefore wish to see evidence of your willingness to learn from what did and didn’t work, while nonetheless learning from your experiences.
  • Example of a good answer: “Working in customer service for a community health club, we had the idea of offering one-off month-long memberships. However, not enough people who took up these memberships then purchased a longer-term membership for it to be cost-effective for the business. We therefore switched to making our shortest contracts six months long, and found that this did a better job of keeping the health club in profitability.”

Typical behavioural interview question #2:

“Tell me about a time you knew you were right, but still had to follow directions or guidelines.”

  • How to answer: The best response to this question is one that shows you are a responsible team player who – even if you disagree with a decision – nonetheless does what needs to be done, while remaining motivated and helping to keep colleagues motivated as well.
  • Example of a good answer: “The deadline for sign off on a whitepaper was looming, so I worked with my other team members to finalise and quantify the market research we’d agreed upon. I did have concerns, however, as to the relevance of the date range used in our research, and so raised this at a team meeting. We were able to make some good changes to the status quo to help to prevent the same situation arising again, and decided to conduct similar research in the future over a longer period of time, to ensure more effective results

If you are looking for further advice on interview preparation and job hunting, donwload our Job Interview Guide here or take a look at more career advice here.

How to answer behavioral interview questions

Hey there cultivator! In this article, I want to jump into how to use the STAR method to answer behavioral questions in an interview. If you’re in the workforce, you can bet these types of questions will come up in any interview that you go on. While hiring managers and recruiters are trained to deliver these questions, they’re also trained to listen for a very specific type of response. So without further ado, let’s dive into learning how to identify and answer these types of questions. Watch the video below, or continue reading along!

How To Use the STAR Method to Answer Interview Questions

What is the STAR Method?

This simple formula is called the S.T.A.R. method. It stands for situation, task, action, and result.

  • How to answer behavioral interview questions

When to Use the STAR Method

So let’s jump into an example of a behavioral question and an appropriate answer so you can start to have the framework to develop your own answers. Let’s imagine for a moment that you’re in an interview and your interviewer asks you, “tell me about a time that you fell short of a goal.”

In this particular case, you’re now going to follow the framework of explaining:

• The Situation – Where did I fall short of the goal?

• The Tasks and Actions – What did I do to overcome my shortcoming?

• The Result– What was the ultimate positive result that stemmed from the tasks and actions that I took?

How to Use the STAR Method

Let’s break this down further with an example of what each of these points might sound like specifically.

How to answer behavioral interview questions How to answer behavioral interview questions How to answer behavioral interview questions

After interviewing hundreds of people, I’ve noticed many people do a good job explaining their situation and the tasks and action they took, but leave out the ultimate results, which happens to be the most important part. So again, aim to land on a big positive that shows you took that experience as a learning opportunity.

As you can see from that S.T.A.R. example, I really painted the situation. I talked about the specific tasks and actions and I also demonstrated my positive optimistic personality despite not meeting a goal to set out with. What employer doesn’t want somebody who’s optimistic on their team? Demonstrating flexibility, adaptability, and positivity will go a long way in your interview. So your goal is to respond within the S.T.A.R. framework in the most concise but powerful way.

Behavioral questions can be quite simple to answer as long as you can identify it and then follow the formula. And even if you don’t have the answer prepared for that specific question, you can still think on your feet and just follow that four-step process!

How to answer behavioral interview questions

Don’t forget to sign up for the free resource library! In the library, you’ll get access to the 25 most common behavioral questions list as well as a ton of other resources to help you with your job search.

The interviewer wants to get a sense of how you handle adversity. Behavior is an challenge for any educator. But, how you handle the process is the most important answer to this question.

“I had a student recently who was acting out in class. I go with the three strikes rule in my classroom. One is a warning. Two is moving the student. And three is an email to the administration and parents. Well, the parents were not too pleased with the process. I reminded them that they had signed my disclosure and this was the procedure in place.”

How to Answer: Describe a recent interaction with a challenging student and the parents. For an Teacher Interview.

Describe a recent interaction with a challenging student and the parents.

How to Answer

The interviewer wants to get a sense of how you handle adversity. Behavior is an challenge for any educator. But, how you handle the process is the most important answer to this question.

How to answer behavioral interview questions

“I had a student recently who was acting out in class. I go with the three strikes rule in my classroom. One is a warning. Two is moving the student. And three is an email to the administration and parents. Well, the parents were not too pleased with the process. I reminded them that they had signed my disclosure and this was the procedure in place.”

Next Behavior Teacher Questions Interview Question

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Disclaimer

Our interview questions and answers are created by experienced recruiters and interviewers. These questions and answers do not represent any organization, school, or company on our site. Interview questions and answer examples and any other content may be used else where on the site. We do not claim our questions will be asked in any interview you may have. Our goal is to create interview questions and answers that will best prepare you for your interview, and that means we do not want you to memorize our answers. You must create your own answers, and be prepared for any interview question in any interview.

More and more often, job interviewers are jettisoning traditional interview questions in favor of behavioral questions. Job seekers who aren’t prepared for these questions will often flub the interview entirely, so it’s crucial to know that they’re coming and to be prepared to answer them.

But let’s start at the beginning: What are behavioral interview questions and why are employers using them?

Behavioral interview questions probe into what you’ve done in the past, not what you say you’d do in the future. More traditional interviews tend to rely heavily on hypothetical questions: How would you handle it if a customer did X? How do you think we should approach Y? What would you do if you were in danger of missing a deadline? It’s not too hard to come up with good answers to these sorts of questions, even for people who don’t perform well when they’re actually on the job-which means that they’re not of much real benefit to employers.

In contrast, behavioral interview questions don’t ask you to speculate on how you might approach something. Instead, they ask you to describe how you really did approach something. They tend to start out with “tell me about a time when?” or “give me an example of how you?” For instance:

–Tell me about a time when you had to take initiative.

–Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer.

–Give me an example of a challenge you faced in your current job and how you solved it.

–Tell me about a time you faced an unreasonable deadline and how you handled it.

Give me an example of a new approach you developed for tackling a problem.

These types of questions are often followed by probing follow-ups to dig more deeply. Your interview might ask: What did you do then? What happened after that? What was the result? How did you handle X?

In other words, the interviewer doesn’t want to hear about what you claim you’ll do in the future, or your thoughts on how you’d approach an abstract situation. They want to hear about what you’ve done already. This makes sense, since how you operated in the past can give a lot of insight into how you’re likely to operate in the future. After all, if you can’t come up with one example of how you solved a problem or juggled a high workload, what reason do they have to think you’ll excel at those things when working for them?

Of course, it’s a lot harder to bluff your way through an interview like this-and that’s the idea.

But no matter how much your past experiences line up with the job, it can be tough to come up with some of those examples on the spot, so it’s key to prepare in advance. Here are four key steps to before your next interview:

1. First, go through the job description line by line, and picture yourself doing the job. What will the person in the role be responsible for? What are the likely challenges?

2. For each responsibility or challenge, think about what examples from your past you can point to as “supporting evidence” that you’d excel at the job, and write them down.

Keep in mind that don’t need to be direct one-for-one matches. For instance, if you’re applying for a sales job without any actual sales experience, you might talk about how you made fundraising calls to alumni when you were in college. Or if you’re applying for a manager job and haven’t formally managed anyone, you might talk about how you were the go-to person for training new employees in your last job, managed numerous group projects, and were known as a diplomatic problem-solver. And if you don’t have a lot of work experience to draw on, you can use examples from school, volunteering, and hobbies.

3. Once you’ve written out your examples, turn them into answers that have this structure: problem/response/ outcome. In other words, start by talking about why the situation was challenging. Then express what you did in response, and finally, explain what the outcome was.

4. Now, make yourself practice your answers out loud. You might feel foolish talking to yourself, but doing this will make these answers more easily retrievable to you when you’re sitting in that interview chair.

And lastly, don’t look at these questions as something to dread. Look at them as a chance to really show why you’re a strong candidate who would be great at the job. That’s what they’re designed to ferret out, in the end.

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She’s also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader’s Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.

How to answer behavioral interview questions

Use these tips and frameworks to plan your responses to behavioral interview questions.

This guest post was provided by Pathrise, an online mentorship program that works with students and professionals on every component of their job search. Pathrise has helped 500+ people land great jobs in tech through their workshops and 1-on-1 mentorship.

A lot of effort goes into practicing for technical interviews, including preparing portfolio case studies, working through common product design interview questions, and whiteboarding with peers or mentors.

People often feel ready for their interviews once they have the technical concepts down, but in fact, they are leaving a very important step out. Preparing for behavioral interviews is just as necessary as technical interviews because these sessions can be the determining factor between a rejection and an offer.

Candidates typically participate in behavioral interviews in their phone screens and onsite interviews. While companies vary somewhat, there are some common behavioral interview questions that will likely be asked. At Pathrise, we have helped many people prepare for their interviews and land incredible jobs. Here are our tips so that you can do the same.

The first step should be research. You need to learn everything you can about this company so that you can explain to them how you would be a good fit with their culture and mission. We recommend starting this research on the company About page, where you can learn about their mission, history, and values.

Next, try to find more info about their culture on their Careers or Jobs page, which can help you find out what they are looking for in a new employee. Some larger companies, like Facebook, have Culture pages or Life at [Company] pages, which are also great places to get information on their values.

Once you have a sense of the company’s mission and culture, you can start to prepare for common behavioral interview questions. The goal is for you to be able to know what you want to say in response to these questions without sounding memorized or rehearsed.

You also want to add information about the company into your responses, so that they know you did your research and you are a good fit for their organization.

Here are some examples of common behavioral interview questions and how you can plan your responses.

“Tell me about yourself”

This question, or some form of it, will almost always come up at the beginning of your sessions. Think of it as a kickoff to the interview. Since you know it will be asked, there is no reason for you not to knock it out of the park.

To successfully answer this question, you should plan out an elevator pitch that hits these key points:

  • Your education
  • Your experience
  • Relevant projects you have done
  • A summary of yourself as it relates to the company and their mission (this is where your research comes in handy)

Here is an example:

Hi, I’m [name]. I graduated from [school] in [year], with a major in [concentration]. I’ve always been interested in working in [field]. [Talk about the reason why.]

While I was at school, I spent summers as a [type of] intern at [company or companies]. While working at [specific company or position], I learned a lot about [connection to company you are interviewing with]. [Discuss the rest of your experience – include up to 1-2 other projects/extracurriculars if there is anything especially impressive in terms of leadership or accomplishments.]

With my experience and studies, I know I would be a valuable addition to the team, helping make an impact doing [company mission.] [Very briefly explain why that mission is important to you – you will have more time to elaborate on this later so just give a preview.]

Behavioral job interview questions are based on the premise that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior – and that’s why they are so often asked by employers when assessing candidates during a job interview.

These types of competency-based interview questions typically begin with the phrase, “Tell me about a time when…” – and if you’re able to understand the specific requirements of the role before your interview, you’ll be much better prepared to predict these kinds of questions and think about how you’ll answer them.

THE CAR PRINCIPLE

The golden rule when you’re answering behavioral interview questions is to adhere to what’s called the CAR principle: Context, Action, Result.

Context is about describing a situation and setting the scene for a relevant example. The key here is to choose your example well – one that clearly demonstrates the quality or skill the employer is asking about.

Action is about explaining what action you took. Be really specific rather than making vague statements and outline your steps and rationale.

Result is about detailing the outcome of your action. Offer specific facts relating to the result. For instance, quote figures and statistics that back up your declaration.

CAR IN ACTION

Q: Tell me about a time when you helped to turn around your team’s sales performance.

Context: “One of my previous employer’s sales divisions had been experiencing decreasing sales – so I was brought in to help reverse the situation. My challenge was to manage the team effectively so they were able to actually exceed (not just meet) their sales targets.”

Action: “Over a six-month period, I introduced several initiatives within the team, including: setting specific and measurable sales targets for each individual within the team; introducing weekly sales meetings for the team and for each individual within the team; and implementing a structured sales training program.

I also conducted market research to identify what our main competitors were doing, set up focus groups with major clients to establish key goals, and introduced a new remuneration system that linked sales performance to remuneration packages.”

Result: “We lifted sales by 60% and exceeded sales targets by 25% in the first quarter, and continued the upward trajectory throughout the next year.”

SAMPLE BEHAVIOURAL JOB INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

Your ability to answer behavioural interview questions can make or break your attempt to secure that dream job – so we’ve put together some sample behavioural interview questions to help you more adequately prepare.

Communication

“Give an example of a time when you were able to build rapport with someone at work, even in a stressful or challenging situation.”

“Tell me about a time when you had to give someone constructive criticism.”

“Give me an example of how you were able to use your ability to communicate and persuade to gain buy-in from a resistant audience.”

Teamwork

“Give me an example of a time when you had to cope with interpersonal conflict when working on a team project.”

“Tell me about a time when your fellow team members were de-motivated. What did you do to improve morale?”

“Describe a situation where others you were working with on a project disagreed with your ideas. What did you do?”

Problem-solving

“Tell me about a difficult problem you were faced with, and how you went about tackling it.”

“Describe a time when you proactively identified a problem at work and were able to devise and implement a successful solution.”

“Have you ever faced a problem you could not solve?”

Creativity

“Tell me about a situation in which you worked with team members to develop new and creative ideas to solve a business problem.”

“Describe the most creative work-related project you have completed.”

“Give an example of when your creativity made a real difference in the success of a product or project.”

Organisation and planning

“Have you ever managed multiple projects simultaneously? What methods did you use to prioritise and multi-task?”

“What specific systems do you use to organise your day?”

“Describe a time when you failed to meet a deadline.”

Analytical skills

“Describe a situation where you had to interpret and synthesise a large amount of information or data.”

“Give me an example of a recent roadblock and your logic and steps in overcoming it.”

Integrity

“Give an example that demonstrates your professional integrity.”

“Tell me about a time when you had to stand your ground against a group decision.”

“Have you ever had to work with, or for, someone who was dishonest? How have you handled this?”

Accomplishments

“Describe some projects that were implemented and carried out successfully primarily because of your efforts.”

“What are three achievements from your last job that you are particularly proud of?”

“What has been your most rewarding professional accomplishment to date?”

By preparing yourself in advance and familiarizing yourself with these and other sample behavioral interview questions, you’ll be primed and ready for any number of behavioral questions that may come your way.

Before this gets closed for being a duplicate to this question, I have another question that would fit into that criteria.

Describe a situation where you know you should have apologized and you didn’t. Why?

I understand this question is looking to see if you can admit a mistake and how you responded to it, but I generally can’t think of a time this has happened. I’m somebody who typically apologizes over nothing, so finding a time that I didn’t apologize is very difficult. How should I go about responding to a question that I have no truthful response to?

4 Answers 4

How should I go about responding to a question that I have no truthful response to?

But you do have a completely truthful response, which you expressed in your question:

“I generally can’t think of a time this has happened. I’m somebody who typically apologizes over nothing, so finding a time that I didn’t apologize is very difficult.”

You could expand on it a bit, perhaps talk about why you consider it important to apologize quickly, etc.

Behavioral questions seek to explore your behavior. They look to understand how you performed in the past, as an indicator of how you will perform in the future. Your answer explains an aspect of your behavior quite well.

How to answer behavioral interview questions

If you can’t answer because you’re drawing a blank just say you’ll think about it and ask to go onto the next question and come back to this one later if you think of something.

No one should expect that all behavioral interview questions will be answerable by everyone. People simply don’t index their memories that way. You can “punt” on perhaps one or two questions, but if it you’re doing that on more, then you’ll need to spend more time preparing yourself before the next behavioral interview.

You can prepare in advance to some extent by simply reviewing lists of behavioral interview questions and coming up with some good answers without the pressure of a live interview. There’s not an infinity of such questions, there’s probably a few hundred different questions each with some easy variations. The answer for each of these requires illustrating a particular trait with some real example drawn from previous experience.

While coming up with answers, it might be useful to consider the overall goal of the behavioral question. These types of interviews are intended to discern what it is like to work with you as a person. When things are going perfectly in a workplace, almost everyone is remarkably easy to get along with. But when there is conflict or pressure, that’s when personalities clash and when getting along with others becomes paramount above even things like technical aptitude. That is why behavioral interview focus almost exclusively on how you deal with stressors, mistakes and problems involving other people.

What is the goal of this particular question? I believe it is intended to probe empathy and the ability to criticize oneself (to admit to being wrong).

The question asks for an explanation about a time when you should have apologized but did not. You could come up with something silly like a grade school incident where you pulled a girl’s pigtails where the explanation would be that you were 6 years old or perhaps some situation where you did something trivial that would typically require an uttering “excuse me” but did not. That’s NOT what the question is intended to probe.

A really good answer to this question would describe some event where you truly failed to apologize for something that seriously required an apology. If you then indicate some amount of regret and explain it by describing the point of view of the person you wronged that would show that you have empathy and can admit to being wrong.

There’s always a lot of “wiggle room” in behavioral questions– maybe you can’t think of a time where you failed to apologize, but you can probably think of a time where your apology was delayed. That would work. Or you can perhaps explain how you made amends to someone for a mistake without apologizing. Sometimes actions speak louder than words ( 🙂 ).

Behavioral interviews are exceptionally difficult and NOT just for the interviewee.

Part of the problem here lies with the interviewer. It takes a lot of skill to perform a behavioral interview properly. A really good behavioral interviewer will run the interview much like a conversation and you may not even notice that it is a behavioral interview. A poor one, will simply pick a trait and ask a question starting with “Tell me about a time where. “

Skilled interviewers start with a discussion about previous jobs/projects/experiences and then proceed to ask behavioral questions within the context of the discussion. The interviewee is far more likely to be able to answer behavioral questions when it is asked within the context of a specific discussion about a past event.

How to answer behavioral interview questions

Let’s face it; we all dread behavioral-based interview questions. They tend to put you on the spot and can be very difficult to answer. However, interviewers love to ask them.

But don’t worry! I’ve got you covered. Right here, I’ll teach you 2 simple steps that will prepare you to answer almost any behavioral interview question.

You’ll also learn what this type of job interview question is, why interviewers ask them, and how to structure your responses to stand out from the other candidates.

In particular, you’ll learn how to answer behavioral interview questions through storytelling instead of through canned responses.

If we’ve never met before, I’m Heather Austin from ProfessorAustin.com and The Career Club on Facebook, and here, I share simple solutions to help you build a business or launch a career you love.

The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Your Job Search

How to answer behavioral interview questions

A step-by-step resource guide with action items you can complete today to help you overcome the frustration and overwhelm of the job search.

About Behavioral Interview Questions

Before we jump into the 2 simple steps that will help you answer almost any behavioral interview question, remember that interviewers ask these questions to evaluate your past problem-solving experience so that they can determine how you will solve problems in the future.

The good thing about these types of questions is that they make your interview more conversational. Rather than provide just a yes or no answer, you get the opportunity to give a more detailed response.

You’ll know you’re being asked a behavioral interview question when the question starts with something like: “give me an example of,” “describe a situation where,” or “tell me about a time when.” Now I’m sure you want to know: how do you answer one?

Step 1 – Tell a Compelling Story

The key to answering these types of questions well is to paint a picture of a past problem you solved and demonstrate the results you achieved. To do this properly, you need to captivate and engage your interviewer in a really good story.

This will help validate your competencies and make you more likable. So think back to specific situations that showcase your greatest accomplishments and demonstrate some of the biggest problems you solved.

These problems should be a situation that ended positively in some way; maybe you earned some type of promotion, secured a large contract, or resolved a conflict that could have been detrimental to your company.

If you’re having a hard time thinking of good stories, refer back to the job posting. Review the posting carefully for key terms that might jog your memory of a time that you really excelled with a specific skill listed.

With your stories in mind, you are now ready to move on to step 2.

Step 2 – Structure Your Story Using the STAR Method

So we know that every good story has a beginning, middle, and end. The STAR approach is a very common and effective interview technique that will help you organize and present your stories in a meaningful way. How to answer behavioral interview questionsSituation and Task This is the beginning of your story. This is where you want to set the scene by describing the event or challenge you faced.

Provide as much context and background as you can without going overboard with details. Explain what you were tasked with in terms of a goal or target. The key to doing well here is to describe an exact situation and not generalize.

Action This is the middle of your story. Describe the action steps you took to solve the problem. Make sure you use words like “I” and “me” rather than “we” and “our.” Your interviewer wants to know what you did, not what your team did.

Result This is the end of your story. Explain the results you achieved from solving the problem. Talk about the outcome and perhaps what you learned from this situation. Try to make it quantifiable.

An Example

Let’s put it together in an example. Let’s say your interviewer asks you a question like: “Tell me about a time you handled a difficult situation with a client or customer.” Here’s one way you can answer this question telling a compelling story using the STAR technique:

“While working as an advertising manager, I was tasked with developing an advertising campaign for one our larger clients. The campaign targeted an event that would host important business and community leaders.

We had a very strict timeline and a limited budget, so I got to work straight away. Well, halfway into the project, the department director informed me that he had miscalculated the project deadline. Unfortunately, we needed to complete the project 30% faster than planned.

Given our existing processes and systems, I didn’t believe we could get the project done in time while meeting all of the client’s expectations. Rather than risk losing the client, I saw this as a good opportunity to implement a strategy I had been thinking of that would streamline our advertising campaign process.

I was thrilled with the result. Because of the new systems I put in place, we got the project done on time and under budget. I was then later recognized at our annual banquet dinner for my hard work and dedication to this account.”

In Conclusion

When you go to answer a behavioral interview question, make sure you paint a picture of a problem you solved and the results you achieved using the STAR approach. You’ll do great!

The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Your Job Search

How to answer behavioral interview questions

A step-by-step resource guide with action items you can complete today to help you overcome the frustration and overwhelm of the job search.

Give me an example of a time you faced a conflict while working on a team. How did you handle it?

Tell me about a time you made a mistake and learned from it.

Behavioral questions crop up in most interviews. Interviewers ask this kind of question on the theory that your past behavior is the best predictor of your future behavior. How you’ve dealt with challenges in the past should provide a good indication of you’ll deal with difficulties in your new job. Follow these tips for great answers to behavioral questions.

1. Tell one specific story. A common mistake when people first try their hand at this type of question is to speak in very general terms. When I ask behavioral questions in mock interviews, students often jump among a bunch of different examples, not pausing long enough to fully explain any of them. Remember, the question asks for a specific example. Focus in on just one story.

2. Spot behavioral questions. Listen out for behavioral questions during your interview. This subset of questions requires a specific strategy, so the first step is to recognize them. Behavioral questions usually begin with a phrase like, “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example…” Any question that asks you to discuss how you’ve handled a particular scenario in the past is a behavioral question.

3. Use the STAR method. The STAR method is a simple formula for answering behavioral questions. It works like this:

Situation: What was going on?
Task: What had to be done?
Action: What steps did you take?
Result: What was the outcome?

An effective answer hits each of these points. This format also helps to keep your answer organized and focused on your role.

4. Write out stories in advance. The STAR method helps keep your answer organized and focused, but it won’t help much if you don’t have a story to tell! Take the time to write out a few stories from your professional, educational and volunteer experiences before the interview. All you need are short answers—no more than a couple sentences—for each piece of the STAR method. By preparing these in advance, you’ll be able to choose a great example and explain it clearly in the interview.

5. Relate the example back to the position. In an interview, everything should relate back to the position you’re seeking. After you tell a great story from your work experience, turn back to the current position. How did this experience prepare you to succeed now?

6. Be ready to talk about success, teamwork, and things going wrong. You never know exactly what questions you’ll get in an interview. But behavioral questions tend to address certain areas, and by preparing a few types of stories, you’ll be ready with an example for any question they throw at you. Make sure you have at least one example of a time you were successful in your work, a time you worked well as a member of a team, and a time when you overcame challenges or setbacks. It’s also a good idea to prepare stories related to conflict resolution, problem solving, time management, and working under pressure. You may also want to consider any issues or values that are very important in your field and prepare examples related to those topics. Depending on your field, you might get behavioral questions related to ethics, diversity, customer service, technical skill, creativity, or other issues.

If this sounds like a lot, don’t worry—most examples can work for more than one kind of question. A story about conflict resolution might also be a story about teamwork, and a story about time management might also be a story about working under pressure as well as a good example of a time you were successful in your work.

7. Present yourself in a positive light. It’s up to you to choose examples that show you’re a great candidate for the job. Don’t miss this opportunity to make yourself look good! We’ve all had moments of excellence and moments of not-so-excellence in our professional and academic careers. This is not the time to talk about when you completely forgot to study for your midterm or got in a huge argument with a coworker. Talk about times that you were successful. When answering questions that ask you to talk about difficulties—a time you made a mistake or faced a serious setback, say—don’t shy away from the negatives, but be sure emphasize how you overcame challenges and end on a positive note.

Examples

Here are a couple of examples of answers to common behavioral questions, using the STAR method.

Give me an example of a time you faced a conflict while working on a team. How did you handle it?

Situation: When I was a research assistant, I worked closely with the research team, especially the other students. Midway through the semester, a conflict came up among my fellow graduate students about how we were dividing responsibilities. One of my teammates felt he was doing more than his share of the work, and another teammate was frustrated with him because she felt we had divided the work evenly.

Task: We needed to come to agreement so we could work together and keep our project on schedule.

Action: I decided to address the situation directly by asking my teammates if they would be willing to meet to discuss the situation. In our meeting, I asked each teammate to tell their side of the story.

Result: It turned out that my teammate who felt he was doing too much actually wasn’t unhappy with the amount of work, but rather with the type of work we had assigned him. I volunteered to trade some responsibilities with him so that his tasks would have more variety. We were able to work well together for the rest of the term and completed our project on time.

Tell me about a time you made a mistake and learned from it.

Situation: During in internship ABC Company, one of my responsibilities was giving presentations. After working with another intern on a presentation for two weeks, the big day came. I arrived at the venue that morning, and my coworker asked if I had brought the hard drive with our slides and documents on it. I thought she was going to bring the files. My copy was sitting on my desk at home!

Task: The presentation was supposed to start in 20 minutes, and we needed that hard drive.

Action: I rushed home and got the hard drive.

Result: I got back just in time and the presentation went on as planned. I learned the importance of clear communication and never making the assumption that I if don’t do something, someone else will take care of it. Now, I know that I am the bottom line when it comes to my work.

Need help developing your own success stories? Come visit us at Career Services!

Shalom Leo Bond
Career Development Facilitator
UNM Career Services

How to answer behavioral interview questions

Behavioral interview questions focus on characteristics such as teamwork, leadership, problem solving and so on. It is essential to be prepared to explain what you did, what you said and how you felt.

The behavioral interview is increasingly used by employers as a key part of the hiring process.

A traditional interview will typically involve questions such as, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” or “Why do you want to leave your current role?”

The behavioral interview will focus on how candidates perform in given situations. The premise for the behavioral interview is that past performance predicts future behavior — i.e., how you performed in a previous job will inform the employer of your suitability for the current role.

Behavioral interview questions are normally preceded with “Give me an example of …” or “Tell me about a time when…” The questions will focus on characteristics such as teamwork, leadership, problem solving and so on. It is essential to be prepared to explain what you did, what you said and how you felt.

Examples of behavioral interview questions

  • Customer service: Tell me about a time when you went out of your way to provide the best possible customer service. What did you do and how did the customer respond?
  • Teamwork: Give me an example of how you adjusted to a co-worker’s working style in order to achieve your performance objectives.
  • Conflict: Tell me about a time that you resolved an issue with a difficult colleague.
  • Leadership: Give me an example of a situation when you assumed a leadership role.
  • Problem solving: Describe a situation when your experience did not prepare you for a set task and how you dealt with it.

How to respond to these types of questions

A popular way of preparing responses to behavioral interview questions is the “STAR method:”

  • Situation: Review your career history for a situation which had a positive outcome
  • Task: Describe what you had to do
  • Action: Detail the actions necessary to fulfill your obligations.
  • Result: Explain the result

You may find the following helpful to prepare your answers using the STAR method:

  • Review the job description to evaluate the necessary skills.
  • Review your résumé to identify your relevant achievements and skills for the position.
  • Highlight your top three or five attributes and skills that set you apart from the competition.
  • Create your individual response. Focus on teamwork, motivation, leadership, commitment and problem-solving issues related to the job. Be prepared to give examples of where you failed and how you responded to that failure — nobody’s perfect and employers need to see examples of resilience.
  • Prepare detailed examples. Employers want specifics — not generalizations.
  • Quantify your answers with your achievements.
  • Be truthful with yourself. If the position isn’t right for you, or you lack the key skills for the role, it is important to acknowledge that.

In a behavioral interview, there are no right or wrong answers. The hiring manager is simply trying to assess whether you are a good fit for the company by understanding how you will behave in a given situation. The key is to listen carefully, provide specific answers and, above all, to be honest.

Michael Kingston is a top industry hiring manager with more than 18 years of experience. He is also the author of the best-selling Pass The Job Interview guide.

Details are the Key to Answering Behavioral Interview Questions

During a job interview, employers ask different types of questions to determine if you have the knowledge and skills needed for their open position. Behavioral questions are often used by interviewers to gain helpful information about candidates.

A behavioral interview asks questions about how you have handled situations in the workplace. It is a good way to evaluate certain skills, including time management, adaptability, overcoming challenges, communication styles, conflict resolution, and teamwork.

Examples of behavioral questions.

  • Give an example of when you had to handle multiple responsibilities at once. How did you prioritize your time?
  • Share a time you had to be flexible or adaptable.
  • Talk about a time you handled a challenging situation.
  • How do you stay motivated when a job requires you to perform repetitive tasks?
  • Share an example of a time you had to stand up for your beliefs.

How to prepare for behavioral interview questions.

Your answer should include a concrete example of how you worked through a special circumstance or issue. Briefly share your story but focus on specific details or actions taken and the results achieved. Think about scenarios that could apply to the position you are interviewing for. Use the job description to identify valuable skills and share examples that highlight those skills and why you are an ideal candidate. Be positive; share the problem but focus on steps taken and the results.

Use the STAR Method. Glassdoor.com outlines what STAR stands for and how to use it to answer behavioral questions:

S =situation. What was the problem? Be specific.

T =task. What was the goal? What did you do to get there?

A =action. Share the steps that were taken.

R =result. What was the outcome?

Ready to start your job search? Contact your nearest service center for resume help, to sign up for a workshop, or for other job search related activities.

Behavioral interview questions are among the most common prompts you can expect when you’re applying for a job. If you’ve ever sat through an interview, you probably know what a behavioral question is, even if you’re not familiar with the term. It’s any question that begins with:

  • Can you tell me about a time when…
  • Give me an example of…
  • Describe a situation when you…

Hiring managers ask behavioral interview questions, in the belief that past behavior is the best indicator of future performance. They want to assess your ability to make sound decisions under trying circumstances. Specifically, they want to hear about a situation from your past that you handled correctly, how you did it, and what you learned from the experience.

To ace an interview, you need to have a game plan for how to answer behavioral interview questions, regardless of the specific question. There are different strategies for doing this–you may have heard of the STAR or SOARA methods. Personally, I prefer the PART Strategy.

The acronym PART stands for Problem, Action, Result, and Takeaway. It’s easy to remember: Always do your PART.

  • Identify the problem that came up at your old job.
  • What action did you take to correct the problem?
  • What was the result of your action? Positive results only, please.
  • Upon reflection, what was your takeaway from the situation? How were you able to integrate this particular lesson into your skill set in a way that demonstrated personal growth?

With proper tools and preparation, an applicant can handle behavioral questions easily and without sounding like an arrogant jerk or a do-nothing drone. Instead, you will honestly be presenting the best version of yourself to a possible future employer.

Problem

No one enjoys the sound of bragging, so the point of a good story should not simply be how incredibly awesome and smart you are. It must demonstrate a thoughtful, curious nature and a lesson learned from an obstacle overcome through hard work and/or ingenuity.

The first part of your answer should establish the business setting, characters, and the problem itself. It doesn’t matter if you were a quick-witted waitress with an angry customer at the diner (“She always ordered the tuna sandwich and always complained about it.”), or an ad copywriter with a brainstorm that wowed the client (“He was unimpressed with our last three concepts and wanted a fresh take.”), the manager should understand where you were and what was at stake for you.

Action

So what did you do? What valuable qualities did you demonstrate while achieving your goal? Like a math equation, it’s important to show your work.

This is no time to be shy! Speak confidently when discussing your skill set. If you don’t toot your own horn a little bit, how will you get anyone to pay attention?

You can never lose by stressing excellent communication skills. The ability to neutralize negativity, whether from a customer demanding a refund or a client with impossible expectations, is a valuable asset in any office. Got lemons? Start squeezing and make enough everybody.

Another approach is to highlight your work ethic, explaining that the key to solving the problem was increased or renewed effort on your part, or that of the team. While this isn’t as impressive as actual creative problem solving, it does show you aren’t afraid of hard work.

Result

The outcome of your action should bring about a positive result. New customers, money saved, or winning Employee of the Month, for example.

Acknowledging teamwork or the timely support of a coworker shows the interviewer it’s not all about personal glory for you. A problem solved using sound methods is its own reward.

Takeaway

What did you learn? How did this situation prove instructional? How did tackling this problem make you a better employee?

Important lessons might include:

  • Asking for help when it’s genuinely needed. (“I talked to a few folks who had been with the agency for several years and got some valuable input.”)
  • Listening carefully to what a customer really wants. (“Despite all the details and suggestions, a simple, clear approach was needed.”)
  • Think about a new and creative approach to a problem. (“So whenever Shirley came in for lunch, I made sure to take the order myself and instructed the cook to add a little extra mayonnaise and an extra pickle to her sandwich.”)

By keeping in mind this structure when responding to a behavioral question, you’ll be able to demonstrate that you’re a valuable PART of any business or team!

Have a big interview coming up?

Don’t walk in unprepared! Learn the winning way to answer nearly any interview question with our 30-minute Interview Answers Crash Course.

Tonia is a talent management and culture practitioner and freelance writer striving to design and advocate for inclusion, equity, and positive social change.

More posts by Tonia Kallon.

Tonia Kallon

How to answer behavioral interview questions

What do you do when you hear “tell me about a time when…”

Do you jump for joy or want to hide under a desk?

Whatever your reaction, these questions are not only a reality but very common in interviews. In this article, learn more about 4 common behavioral interview questions and how to answer them. Because if we’re being real, you have to know the game to win.

Why hiring managers ask behavioral questions

Recruiters and hiring managers do not ask behavioral questions to put candidates under pressure. According to Indeed, employers use behavioral interviews as a structured format to understand how your experience applied to real situations, value add, and how you might perform in complex situations. In other words, show ‘em what you got!

This is the time to take that resume detail to the next level. The most common themes for these questions are around managing projects, managing conflict, and interacting with others. Additionally, as candidates are unique, behavioral interviews can promote an equitable hiring process. Reducing bias is definitely what’s up!

Now, let’s get into the questions.

Question # 1: Tell me about a time when you had to manage conflict (with a team, on a project, as a supervisor, etc.)

This question is often asked to learn how you navigate difficult personalities or obstacles. Employers want to hear how you were able to move forward productively. This will not always mean that the conflict itself was resolved. A successful outcome, however, is to maintain quality workflow and relationships.

Your response should give context to the situation but keep it positive. Even if the situation was low, you go high. Give the necessary details but keep it results-focused.

Question #2 Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a decision that directly impacted your work. How did you navigate the situation?

This question is asked to gauge how you handle disagreements. Like question one, your goal is to demonstrate how you can manage differences of opinion without sacrificing work quality. In this response, you can share why you disagreed. Keep in mind, though, the employer is looking to understand the impact of the disagreement on your work.

Question # 3: Tell me about a mistake that you’ve made. How did you handle it?

Nobody’s perfect. #Truth

While it is true nobody is perfect, it’s important to recognize whenever you make mistakes. Employers need to hear that you can acknowledge a mistake and that you are proactive in trying to correct it. Beyond that, it is critical to share what you learned. Mistakes happen but repeating the same one should not.

Question #4: Describe a project that you managed. How did you keep everything moving on time?

This question is all about managing projects and time. No matter what role you are interviewing for, hiring managers are looking for employees who can deliver timely results. When crafting your response, focus on examples that clearly describe your process as well as the result of that process.

Tips to prepare for any behavioral interview questions

The key to acing any behavioral interview question is to tell a compelling story. One of the most common techniques that career coaches recommend is the STAR format. STAR stands for:

S- Situation

T- Task

A- Action

R- Result

To effectively integrate STAR, focus on presenting specifics while being concise. We know, the nerves! But think of it this way, you’ve already got the interviewer’s attention. Now is the time to make the hiring team visualize you in the role as a contributor and teammate that brings value as only you can. One mistake when telling stories is focusing on the what and not the how (method) or result (impact). The STAR method can help you prove how you solve problems and offer hiring managers a clear picture of your experience.

Remember, behavioral interviews are not intended to play with your confidence. According to the Association for Talent Development, “the theory behind behavioral interviewing is that the best predictor of your behavior and performance in the future is your behavior and performance in the past.”

With preparation and practice, you can master these behavioral interview questions and many more.

You got this!

feature photo credit: Jopwell

Tonia Kallon

Tonia is a talent management and culture practitioner and freelance writer striving to design and advocate for inclusion, equity, and positive social change.

More posts by Tonia Kallon.

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Natasha Samuel was having the usual crisis every soon-to-be college grad has and wondering “what am I going to do for the rest of my life?” But instead of applying

There is nothing I dislike more, than attending a job interview. They are a necessary evil, no doubt, but I have always dreaded them. It seems to me that all you do is show that you are good or bad at job interviews, and not whether you are good at the job you’re a candidate for. Some job interviewers approach the interview very scientifically, reading up on techniques, psychological profiling and so on. For the interviewee, you must know how to answer job interview questions.

A job interview is the art of telling people what you think they want to hear. Having said that, there must be a degree of honesty here. We all exaggerate our experience and skills a bit from time to time, but remember that if you claim to have a four-year track record of flying passenger airplanes, you will need to back it up later on.

To answer job interview questions is to walk a thin tightrope. The questions tend to be designed to find out lots of contrary information. For example, are you a good team player and do you also enjoy working alone? Do you like to lead and are you good at following instructions?

Sometimes, I have been so nervous at job interviews that I don’t listen properly which make it difficult to answer job interview questions at all. In fact, the key is to swallow your nerves and listen intently. Otherwise, you’ll have to wing it. The questions are not there to trip you up, but to find out about you, and what’s more fascinating than talking about yourself!

When I answer job interview questions, I try to be calm and collected. I have had some success with meditation exercises before going into the interview. Some people do the much-recommended technique of imagining the interviewer in his or her underwear. I tried this once and got a fit of the giggles. Unsurprisingly, I did not get the job. Try to think of it as a conversation between equals, rather than a job interview.

The worst situation is when you really don’t want the job. In my younger days when getting a job was a case of needing cash quickly, I went for all manner of different positions. When this is the situation, they always seem to want you to answer job interview questions like, why did you choose their particular company? You have to quickly come up with an answer. Out of all the companies manufacturing ball bearings in the world, why did I choose them? Tough one.

To answer job interview questions is an art. In the end, the only person you can be is yourself. Trying to be who they want you to be is hard to sustain, especially if it’s a panel of interviewers peering at you. Each job interview gets easier. Well, it’s marginally preferable to going to the dentist.

There is nothing more stressful as going through an interview no matter what age you are. Even though you may have years of experience in your profession, or if you are a teenage on a look out of a summer job – the thought remains the same, how to answer interview questions. Well to some questions there are the obvious right and wrong answers. The questions that are determining the basic skill level needed for a particular job. It is well known that these are not the questions that determine who will get the job, as they only cover the basic job description and its duties. What makes you stand out from the others is learning how to answer interview questions when the interviewer is looking for a particular skill or attitude. These are perhaps the most tricky questions to prepare for. Also these are the questions that you constantly answer over and over again in your mind once you leave the interview room. For sure, I know I have left several interviews wishing I had worded my answer differently or that I had elaborated on a certain answer. It is vital to learn how to answer interview questions in a way that allows the interviewer know that you will bring enthusiasm along with knowledge to the job.

As an aid to help you on how to answer interview questions, there are several techniques and tips that are available. There are some interview tips that give a list of frequently asked questions that you can use to practice an interview. The technique that also offers answers on how to answer interview questions are the most helpful to me. Of course, you must ensure that you do not sound too rehearsed in an interview, but at the same time you want to be able to have the confidence to get across that you are familiar what you are talking about and prove to be the right candidate for the job position. In case you do come across as too rehearsed you might just give off the thought that you are bored with the whole process. A helpful tip would be to develop a brief personal pitch so that the employer is able to identify that you are indeed a good match. This pitch goes beyond knowing how to answer interview questions and presents your skills and attitudes towards the business you are applying for.

As for the higher level jobs that are more complex to get into there are interactive mock interviews. When you participate in this, you will learn not only how to answer interview questions but will be offered feed back from the interviewer on how you come across. You will be given tips on body language and mannerisms that also impact the chances of getting a job. Once you have mastered the art on how to answer interview questions, surely it will take you far in your career. It will be much easier to appear positive and knowledgeable in your skill level once you have overcome the worry of how to answer interview questions. In addition, having the right attitude towards learning a skill that you might not have yet is a positive sign to an employer. There are several employers who are willing to tutor a basic skill to a person that they feel is a good match for the position. You simply have to show that you are the perfect match by having confidence on how to answer interview questions.

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Both Hans Hasselfors & Luke T. Axton are contributors for EditorialToday. The above articles have been edited for relevancy and timeliness. All write-ups, reviews, tips and guides published by EditorialToday.com and its partners or affiliates are for informational purposes only. They should not be used for any legal or any other type of advice. We do not endorse any author, contributor, writer or article posted by our team.

Hans Hasselfors has sinced written about articles on various topics from Healthy Diet, Acne Treatment and Retirement. This article was published by Hans Hasselfors. I hope you enjoyed this article. You may find more articles about job interview questions. Hans Hasselfors’s top article generates over 27100 views. Bookmark Hans Hasselfors to your Favourites.

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How to answer behavioral interview questions

Behavioral questions crop up in most interviews. Interviewers ask this kind of question on the theory that your past behavior is the best predictor of your future behavior. How you’ve dealt with challenges in the past should provide a good indication of you’ll deal with difficulties in your new job. Follow these tips for great answers to behavioral questions.

  1. Spot behavioral questions. Listen out for behavioral questions during your interview. This subset of questions requires a specific strategy, so the first step is to recognize them. Behavioral questions usually begin with a phrase like, “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example…” Any question that asks you to discuss how you’ve handled a particular scenario in the past is a behavioral question.
  1. Tell one specific story. A common mistake when people first try their hand at this type of question is to speak in very general terms. When I ask behavioral questions in mock interviews, students often jump among a bunch of different examples, not pausing long enough to fully explain any of them. Remember, the question asks for a specific example. Focus in on just one story.
  1. Use the STAR method. The STAR method is a simple formula for answering behavioral questions. It works like this:

Situation: What was going on?

Task: What had to be done?

Action: What steps did you take?

Result: What was the outcome?

An effective answer hits each of these points. This format also helps to keep your answer organized and focused on your role.

  1. Write out stories in advance. The STAR method helps keep your answer organized and focused, but it won’t help much if you don’t have a story to tell! Take the time to write out a few stories from your professional, educational and volunteer experiences before the interview. All you need are short answers—no more than a sentence or two—for each piece of the STAR method. By preparing these in advance, you’ll be able to choose a great example and explain it clearly in the interview.
  1. Relate the example back to the position. In an interview, everything should relate back to the position you’re seeking. After you tell a great story from your work experience, turn back to the current position. How did this experience prepare you to succeed now?
  1. Be ready to talk about success, teamwork, and things going wrong. You never know exactly what questions you’ll get in an interview. But behavioral questions tend to address certain areas, and by preparing a few types of stories, you’ll be ready with an example for any question they throw at you. Make sure you have at least one example of a time you were successful in your work, a time you worked well as a member of a team, and a time when you overcame challenges or setbacks. It’s also a good idea to prepare stories related to conflict resolution, problem solving, time management, and working under pressure. You may also want to consider any issues or values that are very important in your field and prepare examples related to those topics. Depending on your field, you might get behavioral questions related to ethics, diversity, customer service, technical skill, creativity, or other issues.

If this sounds like a lot, don’t worry—most examples can work for more than one kind of question. A story about conflict resolution might also be a story about teamwork, and a story about time management might also be a story about working under pressure as well as a good example of a time you were successful in your work.

  1. Present yourself in a positive light. It’s up to you to choose examples that show you’re a great candidate for the job. Don’t miss this opportunity to make yourself look good! We’ve all had moments of excellence and moments of not-so-excellence in our professional and academic careers. This is not the time to talk about when you completely forgot to study for your midterm or got in a huge argument with a coworker. Talk about times that you were successful. When answering questions that ask you to talk about difficulties—a time you made a mistake or faced a serious setback, say—don’t shy away from the negatives, but be sure emphasize how you overcame challenges and end on a positive note.

Examples

Here are a couple of examples of answers to common behavioral questions, using the STAR method.

“Give me an example of a time you faced a conflict while working on a team. How did you handle it?”

Situation: When I was a research assistant, I worked closely with the research team, especially the other students. Midway through the semester, a conflict came up among my fellow graduate students about how we were dividing responsibilities. One of my teammates felt he was doing more than his share of the work, and another teammate was frustrated with him because she felt we had divided the work evenly.

Task: We needed to come to agreement so we could work together and keep our project on schedule.

Action: I decided to address the situation directly by asking my teammates if they would be willing to meet to discuss the situation. In our meeting, I asked each teammate to tell their side of the story.

Result: It turned out that my teammate who felt he was doing too much actually wasn’t unhappy with the amount of work, but rather with the type of work we had assigned him. I volunteered to trade some responsibilities with him so that his tasks would have more variety. We were able to work well together for the rest of the term and completed our project on time.

“Tell me about a time you made a mistake and learned from it.”

Situation: During my internship ABC Company, one of my responsibilities was giving presentations. After working with another intern on a presentation for two weeks, the big day came. I arrived at the venue that morning, and my coworker asked if I had brought the hard drive with our slides and documents on it. I thought she was going to bring the files. My copy was sitting on my desk at home!

Task: The presentation was supposed to start in 20 minutes, and we needed that hard drive.

Action: I rushed home and got the hard drive.

Result: I got back just in time and the presentation went on as planned. I learned the importance of clear communication and never making the assumption that I if don’t do something, someone else will take care of it. Now, I know that I am the bottom line when it comes to my work.

Need help developing your own success stories? Come visit us at Career Services!

How to answer behavioral interview questions
Shalom Leo Bond
Career Development Facilitator 1
UNM Career Services

How to answer behavioral interview questions

Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavioral Interview Questions are questions about how you handled difficult situations at work.

These questions are designed to see how you reacted in the past, as your past performance is a strong indicator of how you will behave in the future.

Be sure to prepare the following behavioral interview questions below and you will do great on your next interview.

Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers

Name a time you disagreed with a coworker or manager and what was the outcome?

It is only natural to have conflict at work. What is important is how you and your colleague come up with a positive outcome.

Don’t

  • Discuss negative conflicts (for example, don’t mention how you would argue with your boss for being late).
  • Discuss a situation where the outcome wasn’t positive.

Do

  • Make the conflict about something positive like a conflict on how to make a business process better.

Example

In my last job, I worked in retail. I was presenting inventory in the store differently than the way my manager had told me as I felt my way was better for the customer. My manager told me that head office requires all stores to display inventory in a specific way. I didn’t agree with him, however, he told me that a lot of studies are done to maximize sales. I understood my mistake and now follow the layout as required by head office.

What was your greatest accomplishment in your last job?

There should be very little hesitation when you answer this question.

If you hesitate the interviewer may think you don’t care

But in an interview it can be nerve-racking and it is quite possible you can draw a blank stare when answering this question.

Below are some examples I came up with:

  • Perhaps you saved your last/current company money or
  • Perhaps you improved the quality of your work and the work of others or
  • Perhaps you helped a co-worker out personally and they were able to continue their work.

Tell us about a time when you went out of your way for a customer?

Remember the customer is always right and if the customer is not happy a company cannot survive but if you go out of your way to a customer they will tell others and the business will flourish.

I remember one restaurant I worked for we would give tours of the kitchen to children to give the parents that 10-minute break and the parents would always be grateful.

Another example I remember is if we didn’t have an item on the menu we would go to the neighboring restaurant and see if we could get t for them.

I have a friend who monitors Facebook comments and escalates complaints to various departments if a customer is unsatisfied. He even does this on his days off because he cares.

Could you tell me about a time your punctuality or attendance impacted your work?

  • Everyone misses work from time to time but make sure you have a good reason. Also, explain what you did to reduce the impact of your absence.
  • For example, I worked at a popular fast-food chain and I was unable to attend my shift due to an illness. I did phone several team members and I was able to find someone to cover my shift.

Tell us about a time you have felt overwhelmed at work and how did you deal with it?

Everyone gets overwhelmed from time to time. What is important is how you dealt with being overwhelmed.

Try and state an example when you were overwhelmed at work and then state how you prioritized your tasks and completed your tasks. If you could not finish your tasks state how you asked your colleagues or your manager for help.

Tell us about your previous experience on how you dealt with a difficult customer or client?

  • Listen and let the customer vent.
  • Show the customer you care.
  • Don’t blame the customer or the company.
  • Try to solve the problem or find someone who can.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  • Finally, it is important not to take it personally. If you get upset you will take it on future customers.

Behavioral Interview Questions for Managers

Have you ever laid off or fired an employee? If so please explain the process?

Part of being a good manager is knowing when to let an employee go. State you would deal with the employee in the following steps.

  1. Mention you would put the individual on a performance improvement plan or have a one-on-one meeting and let the employee know where he or she could improve.
  2. Then say you would evaluate the employee after two weeks.
  3. If the employee does not improve then you would go through the appropriate HR channels and let the individual go.

Give an example of how you have motivated your employees?

Motivation is key to any business and if you can motivate others you will be a great asset to the organization you are applying for.