When it comes to job interviews, questions about your technical skills, work history and other qualifications are usually just the appetizer. The main course often consists of behavioral questions, which interviewers use to get a deeper sense of how you approach tasks, solve problems and work with others to determine whether you may be a fit for their organization’s culture and values.
While your interview prep should certainly include coming up with answers to tell me about yourself and what’s your greatest weakness, it is crucial that you also have a strategy for answering any behavioral questions your interviewer may throw at you.
And that’s what this article is all about. Read on to learn a surefire way to answer behavioral questions during your next job interview.
Identify Your Career Stories
When answering behavioral questions, you’re really just telling stories (and we’re talking nonfiction stories, here!) about your past work experience. Often, behavioral questions will start with, “Tell me about a time when …” or “Give me an example …” so when you're preparing for a job interview, you should spend some time identifying career stories that fit various themes, such as teamwork, adaptability, facing challenges, time management. Your stories should highlight successes and demonstrate professional growth.
Sample Behavioral Job Interview Questions
- Describe a situation where you were able to successfully persuade someone.
- Give an example of a time you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
- Give me an example of a time you had to make a split-second decision.
- Tell me about a time you had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get a job done.
- Tell me about a time you delegated effectively.
- Tell me about a time you had to work with a difficult person.
- How do you deal with conflict in the workplace? Give me an example.
- Give me an example of a time you tried to do something and failed.
- Give me an example of a time you took the initiative and led.
- Tell me about a time you had to deal with an upset customer or coworker.
Use the STAR Method
As with any compelling story, the career stories you use during a job interview should have a structure – namely a beginning, middle and end. Many people find the STAR method – that stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result – helpful when crafting answers to behavioral interview questions (there are variations of this technique, such as PAR and SOARA).
Here’s a look at the STAR method in action.
- Question: Tell me about a time you were given a big project to manage and how you went about it.
- Situation (the setting for the story): I was a content manager for a startup.
- Task (the conflict that gets resolved): I was asked to increase our brand awareness and authority within our niche, as well as drive more traffic to our website.
- Action (how you resolved the conflict): I developed a plan that included rapidly scaling our user-facing content offerings and creating beneficial content exchange relationships. I hired and managed a team of freelance writers to quickly produce the required content and identified and contacted potential content exchange partners.
- Result (the positive impact you had): My efforts tripled the amount of valuable content on our site in just two months and resulted in the creation of multiple content exchange relationships, including with some of the most prestigious publishers in our space, giving our company more name recognition and authority and significantly improving our SEO.
Many interviewers rely heavily on behavioral questions during job interviews. You’re pretty much guaranteed to get at least a few. While they may seem daunting, using a strategy, such as the STAR method is a great way to structure your answers as stories (and cast yourself as the hero!).
Before an interview, you should identify some strong career stories and practice telling them out loud. You don’t need to memorize them word for word, but you should have a handle on the main points – the beginning, middle and end – so you can tell them effectively and succinctly.