How to Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions
What Are Behavioral Interview Questions?
Interviews – nobody likes them, yet they are usually the final - and most crucial - step in a long and grueling application process. Only a few questions stand between you and that coveted job. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, but how do you prepare for questions that supposedly have no right or wrong answers? Yes, I'm talking about behavioral interview questions.
Behavioral interview questions are widely thought of as the trickiest of all interview questions to answer because they can seem personal, deceptively open-ended, and sometimes outright confusing. But make no mistake, there exists a full-proof method to crafting ideal answers to this kind of question. Mastering this method along with understanding the purpose behind these questions will help you feel more assured and ready to take them on. Let us demystify behavioral interview questions.
Defining Behavioral Interview Questions
They say the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior - this sentiment is the basis for behavioral interview questions.
Developed by psychologists in the 1970s, behavioral interview questions aim to assess a candidate's reaction in a specified situation and their response to the challenges they faced in that situation with the hopes of gaining insight into their skills, abilities, and personality. These questions generally focus on a candidate's past work experiences to determine their suitability for the role.
In most job interviews nowadays, at least one behavioral-based question is guaranteed to pop up. Studies have shown that behavioral interview questions are five times more effective than traditional interview questions in selecting the right candidate. So it is no surprise that they are most frequently used in interviews for positions at top companies and for competitive graduate programs.
Common Behavioral Interview Questions
Here are some common behavioral interview questions; we've broken them down into categories to help you better identify the purpose of each question. Identifying the objective of a question will make formulating an answer much easier.
If being part of a team is integral to the role you are after, questions will be asked to prompt you to tell stories about how you interact with others in a workplace environment. They will be looking out for demonstrations of interpersonal and social skills or how you handled project constraints.
Tell me about a time when you had to work closely with someone whose personality was clashed with yours.
Give me an example of a time there was conflict while working on a team. How did you deal with that?
Describe a time when you struggled to build a relationship with someone important. What did you do to overcome this?
Have you ever regretted how you handled a situation with a co-worker? What would you have done differently?
Has there ever been a time where you had to get information from someone who wasn't very responsive? What did you do to achieve this?
If the position you are interviewing for involves interacting with clientele, it is most definite that you'll be asked to detail a scenario where you delivered excellent customer service.
Describe a time when making a good impression on a client was particularly important. How did you go about doing so?
Give an example of a time when you failed to meet a client's expectations. Why did this happen, and what steps did you take to rectify the matter?
Give an example about a time when you went above and beyond to ensure a customer's satisfaction.
Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer. What was the situation, and how did you deal with it?
There will be times when you will have to handle a large number of customers. How would you approach prioritizing customers' needs?
Behavioral interview questions aiming to assess adaptability are looking for answers that show competencies in navigating through a work crisis. If your navigation was unsuccessful, explain what you learned from the experience.
How do you cope with pressure? Can you give me an example?
Tell me about a time when changes were made to your company or team. How did this affect you, and what did you do to adapt to these changes?
Recall your first day at a new job. How did you learn the ropes?
Give an example of a time when you were able to remove yourself from a difficult or awkward position.
How do you bounce back from failure? Give an example.
Time Management Skills
To answer behavioral interview questions aimed at identifying time management skills, you must use anecdotes about coping with various responsibilities simultaneously and how you organized these responsibilities to complete them all before a deadline. If you also were able to exceed expectations, make sure to mention that too!
Give an example of a time when you had to strategize in order to meet a priority goal.
Describe a time when you managed to complete a long-term project. How were you able to do so while still meeting daily targets and deadlines?
Tell me about a time when you were overwhelmed with the length of your to-do list. What did you do?
When you set a goal for yourself, what are the steps you take to ensure you reach it? Give an example.
How do you handle being given numerous responsibilities? What is your strategy?
Be careful not to go off on a tangent with too much detail about conversations that took place. The key thing to focus on when answering these questions is your thought process and preparation.
Give an example of a time when you successfully persuaded someone at work to see things your way.
Tell me a time when you had to explain something technical. How were you able to make sure people without expertise in that area understood you?
Describe a time when you used written communication to convey your ideas to a team.
Tell me a time when you had to explain something quite complicated to a frustrated customer or client. How do you navigate delicate situations like this?
Tell me about a successful presentation you delivered. Explain what you think made it successful.
Motivation and Values
If a behavioral interview question seems to be random, they are likely attempting to understand more about what drives and motivates you. Even if it isn't explicitly stated, it is preferable to address this directly.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
Give an example of a time you took the initiative to correct a mistake or problem rather than waiting for someone else to do it.
Detail a scenario where you were under close supervision, or you were mostly left to work independently. How did you handle this?
Tell me a time where you had the opportunity to be creative with a task. What did you like and dislike about this?
Tell me a time you were unhappy with how a task turned out. What could you have done better?
The STAR Method
The STAR method is a well-known algorithm used to construct effective answers in response to behavioral interview questions. It is a four-step process, and the acronym serves as a mnemonic device to help you remember them even under interview pressure. Following the star method will guarantee to make you shine:
Situation – describe the situation, including all necessary details to set the scene.
Task – identify the task or problem you were responsible for completing or solving.
Action – explain the action you took to complete or solve the task or problem.
Result – reveal the outcome achieved from the action you had taken.
The STAR Method in Action
Now that we know the STAR method, here are a couple of examples of how to apply it to behavioral interview questions.
Question: Give an example of a time when you had to strategize in order to meet a priority goal.
S – Working as a sales assistant in a previous role, I was tasked to begin using a completely new customer relationship management system (CRM) whilst also handling my usual daily duties.
T – The aim was to finish transitioning to the new CRM database by the third quarter without compromising my target sales numbers or the standards of my other areas of work.
A – I achieved this by overhauling my schedule to better manage time. I dedicated an hour each day solely to focus on the CRM migration. During this hour, I would transfer the old system's data, clear out old contacts, and update out-of-date contact information. By doing this, I gradually finished the CRM task and kept on top of regular tasks and sales targets.
R – As a result, the migration to the new CRM database was done three weeks ahead of schedule, and I managed to finish the quarter exceeding my sales target by 10%.
It is important to note that the STAR method is only effective if an anecdote is appropriate in satisfying the behavioral interview question's objective. Giving a flawless answer to the wrong question defeats the purpose entirely. Try to figure out why a question is asked. This will help you to choose the right story to tell.
Question: What would you do if a team member refused to do their part in completing a project or objective?
S – If there are conflicts or issues amongst a team I am part of, I usually assume the team leader's role when necessary. I'm a pretty effective communicator who tends to help in leading and moderating projects and people. There was a situation in which I was working on a team project.
T – Two team members refused to even start on the tasks they were assigned. They stated that they were unfairly given a higher workload than everyone else.
A – So I arranged a team meeting where we decided to redistribute the work in a way that made everyone happy.
R – Once that was done, all team members were on board with the project and were fully productive. We were able to meet the project deadline comfortably with time to spare.
How To Start Preparing
Knowing where to begin when preparing for behavioral interview questions can seem quite daunting for many people.
Here are some top tips:
Study the job description to identify key competencies and attributes required and rank them in order of importance for the role.
Think of situations in the past where you demonstrated these competencies and attributes.
List your achievements, then work backward to establish the steps you took to attain them.
Look back at previous performance reports for inspiration.
Reflect on past failures or difficult challenges for examples that showcase your ability to handle adversity and your capacity for self-improvement.
For candidates with little to no work experience, your anecdotes should be based on situations in college, in voluntary roles, part-time jobs, or extracurricular activities. Sometimes a family situation may be applicable.
Other Benefits of Preparing for Behavioral Interview Questions
Preparation for behavioral interview questions can go beyond getting through an interview.
The collection of examples and anecdotes for your answers can also be useful outside of an interview setting.
They can be used:
At networking events and industry functions
For online profiles, cover letters, and resumes
To remember tried and tested processes that can be applied to a current or future problem
But the most invaluable thing you can gain from preparing for these types of questions is confidence. Sometimes it's hard to realize the things we have achieved, let alone give ourselves credit for them. We often overlook moments of triumph and underrate core skills in our possession.
The exercise of cobbling these answers together forces you to self-reflect. Self-reflection is key to having a better understanding of yourself and where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Knowing areas in which you excel and those that need improvement will not only help you on a professional level but also on a personal one.
For more interview tips, check out our Lanteria blog page; we regularly publish content on the hiring process.