Handling Behavioral Interview Questions
PERSONAL BRANDING GURU | CAREER WHIZ | WRITING EXPERT
There is a pervasive myth out there among job candidates that the interview is about you. It should be easy to go in and talk about yourself, your achievements, your vision. Make no mistake. The interview isn’t about you at all. It’s about the business pain that the hiring manager and company have. The hiring manager doesn’t want to listen to your life’s story, or a rehashing of every project you’ve worked on. What the hiring manager wants is someone who says “I understand the problem you have, and I’m able to solve it efficiently.”
If you’ve been out for interviews in the past five years, you might have noticed that some employers use behavioral interviewing as a technique to vet out the answers to their key question, which is “Which of these candidates best understands my current business problem?” In contrast to other types of structured interview questions, such as direct, technical, or situational, behavioral questions operate on the assumption that past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior. Candidates, however, hate behavioral interviews. They tend to become flustered, and the behavioral interview backfires—top performers are often screened out.
However, the behavioral interview is not going away any time soon, so your best bet is to prepare for it. Start by writing out the answers to the following:
- What are the key messages that I want to convey?
- What is the business pain that the hiring manager is trying to solve?
- Where do I see opportunity for my unique skills and experience to help alleviate that business pain?
This is not an easy exercise; you will need to devote considerable effort to self-examination in order to reach your conclusions. Once you’ve written out your responses, study them. Understand them. Be able to talk about them at a moment’s notice. Know them cold. The answers to these questions will become the basis of the responses to the questions you will field at the interview.
In practice, behavioral interviews pose a question and give you the opportunity to tell a story about yourself and your experience, and how both relate to the role at hand. “Tell me about a time you disagreed with your manager about something. How did you resolve it? What was the outcome?” You want to tell a story that reflects your key messages, as noted previously. In order to do so effectively, you should employ the STAR method:
Situation. This is the preface of your narrative. Give background on the experience, and what your involvement was.
Task. Describe the challenge you faced, and what the expected outcome was.
Action. Detail the action you took in response to the challenge. Be sure to use “I” and/or “we” statements.
Result. Explain the results and the business impact, and then make them relevant to the position being discussed.
Your responses to behavioral questions should be succinct. No one wants to sit across from you and hear every detail of your pet project. Exclude extraneous details. Immediately describe the situation, articulates the task, describes the activity that was taken, and, most importantly, conveys the impact on the business.
Here ten of the most frequently posed behavioral questions:
- Tell me about how you work under pressure.
- Give me an example of a goal you reached, and how you achieved it.
- Describe a time you had to make an unpopular decision.
- Tell me about a time you disagreed with a team member.
- Describe how you set goals.
- Give me an example of a time you had a conflict with a team member.
- Talk to me about a time you had to deal with an unhappy client.
- Describe a project that you lead.
- Tell me how you keep current with the changes in your industry.
- What is the riskiest decision you’ve ever made?
Practice your STAR responses to each, so that you are well prepared the next time you face a behavioral interview.
Your responses to behavioral questions should be succinct.