Behavioral Interview Questions: What They Are and How to Answer Them

Jennifer McDowell
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At times, no matter how confident a person you are, interviews can feel like an unplanned psychological evaluation! That, or you feel like you’re being grilled by the FBI or the CIA or any of the other lettered government agencies that are meant to root out spies. But you’re not a double agent! You just want a job! So, why do you feel like you’re about to go over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel? Joking aside, they’re called Behavioral Interview Questions—and they can be very intimidating! They are purposefully asked to ascertain both your character and your ability to do the job that you’re applying for. With practice and understanding, however, you can be as cool as a cucumber answering these types of questions. Let’s break down the particulars!

 

In an article for The Muse, “Behavioral interview questions require candidates to share examples of specific situations they’ve been in where they had to use certain skills. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the answers ‘should provide verifiable, concrete evidence as to how a candidate has dealt with issues in the past.’ In short, it’s a way to let your past work performance prove what you’re capable of doing in the future for this potential employer.”

 

Ok, great. But what kind of questions will they be asking? What should you say? Depending on who you speak to, there are several different camps these questions can fall into. The interview Guys compile them into five categories: Teamwork, Leadership, Problem Solving, Communication, and Initiative. In her article, Ms. Zhang adds a few more: Time Management, Ability to Adapt, Client-facing Skills, and Motivation and Values.

 

What you should do:

 

 

  1. Go back through your resume and mine your past job history for examples of situations where you shined, faced adversity, and made a mistake (or two).  Don’t just look for candy-coated perfection; examine the ups and downs of your career so far. Then, practice saying these answers out loud with the goal of not making them too long-winded. Try to keep your answers concise and under two minutes.

     
  2. Study the questions at the end of this article, as well as Google many more. Even if you’re asked a question you didn’t study, the more questions you know will give you insight into what it is your potential employer is looking for—and will inform you as to what story you should tell.



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Some other Behavioral Interview Tips:

 

 

  • Be open and honest in your answer
  • Review major projects you’ve worked on
  • Revisit previous job performance reviews
  • Make a list of your professional accomplishments

 

 

 

 

 

Another good piece of advice is to tailor your top skills and qualifications to each specific job you’re going for. Reanalyze what stories are more pertinent depending on the job. If you prepare and do the suggested above, pretty soon Behavioral Interview Questions will be a breeze. At the very least, it should keep your interview from feeling like the Spanish Inquisition!

 

 

 

 

 

Examples of Behavioral Interview Questions by Category:

 

 

Teamwork:

 

 

 

  1. Talk about a time when you had to work closely with someone whose personality was very different from yours.
  2. Tell me about a team project that you’ve worked on.



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Leadership:

 

 

 

  1. Tell me a time when you stepped up into a leadership role.
  2. How do you motivate other people to work with you?



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Problem Solving/Ability to Adapt:

 

 

 

  1. Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  2. Tell me about a time you failed. How did you deal with the situation?



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Communication:

 

 

 

  1. Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  2. Tell me about a time when you had to rely on written communication to get your ideas across to your team.



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Time Management:

 

 

 

  1. Tell me about a time you had to be very strategic in order to meet all your top priorities.
  2. Sometimes it’s just not possible to get everything on your to-do list done. Tell me about a time your responsibilities got a little overwhelming. What did you do?



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Client-facing Skills:

 

 

 

  1. Describe a time when it was especially important to make a good impression on a client. How did you go about doing so?
  2. Describe a time when you had to interact with a difficult client. What was the situation, and how did you handle it?



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Initiative/ Motivation and Values:

 

 

 

  1. Tell me about your proudest professional accomplishment.
  2. Describe a time when you saw some problem and took the initiative to correct it rather than waiting for someone else to do it.



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Happy job hunting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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