During any job interview, you may be asked what we call “behavioral based interview questions”. You’ve probably always wondered, “Why are they asking me these types of questions? How should I answer them?”
Don’t worry, in this post I’ll explain why these questions are so important and share a simple, Skills-approved method for answering them, along with my personal tips and tricks.
What is Behavioral Based Interviewing? Why Should I Care?
Behavioral questions usually sound something like this: Tell me about a time when X. Describe a time when you did Y. The idea behind this type of interview is that what you’ve done in the past will be similar to how you handle similar situations in the future. Your answers give the interviewer insight into who you are as a professional and how you will perform in this role.
Think of this as your way to PROVE that you are the perfect candidate by showing that you’ve successfully faced similar challenges in the past. Most companies choose questions focused on the types of challenges current employees face in the role, so keep in mind that you can learn a lot about the position by the types of questions they ask.
How to Answer Behavioral Based Interview Questions
The most important thing to remember is to always provide one clear and specific example of something related that you’ve done in the past. You should have already taken some notes while preparing for the interview, but how do you actually present those examples in your answers?
Skills recommends using the STAR method to turn your examples into great answers that clearly highlight the following:
Situation: Describe a specific moment and provide context. Where were you working? What was the challenge at hand? Why were you working on it, or why was it important to you or the company?
Task: Describe your specific responsibility, challenge, or action. What were you doing? What was the end goal? What was expected of you?
Action: Describe in detail what specifically you (not the team) did. What steps did you take to address the situation, complete your task, or reach your goal? How did you do it? What tools/skills did you use? How did you overcome the challenge?
Result: Describe the specific outcome. What was the happy ending? What were the end results? What did you learn? How did you help fix a problem?
Tips to Make You a Star Interviewer
- Always focus your answer on one specific situation. This will show what you have actually done or learned and prove that you have the skills and experience for the role you are interviewing for now.
- Choose examples that shine you in a positive light. If you are using an example where you may have made a wrong decision or a mistake, make sure to talk about how you learned from it and how you know you won’t make that mistake again. Also, never speak poorly about former coworkers, employers, or customers in your answers. Remember that your interview is your time to “sell” the interviewer on how great you are!
- Most interviewers aren’t trying to trick you. If an interviewer is asking about your weaknesses or mistakes you’ve made, they probably aren’t trying to trick you, they are trying to get to know how you’ve learned when things didn’t go as planned. It is truly safe to admit what you did wrong as long as you also share what you learned and how you can make sure it never happens again.
- Have ready a few past experiences that address certain themes. Write down a few examples relating to leadership, teamwork, dealing with difficult customers, work ethic, and problem solving. This way, you’ll always have an answer ready and won’t be thrown off guard by what or how a question is asked.
- Do not ramble or provide unnecessary information. Talk about your example clearly and simply, making sure to answer each part of the STAR method in 2-e sentences. Be careful not to ramble or lose your focus on the topic.
- Include facts and figures about your results. Whenever you can, include specific numbers that show how you met or exceeded your goals, or performed above what was expected. This shows the interviewer that you are willing to work hard and do whatever it takes to accomplish tasks and reach goals.
- Take a moment before answering. Don’t feel the need to start speaking right away. Gather your thoughts, and then naturally and clearly state your answer in in a sincere way. It’s also ok to say “let me think for a moment” before you start.
- Connect the “result” to the role you’re interviewing for. Whatever challenge you resolved or skill you learned, say how that outcome makes you the best candidate for this position and company now.
Christopher Hoover, Jr. Talent Acquisition Lead, Skills for Chicagoland’s Future