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Learn to Finesse Behavioral Interview Questions

If you are in the career search process at any level,  be ready for the interview that poses those behavioral interview questions. These may seem tricky at first, but you can make a great impression by preparing for them in advance.

Here are some suggestions for understanding this interview technique and making it work to your advantage.

How to Prepare for Behavioral Interviewing

1.     Understand the underlying purpose. Behavioral-based interviewing uses a candidate’s past performance in similar situations to predict what they are likely to do in the future. The reason this method is so popular is that it usually yields more reliable information than hypothetical questions.

2.     Review your experience. Scrutinize your resume to extract the accomplishments that demonstrate why you’re the right candidate for the position you’re seeking. Think about other areas of your life like hobbies and volunteer work that have also equipped you with valuable experience.

3.     Study the job description. Read the job description or vacancy announcement carefully. The wording often provides important clues about what skills and traits your prospective employer will want to discuss.

Get familiar with common questions. You can find lists of typical behavioral interview questions in many job hunting books. The career services sections of university and college websites are another good place to look for these as well as searching behavioral questions on the internet.

Here are a few examples:

Tell me a time when you made a mistake and how you handled it.

Tell me about a time when you were in direct conflict with a peer and how you managed it.

Tell me how you have worked effectively under pressure.

Give an example of how you set goals.

Give an example of how you worked on a team.

4.     Rehearse your responses. Take a trial run by doing a mock interview with a friend. If you’re on your own, you can practice in front of a mirror.

Mastering the Three Key Points

1.     Describe the situation. Behavioral questions usually start out by asking you to give an example of a challenge you encountered. Give a succinct account of how you were faced with meeting a tight deadline or winning over a skeptical audience.

2.     Explain your actions. Next, talk about what you did. Walk your interviewer through the strategy you developed and the series of steps you took.

3.     Focus on outcomes. It’s all about getting the desired results. If possible, use quantitative terms to describe your achievements like how much money you saved or how many sales you completed.

Additional Suggestions

1.     Be specific. Providing the appropriate level of detail makes your qualifications more evident. Instead of saying that you improved a sales brochure, describe how you changed the format and text and how much sales volumes increased.

2.     Speak naturally. If you’re going on interviews for an extended period, you’ll probably be giving the same answers over and over. Ensure you sound enthusiastic and fresh every time.

3.     Accentuate the positive. Certain behavioral questions prompt a candidate to describe weaknesses and past disappointments. Use them to show how much you’ve learned and grown.

4.     Seek clarification. Stay on the right track by asking pertinent questions if you’re unclear about what your interviewer is asking. It will help both of you to make a better decision about whether you’re a good fit.

5.     Stay up to date. Many employers will prefer to evaluate candidates on the basis of their most recent experience. If you’re back in the job market for the first time in years, be prepared to discuss recent accomplishments.

6.     Make yourself memorable. One of the best things about behavioral interviewing is that it gives you a chance to tell your personal story so you can stand out in a crowded job market. A lot of candidates will have similar looking resumes but you can highlight experiences that make you unique.

Walk into your next interview feeling more confident about your ability to handle behavioral questions. With a little planning and practice, you’ll improve your chances of landing that dream career you are seeking.