Behavioral interviews are based on the premise that finding the best job candidates to hire can be accomplished by first examining their past performance and behaviors with previous employers.
As with any job interview technique, however, behavioral job interviews have pros and cons, with the most con being that past career performance DOES NOT GUARANTEE future career performance. Culture, flexibility, and financials vary from employer to employer, which aids (or hinders) a professional’s success and failures.
Employers know this, but they probe with this line of questioning anyway – and even go so far as to ask weird questions of job candidates too.
Some of the best job candidates for behavioral interview questions are those who have evidence of their performance. For example, a manager or executive can provide specific details about revenue, profits, clients obtained, etc. In these instances, employers can verify select information given by a new hire once the background check is underway.
How do you prepare answers for a behavioral job interview?
START BY THINKING S.T.A.R.
Behavioral interview questions generally cover these main areas:
- Customer Service
- [PEOPLE] How have you handled a difficult situation with a colleague?
- [PROCESSES] What specific processes have you helped overhaul and why?
- [SYSTEMS] What situations did you help resolve by introducing new systems and technologies?
- [FINANCIALS] Describe the financial situation the employer was in when you joined the company versus when you left? What actions did you take to generate the turnaround?
- [PROBLEM-SOLVING] Provide 2-3 examples of major problems you resolved and the tasks you took to create the result.
- [CUSTOMER SERVICE] What have you done in the past 12 months to improve customer engagement and retain client accounts?
- [LEADERSHIP] What leadership and employee metrics have you used to develop leadership excellence?
To answer questions like those above, prepare short descriptions for each situation using the following method:
S – Describe the Situation
T – What Task (s) did you identify that needed to be completed?
A – What Action did you take?
R – What was the Result of your action?
An example using the S.T.A.R. method: Can you tell me about when you solved X problem?
Situation – At the last minute, my boss asked me to reserve a conference room at a nearby hotel for an important meeting of the area directors of our company. This meeting was to be held later that same week. Unfortunately, because this request was so last minute, I could not find a hotel with an available conference room for the event.
Task – I needed to find a space large enough to accommodate the 200 attendees of this meeting on very short notice.
Action – Since it was summertime, it occurred to me that the local university may have an available classroom that may meet our needs. I called the events planner of the school and arranged for our meeting to be held in an amphitheater-style classroom, complete with PC/internet access and a projection screen at the front of the room – all for half the cost of a conference room at a hotel!
Result – The meeting was a success. My boss was impressed with my solution and doubly impressed with the savings to the company!
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EXAMPLE QUESTIONS YOU MAY BE ASKED DURING A BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEW:
• Give me a specific example of when you used good judgment in solving a problem.
• Describe a time in any job you held when you faced problems or stresses that tested your coping skills.
• Give an example of when you had to be relatively quick in coming to a decision.
• Tell me about a time when you had to use your written communication skills to get an important point across.
• Give an example of an important goal that you had set in the past and tell me about your success in reaching it.
• Tell me of a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get a job done.
• Give me an example of a time when you successfully communicated with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you or vice versa.
• Tell me about a time when you worked under tremendous stress.
• Give me an example of a problem you faced on any job and how you went about solving it.
• Describe an experience when you dealt with an angry customer.
• When was the last time you “broke the rules” (thought outside the box) and how did you do it?
• What was the wildest idea you had in the past year? What did you do about it?
• What is the most difficult decision you’ve had to make, and how did you arrive at your decision?
Additional Download/Resource by SHRM:
The Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) offers this free guide for hiring managers who conduct behavior interviews with early-career job candidates.