Why Behavioral Questions Are Scary & How To Conquer Them

If you are lucky enough to get an interview, congratulations! You have proven to an employer that you are qualified to handle the job. Passing the interview and securing a job offer will require you to prove that you are the best fit for the company beyond your qualifications.

In addition to traditional interview questions that help an interviewer get to know your personality and your goals, you may be asked one or more questions that assess how well you solve problems by applying your qualifications and skills to common challenges in the workplace.


Why Behavioral Questions Are Scary & How To Conquer Them | Off The Clock Resumes


What Are Behavioral Questions?

Most interviewers will spend some time asking you behavioral interview questions. Typically you will be presented with a situation and asked to describe how you would handle the situation. Most commonly the interviewer will ask you to describe a situation during your experiences with a current or past employer. 


Why Interviewers Ask Behavioral Questions

Interviewers ask these questions to see how to see how you performed in the past and how you may perform in the future if hired. The intent is not always fool-proof. It's possible that how you responded to a situation in the past is not how you would respond now. 

So what exactly are interviewers looking for? Behavioral interview questions give an employer an idea if you a have the necessary skills for the job and if you know how to apply those skills to typical challenges. Interviewers are looking for you to tell a story, but your greatest mistake will be failing to keep your answer focused and relevant.


How To Answer Behavioral Questions

Interviewers are looking for you to tell a story. The most effective storytelling technique is describing a cause-and-effect situation. The best way to answer behavioral interview questions is to identify the situation and briefly describe why it was a problem or challenge. Then identify how you resolved the issue using your skills or knowledge and briefly describe the positive outcomes that resulted from your efforts.

Easy enough right? Behavioral interview questions are by far the most intimidating because there is no way to know for sure questions you may be asked. Preparing for your interview should involve reflecting on your past experience and identifying potential answers.

Start by identifying which skills the employer is specifically looking for. These will include job-specific skills as well as interpersonal skills. Some common behavioral questions will be used to determine how well you work with a team, handle stress, adjust for unexpected challenges, and communicate with others.


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6 Common Behavioral Questions & How To Answer Them

Behavioral interview questions will not be so straightforward with an ideal answer in mind. These questions start with "Give an example of," "Describe a situation when," or "Tell me about..." Here are a few approaches to common behavioral interview questions.


Describe a time when you had to work closely with someone whose personality was different than yours?

This behavioral interview question is assessing your ability to work with others. When answering questions like these, you should think back on experiences working with a team. Avoid speaking negatively about another co-worker. Keep the answer positive, focus on describing your communication skills and adaptability, and identify any measurable results that followed such as meeting a project deadline early or on time.


Give me an example of a time when you did not meet a customer's expectation. What happened, and how did you attempt to resolve the situation?

When asked behavioral questions about working with customers or clients, it's important to describe your presentation and conflict management skills. For example, if the customer is not always right you should describe how you communicated company policies and made sure there were no misunderstandings. Describing how you made an effort to follow up after referring the customer to a higher authority figure is another great tactic.


Describe a time when you failed. How did you deal with the situation?

This is a challenging question to answer positively. Interviewers are looking to see how you accept feedback or criticism and grow from these experiences. Answer transparently and describe how you took action to improve your skills or knowledge. Keep the answer forward-thinking.


Tell me about how you multitask. How do you handle numerous responsibilities?

This is a common "trick" question. Remember that multitasking implies that you don't give a task your full attention. A great tactic is to correct the interviewer and describe your task management skills. Describe how planning and prioritizing tasks have helped you succeed in the past. This is a great way to identify your proven strategies for organizing and completing projects before deadlines as well.


Describe a time when you were able to successfully persuade someone at work to see things your way. 

This behavioral interview question is looking closely at your communication and presentation skills more than your teamwork skills. Talk about how you prepared to discuss this issue with a coworker and describe your thought process. The key to answering this question is to describe communication as a tool rather than presenting yourself as an emotional or impulsive communicator.


Tell me about how you handle stress in the workplace.

Don't answer this behavioral question with "Stress motivates me." This is such an overused and empty answer. One approach is to focus on your task management, time management, and project management skills. Give examples that describe how you developed strategies to meet a challenge rather than describing how you felt. 


Conquering Behavioral Interview Questions

There are hundreds of websites with lists of common behavioral interview questions and tactics on how to answer them. The five most significant areas that an interviewer may ask behavioral questions are teamwork, leadership, conflict, failures, and general problem solving. Reflecting on your background and identifying at least one situation that relates to these five areas will help you be more prepared to answer behavioral interview questions.