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Answering Behavioral Interview Questions

It's interview time. You are dressed for success, you arrived early, you greet with a firm handshake, and look the panelist in the eye. You delivered the perfect response to the "Tell me about yourself" question. You also delivered the perfect pitch on why you are best suited for the position. Then comes the dreaded question, "Tell me about a time when...."



This is a behavioral interview question. You are either given a scenario or you asked to respond with your own scenario based on personal practical experience. Your palms start sweating as you to try to think up the best response. Sometimes you can't recall an example and you thinking should I make something up?


Behavioral interview questions can be tough. You don't have to respond right away. You can take a moment to think about the question. You are usually provided with a notebook and pen, yes that's what its for to write down key points from the question. Think about your response for a minute. You also don't have to lie in your response. If you don't have a personal practical example, say so and ask the interviewer to sketch a scenario for you and respond on that.


It is hard to think of experiences on the cuff. Preparing for your interview should include a handful of ready to go answers that can reduce the risk of you sitting there wide-eyed with nothing to say. Being prepared in this way can help you run through your options in your head when you take that minute to think of your response. And this can help you adapt many of your choices to a few different situational questions.


Craft your responses using the STAR method. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action and Result. Set up your response by providing context (SITUATION) and your specific responsibility (TASK). Then follow on with the ACTION you took and what the RESULT / outcome was.


Let's use and example:


The interviewer wants to know about a time when you made a mistake.


Situation - I compile annual reports for a group of clients. I forgot to request the required data from the client and the team needed at least two weeks to draw the data. The meeting was in three days.


Task - I had to figure out a way to resolve the matter and how to move forward.


Action - I collaborated with the team to determine the earliest date we could have the data set. I had to call the client and explain what happened and when they could expect the data.


Result - The client wasn't entirely happy, but appreciated my honesty and alerting them to it early. I decided to add an additional task on my calendar/project plan to ensure that I request the data sets timeously.


The interviewer is more interested in the lessons you learnt and your ability to think on your feet and solve problems and the skills you used. When you are preparing your answers, ask yourself, "What am I trying to teach the interviewer about me?" In the above example you would have displayed the ability to solve a problem, teamwork and honesty.


Interviews can be intimidating, especially when you are faced with these type of questions. Preparation is key. Now you can't anticipate every single question with accuracy, but good preparation will equip you with a catalogue of examples to reference. Remember, don't be afraid to take a minute to breathe and think about your response. That is 100% allowed.


Good Luck