How to Answer Behavioral Job Interview Questions

Behavioral interview questions ask a candidate to give examples of ways he or she has behaved in certain workplace situations, such as when faced with a challenge, when facing failure, or when dealing with interpersonal conflict. They are based on the belief that the way a candidate acted in the past is a strong indicator of how he or she will act in the future – a stronger indicator than the candidate’s opinions about his or her weaknesses or strengths.

Behavioral job interview questions are increasingly popular among hiring managers. Here’s how to prepare for them:

Know a behavioral question when you hear it.

Traditional job interview questions ask for your opinion: “What are your greatest weaknesses?” “How will you be an asset to this company?”

Behavioral interview questions, by contrast, invite you tell a story about a time a certain problem or event happened in the past. Often, they aren’t phrased as questions at all. Instead, they start with words like “describe,” “explain,” or “tell us about.”

When you can identify that the question you’re being asked is a behavioral one, you can prepare to answer it in a way that highlights your skills and fully responds to the hiring manager’s expectations.

Plan your stories in advance.

You can’t prepare for every possible behavioral question – but chances are good that you’ll run into at least one of the most commonly used questions, like:

  • “Describe a time you used [a key job skill] to solve a problem.”
  • “Tell us about a time you failed. What went wrong and how did you fix it?”
  • “Give me an example of a time you had to make a quick decision.”

To prepare for these, think about examples that meet each of the descriptions: a specific time in your past work in which you did the thing asked about in the question. You’ll use these stories as the basis for your answers.

Structure your stories clearly.

Half the battle of answering behavioral questions well is in identifying the right story to tell. The other half is in telling it.

Once you know what stories you want to tell, practice structuring them so that the central point – the answer to the question – is clear and concise. Consider using the STAR structure: briefly describe the Situation, identify the Task, describe the Action you took, and list the Results.

At THE RIGHT STAFF, LLC, our experienced recruiters can help you find a great job and prepare for every interview scenario. Contact us today to learn more about our career opportunities in the Twin Cities.

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