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If you’ve ever been interviewed, you may have come across behavioral questions that typically start with “Tell me about a time when…” or “What do you do when…”

In those instances, it can be intimidating. You might think that these types of questions can’t be prepared for, but you are mistaken.

Here are some tips to help you prepare and ace those interview questions.

Before we begin… why do they ask behavioral questions?

Psychology teaches us that “the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance.” While a hiring manager might be able to ask about the usual “what’s your greatest weakness” question, a behavioral question will give the hiring manager their own perspective of your work ethic rather than accepting your bias.

For example, a hiring manager looking to see how the candidate is motivated will get a different response when they ask “what motivates you” compared to “tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty.” You can get more detailed with the last prompt and the hiring manager can probe with additional questions.

How to Prepare

The best way to prepare for questions like these is by preparing stories from your past to match with the different skills that the hiring manager will be looking for. You will have to look at the job description and review it for skills that they stress, such as communication, teamwork, or leadership skills. Once you determine the skills they are looking for, you can prepare stories for each of them.

Here is a list of skills with behavioral questions that relate to them:

Problem-Solving

 –  Describe a situation in which you used good judgement and logic to solve a problem.

 –  What is the riskiest decision you have made? What happened?

Communication

 – Describe a situation where you had to communicate with another person who did not personally like you or vice versa.

Organization

 – What method do you use to prioritize your tasks?

 – Give me an example of when priorities changed quickly and how you handled it.

Interpersonal/Teamwork Skills

 – What examples of teamwork have you nurtured in the past?

 – Give an example of an unpopular decision that you had to make, what was the result and how did you manage it?

Leadership Skills

 – Describe the most challenging group from which you’ve had to gain cooperation.

 – Have you ever had trouble getting others to agree with your ideas? How did you deal with it and were you successful?

Don’t forget! The hiring manager will probe for additional details to every story you tell, so make sure you put together as many details as you can remember. Always be honest with your answers, so when they probe for additional details, you won’t slip on your fabricated details.

If you feel like you don’t have enough work experience to answer these questions, use examples from all of your life experiences. Take examples from your educational or volunteering experiences.

In the Moment

When you’re at the interview and the hiring manager is asking you these questions, go through your stories and give as much detail as possible. However, the best way to answer behavioral questions is through the STAR process.

1. Begin by outlining the Situation or Task you were in

2. Then, detail the Action(s) that you took

3. Finally, end with the Result of that action

Remember there are no right or wrong answers. Each hiring manager has different criteria for what makes a good employee. Simply, just focus on developing concrete and honest answers.


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