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Behavioral Interviews

Introduction to Behavioral Interviews:

In an interview setting, prospective employers may ask you to share examples of how you dealt with certain situations at previous jobs. This will give them an idea of how you are going to handle situations in a new position. In order to answer these questions successfully, it is important that, in your, answer, you talk about (1) relevant situations, (2) your actions, and (3) what you learned.  Below are a few samples of behavioral interview questions and appropriate answers. 

Sample Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers

“What is something you’ve done recently about which you feel particularly proud? Why?”

This example can come both from education and work experiences. Pick an accomplishment that displayed a skill and competency related to the interviewing position. Are you thinking about a sales position? People skills and excellent communication abilities would be good, as would any major sale you made in a job. Looking at accounting? Perhaps a project you’ve worked on – real or hypothetical – that involved solving complex accounting questions would be relevant. Going into counseling? Perhaps your time as a Resident Assistant when you mediated what could have been a major conflict which instead ended with an amicable resolution would be a good thing to mention. Just make sure you set up the situation, discuss the skill used to resolve it and the result.

“Tell me about a time when you had to solve a problem or overcome an obstacle. What did you do and what was the outcome?”

To answer this question successfully, think about the requirements of the new position. If you know it will involve heavy teamwork, discuss a group project that was not going well and how you handled it. If it is an individual position, then talk about a time when you had to complete a task that was difficult. Examples could be research projects where people did not respond to surveys or requests for information causing delays, or group projects where some members were not completing their assigned tasks.

“Think of a day when you had many things to do and describe how you scheduled your time.”

With this question, the interviewer is trying to discover your time-management and multitasking skills. Make sure to answer the question with confidence, and provide specific examples. 

“Have you ever had a conflict with an employee or supervisor? What was the outcome?”

Some of the most difficult questions to answer are the ones involving conflict with management. The key is to fairly describe the situation without being overly critical of your superiors. Be honest, recognize the possible faults of both sides, and describe the compromise that allowed the relationship to continue. Even when you feel you were not at fault, try to propose ways in which you could have handled things differently to provide a better outcome. The best story is one you can follow up with a brief second example where you put those new skills into practice.

“When working in a team, what role do you usually take and why?”

You can expect to get some questions that will address your leadership style and experience. It is okay to say that you typically take the role of the worker managing smaller tasks and not the overall lead. Describe your leadership style here. Are you someone who likes to take charge and give orders or lead by example and handle their own tasks with excellence? Both could be valuable depending on the position. An entry level sales or customer service position does not necessarily require someone who prefers to dole out tasks and manage groups. Be honest as you answer this and then describe why you fell into the role that you did and how that was the best use of your skills.

Some other behavioral questions could be: 

“Give an example of a time you’ve had to handle an upset or difficult customer and tell me how you handled it.”

“Describe the strategies you use to make sure you don’t lose your temper with a customer. Give examples of how they worked effectively.”

The best way to answer these questions is to concentrate on incidents where you had favorable outcomes. Prepare a short but complete story with a beginning, middle and end that demonstrates the behavior that is being evaluated. Attempt to be as specific as you can and remember to prepare your own questions for the interviewer as well. To get some practice, or talk through any sticking points, schedule an appointment with a Career Advisor.