A Few Tips on How to Ace a Behavioral Interview

home-office-man-working-from-home-portrait-and-making-a-video-picture-id1226181195 (1)The most popular interviewing trend used by employers today is the behavioral interview.  This form of interview questions tends to focus upon your past experiences as well as your integrity, leadership abilities, initiative, communication skills, ability to problem solve, interpersonal skills, adaptability, knowledge, and past performance to determine if you will be a good fit for the employer.

The behavioral questions lead the interviewee into more in-depth and revealing answers to specifically designed questions.   A complete response to behavior-based interview questions must explain the task or problem for which you were responsible, the specific action you took to complete the job or solve the problem, and the results of the action you took.

There are three forms of behavioral questions:

Open-ended questions – This type of question requires more than just a “yes” or “no” answer.  It often begins with “Describe…”, “Tell me about…” “When…”

Closed-ended questions– verify or confirm the information you have previously given the employer, such as “You graduated from college, is that correct?”

Why questions – reveal your rationale for decisions you have made in the past. An example would be, “Why did you decide to go into the service when you had a UNT scholarship?”

Here are some sample behavioral questions and possible ways to answer them:

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Approximately 80% of all interviews begin with this question. Many candidates, unprepared for the question, start with a prolonged recap/narrative of their life story.

HOW TO REPLY: Commence with your latest related experience or training. Communicate why you meet the criteria by matching your qualifications to what the interviewer is looking for.  To answer, you must try to uncover your interviewer’s greatest need, want, problem, or goal in filling the position and tailor your answer.  Recall recent work experiences that demonstrate your good behaviors or actions, especially your teamwork, leadership, and customer service abilities.

Why are you leaving (or did you leave) your most recent position?

HOW TO REPLY:  If you left an employer on bad terms, you still must follow the inviolable rule: never badmouth your previous industry, company, board, boss, staff, employees, or customers. Never be negative!  Any negativity brought into your reply will cast a shadow on your abilities, candor, and disposition.   Do not discuss an increase in pay, even if that is part of the motivation.  If terminated from a position,  don’t lie about being fired.  It’s unethical and can easily be verified. The best way to answer is to attempt to redirect the reason from you personally.   Make sure you’ve prepared a brief, positive reason for leaving your last position.

What are your greatest strengths?

HOW TO REPLY: You should match your abilities to the company’s wants and needs. You should also have an example or two demonstrating strengths from your most recent work experience. You should have this list of your greatest strengths (experience, initiative, customer relations) and corresponding examples from your achievements committed to memory.

What are your most significant weaknesses?

Often called the “eliminator” question because it is designed to shorten the candidate list. An admission of a weakness or fault will earn you an “A” for honesty and an “F” for the interview.

HOW TO REPLY: Assure the interviewer that you can think of nothing that would stand in the way of your performing in this position with excellence. Then, quickly review your strongest qualifications.

Aren’t you overqualified for this position?

HOW TO REPLY: The employer’s main concern behind the “overqualified” question is that you will leave your new position as soon as something better comes your way. Anything you can say to demonstrate the sincerity of your commitment to the employer and reassure him that you’re looking to stay for the long-term will help you overcome this objection.  Also, assuring the employer that you love to learn and take on new responsibilities will soothe their wariness.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

HOW TO REPLY:  Employers want to know that you plan to stay with them.  Assure the interviewer that you are making a long-term commitment and that this position is what you want to do and what you feel you do very well. Looking to the future, you know that future opportunities will take care of themselves if you perform with excellence.

Tell me about your ideal company, location, and job.

HOW TO REPLY: The correct answer is to describe the company you are interviewing with (by reviewing ahead of time), what the company is offering that you like, how you feel you would be a good fit. Make your answer believable with specific reasons, stated with sincerity, why each quality represented by this company and opportunity is attractive to you.

Why do you want to work for our company?

HOW TO REPLY:  By doing in-depth research of the company, you should make this your home run. Sources for research include annual reports, the corporate newsletter, contacts you know at the company or its suppliers, advertisements, and articles about the trade press.

Tell me about a situation when an employer criticized your work performance.

HOW TO REPLY:  Begin by emphasizing any positive feedback you may have received throughout your career. No one is always perfect, emphasize that you always welcome suggestions on how to improve your performance.

What are your outside interests?

HOW TO REPLY:  Try to shatter any stereotypes that could limit your chances. If you’re over 50, for example, describe activities that demonstrate your intergenerational teamwork abilities, technology, and physical and mental stamina. If you’re relatively young, mention an activity that reflects your wisdom. Keep in mind that employers hire employees for what they can do for them.

Looking back, what would you do differently in your life?

HOW TO REPLY: Indicate that you are a happy, fulfilled, optimistic person and that, in general, you wouldn’t change a thing.

How well do you work under pressure?

HOW TO REPLY: Convey that you work well under pressure (and then give a recent example).

What was the most challenging decision you ever had to make?

HOW TO REPLY: Be prepared with a good example and explain why the decision was difficult.  Talk about what process, or processes, you used to make the decision.  Then relate how you carried it out.  If you are looking to leave the military, you might want to describe how difficult it has been to decide not to continue with the military as a career.

May I contact your present employer for a reference?

HOW TO REPLY:  If you are employed and haven’t told your employer that you are looking for a new position, then convey to the interviewer that you’d like to keep your job search private but proud of your record with your current employer.

What are your future goals?

HOW TO ANSWER:  Be prepared to discuss your career goals and personal development and learning.  Express your desire to stay with a company.  Avoid family, physical (health), community service, and any spiritual goals.

How do you define success, and how do you measure up to your definition?

HOW TO ANSWER: Define success by incorporating you, your strengths and abilities, a position within the interviewer’s company, and how that the combination would mean the ultimate success to you personally.

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