The 2 Keys To Answering Behavioral Interview Questions

Interview Prep

Back in the day, interviewing for a job seemed to be a lot more straight-forward; you’d meet your potential boss, they’d ask you some questions about your experience and determine if you would fit in with the company.

Nowadays it feels like a bewildering array of buzz words have been created around the interview – behavioral questions, situational questions, case studies, cultural fit, competencies, soft skills, etc. – making it a more complicated process than it once was.

Here’s the good news. Despite all the fancy new terminology, interviewing today is no different than interviewing has been in any other time in history. The goal of the interview remains the same: Can you do the job? Will you get along with others doing the job? And will you stay in the job? That’s it. It’s only the shape of the questions that have changed.

A behavioral question is simply a question about your past behavior. When an interviewer asks you a behavioral question, they present you with a situation or circumstance you have probably encountered and ask how you handled it. Behavioral questions often begin with, Can you tell me about a time when you had to solve a conflict with a team member? Or, you displayed leadership skills? Or, you were unable to meet a deadline?

The first key to answering behavioral questions is to understand which kinds of behavioral questions you may get asked. To predict those questions, reread the job description and find the list of soft skills (core competencies) that are listed. They are typically listed under headings calledRequired Knowledge, Skills and Abilities, Competencies, or Soft Skills.

You are looking for key words like: Responsible, Forward-Thinking, Team-Player, Pro-Active or Handles Stress. If the company is looking to hire people who have these particular soft skills, you will most likely be asked behavioral type questions that determine whether you have them.

Once you’ve located the core competencies for the particular job, go back to your resume and identify at least 2 examples from your work experience for each competency. Think about your achievements from each past position and how they relate to the list of core competencies. For example, if the company is looking to hire a candidate who is Innovative, you will want to find examples from your past work experience where you were innovative.

Now that you have unlocked which kinds of behavioral questions you may be asked, you’ll need the second key to help you deliver your answers. This is a very specific methodology that interviewers are looking for you to use in your answers.

It goes like this:

Describe the Situation

Detail the Action
Give the Result

For example, if they ask, Can you tell me about a time when you had to deal with a challenge in your job? you could say:

I had just finished typing the last sentence of a report when my computer crashed. (situation)
Using patience and my limited knowledge of IT, I was able to find a recovered copy of the document on my hard drive minus the last two pages. I cancelled a meeting so I could rewrite the pages that had not been recovered. (action)
As a result, I was able to complete the document and turn it in under deadline. But as a precaution against this type of problem occurring in the future. I am now utilizing a cloud service that automatically saves my documents and is accessible from any computer (result)

Using the above methodology is good for answering almost any question that comes your way. It shows that you can communicate effectively and give answers that are specific and on point.

Don’t be afraid of the terminology. Just remember to prepare for these types of questions prior to your interview so that you aren’t thrown off guard and can deliver a powerful answer. If you are asked about a competency for which you are unprepared, don’t hesitate to buy yourself some time to gather your thoughts. Simply ask the interviewer to please repeat the question.

So remember, the two keys to answering behavioral interview questions are:
1) Find the list of Soft Skills on the job description and write down two examples from your work experience where you have demonstrated each competency

2) Make sure your answers include the Situation, Action, and Result

If you do these two things, you will be able to answer behavioral based questions with ease and clarity.