Career Exploration & Development: 9 Tips for Answering Behavioral Interview Questions

Interviews are always a bit nerve-racking, but heading into the interview with confidence can set you in the right direction. Behavioral interview questions are meant to help explain your character to the interviewer. Here are a few tips to help you ace the behavioral interview questions:

1. Always Prepare

It doesn’t matter if you think this will be the easiest interview of your life, or the hardest. There is always time and room to prepare. This step doesn’t need to take long, but it will be significant towards boosting your confidence when you walk into the interview. Practice by saying your responses out loud to questions you’ve been asked in previous interviews. Such questions usually start with “Explain a time when you…” or “Give an example of…”. Knowing examples ahead of time to answer these questions honestly and professionally will enhance your interview answers.

2. Give Yourself a Breather

This goes for any interview, and is something extremely easy to do. Arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the scheduled interview time. This gives you time to relax, and store up your confidence. Power poses are especially important during the waiting time. A simple seated position with your legs together but uncrossed, arms resting with your palms facing upwards, can prepare your body psychologically for the interview. How you look and speak, how you carry yourself, and how you greet the interviewer, are all clear clues of your level of self- confidence.

3. Be Specific

This one can be tricky because though you want to give context, you don’t want to sound like you memorized answers. When you’re preparing, think about ways to be specific without telling a 10 minute story. The key here is to make sure you are giving a brief background on the story, followed by specific details of how you solved the problem. The person/people interviewing you want to know how you solved the problem rather than your background. To prepare a more structured response, use the STAR method described below.

4. Use the STAR method

Situation: Give context to your story (who, what, where, when, why, how)

Tasks: What was your role in this situation? What needed to be completed? What other factors could have altered the outcome? What considerations were made for this particular situation?

Action: What specific role did you play in the outcome and how did you take action to correct the situation? Explain why you took that action.

Result: How did this solution play out? Were all issues resolved?

5. Emphasize Your Qualities

Behavioral interview questions aim to identify your strengths and traits when dealing with specific situations. These characteristics tell the company if you’re a good fit for the role. You know your qualities best so give examples that demonstrate that you possess the skills and behavior characteristics desired for the role you’re interviewing for. If you have a quality you feel sets you apart from any other candidate, emphasize that strength when giving examples. To better understand the position you’re applying for and to help you determine desired qualities, join recruiter chat.

6. Expect Follow-Up Questions

There may be follow-up questions from your response. This is not to say you answered the question wrong, but possibly that you answered it well and the interviewer is trying to grasp the details of the situation better. This is also a great time to emphasize the qualities that make you a great fit for the role.

7. Be Honest

This may be the most obvious tip, but it’s most important to respond truthfully to any behavioral or follow-up questions. You may be asked how you felt in the situation and you don’t want to exaggerate the results or lessen the way you felt. Be honest but focus on the positive. The best thing you can do for yourself is to prepare and be confident. Show your enthusiasm for the position and explain through behavioral questions why you are the best fit. Good luck!

8. Practice to avoid allowing your nerves to get in the way

Clients have shared that during their last couple interviews of being so super nervous and not sure how if came across during the interview.  They were never so nervous in the past and it was difficult to feel confident with my skill set.  Practicing is a an excellent way to avoid your nerves.

This can be done in front of a mirror, with a friend or family member, or a colleague. In fact, it is a good idea to hire a professional who can provide you with unbiased feedback. It can be difficult to tell someone you love some areas they need improvement in.

9. Prepare to be able to share personal experiences

I would also recommend to answer ANY question (not just behavioral) in this manner. It is always better to share actual experiences, as opposed to having the interviewer have to pull them out of you. The STAR framework works almost in any situation, and really helps the interviewer to get to know you.

Bonus: Prepare for video interviews

With many people, especially in professional work environments, working from home, a video interview is almost standard in COVID-19. Some suggestions to prepare for video interviews include

  • Deciding on what to wear: Professional attire for men and women is absolutely necessary
  • Make sure to smile and be approachable
  • Control nervous or fidgeting behavior. One of the common things I find people do is rocking back and forth in their chair
  • Check internet and bandwidth. While most wi-fi is sufficient to conduct an interview, consider using an Ethernet to do a direct connection instead. It is often faster and more stable than Wi-Fi.

Overall, an interview should be a time for you to shine. Preparing and reflecting before your interview will increase your chances of success.

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