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Behavioral interview question and answer tips

If you prepare to answer behavioral interview questions, you'll be armed with examples no matter what you're asked.

Behavioral interview question and answer tips

In a job interview, when you're asked a traditional question like, "What would you do if you had a customer who wasn't interested in buying the product?" you can make up a story, invent a scenario, and go from there. Standard issue job interview questions—gotta love 'em!

But not all job interview questions and answers are that black and white. Behold: the behavioral interview.

What is a behavioral interview?

A behavioral interview involves an interviewer asking questions that begin with phrases like "tell me about a time when" or "give me an example of."

The idea is that the interviewers want to know how you have behaved in the past because it gives them an indication of how you will behave in similar situations in the future (say, when you're working at their company). This is your chance to talk about your accomplishments.

If you can demonstrate through examples (preferably recent ones) that you've succeeded in certain areas of interest, you'll likely be considered a strong candidate for the position. After all, if you did it somewhere else yesterday, you can do it for this company tomorrow.

How to answer behavioral interview questions

When you answer behavioral interview questions, your success stories should include the situation, the action you took, and the result. Here is an example if you were interviewing for a sales position:

  • The situation: I had a customer who did not want to hear about the features of my merchandise because of a prior interaction with my company.  

  • The action: I listened to her story and made sure I heard her complaint. I then explained how I would have handled the situation differently and how I can offer her better service. I showed her some facts that changed her mind about dealing with the company again. 

  • The result: She not only bought the merchandise, but also complimented how I handled her account. She is now one of my best customers.

How to prepare for a behavioral interview

One way to prepare for a behavioral interview is by writing out your stories before the interview. Determine what stories you have that would be appropriate for the position based on its job description.

If the job requires dependability, write your story about a time when your dependability was recognized or made a difference with a customer.

You can use the stories you prepare even when the interviewer does not ask behavioral questions. If you are asked a traditional question, use your prepared story and preface it with, "I can give you an example of a time when I used that skill on a previous job."

By preparing for the interview ahead of time and recalling your past successes, you will be able to have examples in mind and will not be caught off guard.

There is no way you can predict what questions an interviewer is going to ask you, but you can prepare what you want him to know about your past as a predictor of your future performance.

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