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How to Handle Behavioral Interview Questions

Most interviewers have been coached to focus on behavioral interview questions designed to dig deeper and reveal more about the job candidate.žThe interviewer is typically looking for specific competencies, and asks (ideally, non-obvious) questions to assess those competencies (or lack thereof). “Tell me about a time when you were under pressure a great deal of pressure at work,” would be an example. You may think the interviewer is looking for insight into how you handle workplace stress, which may be true. But the interviewer may instead be looking for other things such as:

  • When under stress how effective are your problem solving skills?
  • Are you more frustrated by people, situations or systems?
  • Do you do you tend to blame others, or hold yourself primarily accountable?

These are just a few example. The point is that you don’t really know what the interviewer is specifically looking for, so it is harder to give the “right” answer and you are more likely to reveal the authentic you. This makes great sense if you are the interviewer. If you are the candidate it can be challenging because of course you want to do well during the interviewer.

Here are a few more examples of common behavioral interview questions:

  • Give an example of a goal you didn’t meet and how you handled it.
  • Describe a stressful situation at work and how you handled it.
  • Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.
  • Have you been in a situation where you didn’t have enough resources to complete tasks assigned to you?
  • Have you ever made a mistake? How did you handle it?
  • Describe a decision you made that was unpopular and how you handled implementing it.
  • Did you ever make a risky decision? Why? How did you handle it?
One of the keys to effectively handling behavioral interview questions is to prepare in advance. You should decide in advance which specific competencies you want to emphasize during the interview, then prepare three stories which highlight these characteristics. You ultimately may not end up using all three stories during the interview, but you are much more likely to be successful if you have three options. Each story you prepare should of course be true, but you also need to put some time into fleshing out the full  details, practicing with friends and getting feedback to ensure that your story has the intended impact.
For more information you can watch this online webinar focused on How to Handle the Toughest Interview Questions (click here).