How to Respond to Behavioral Interview Questions

When you’re preparing for an interview there are hundreds of questions to get ready for, including the following that we’ve covered on this blog:

As you know, it can be incredibly stressful to narrow down which questions are likely to be asked and how you should answer them. But have you ever wondered if there was an easier way to prepare?

Fortunately, there is.

All of the questions listed above have something in common that you can use to craft a perfect answer every time: they’re behavioral interview questions and the hiring manager is asking them to understand how you work.

What Are Behavioral Interview Questions?

Behavioral interview questions are questions about your past job performance and how you behaved under certain circumstances. These questions often begin with phrases like “Tell me about a time…” and “Can you share an example of…” and they focus on different skills for different jobs, such as time management, communication, adaptability, teamwork and protocol.

Behavioral interview questions aren’t always negative, though many of the questions will address a challenging or difficult situation because the hiring manager wants to understand how you work under pressure.

Why Do Interviewers Ask Behavioral Interview Questions?

Are hiring managers trying to torture you? Definitely not. While these questions can be uncomfortable to answer, there really is a purpose to asking them. They are a great opportunity for an interviewer to understand whether or not you’re someone who learns from mistakes and recovers from them quickly, and if you are self-aware and sensitive to your surroundings.

How Should You Answer Behavioral Interview Questions?

We’ve addressed how to answer behavioral interview questions briefly in the past, but it’s worth digging a little deeper to make sure you craft an answer that you can tweak for any behavioral interview question.

The best way to answer this kind of question is to familiarize yourself with the STAR Method, which stands for Situation/Task, Action and Result. Addressing these parts of a story in order organizes your answer in a way that answers the behavioral interview question and gives the interviewer a polished look at how you recover from surprises at work.

Here’s a brief look at how this might take shape with a story about failure:

  • Situation/Task: My manager launched a new website product offering for our clients, and our team was very excited about it. As a junior salesman my manager set a sales goal of 15 new clients per month. Unfortunately, I failed to meet that goal.
  • Action: My biggest issue at that time was being too shy to follow up on leads that came through personal connections. I had very strong ideas about who I was supposed to sell to and how I would meet my sales goals.
  • Result: I decided to speak with my manager about this block, and he recommended several excellent books on sales by Zig Ziglar. I read them all and formed a close mentor relationship with my manager. With his coaching I exceeded that sales goal within 90 days. Ever since I’ve had a lot more confidence in selling and making relationships with prospective clients.

As you can see, this method is short and sweet and allows you to craft your response for different questions as they come up. This question happened to be about failure, but the same format (and possibly the same situation) could be tweaked to answer other behavioral questions about a mistake you made, a difficult customer situation you handled and more.

How do you approach behavioral interview questions? Do the answers come easily to you, or do you have more practicing to do?