How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions

At some point or another, every person seeking employment will need to prepare for a job interview. Interviews are an important part of the hiring process. They give candidates the opportunity to demonstrate why they’re suitable for a position and offer employers the ability to assess a candidate’s potential for long-term success. Hiring professionals frequently use behavioral interview questions during the interview process. Successful job seekers understand how to answer these questions appropriately.

 

Defining a Behavioral Interview Question

Behavioral interview questions are designed to help reveal people’s transferrable job skills, such as their ability to perform under pressure or show creativity in solving problems, according to an article posted to The Balance. The use of these questions in the hiring process is often referred to as “competency-based interviewing.” Competency-based interviewing assumes two premises:

  • The best predictor of future behavior is past performance/behavior.
  • The more recent the performance/behavior, the more likely it is to be repeated.

Examples of behavioral interview questions might include:

  • Describe a situation that required you to do a number of things at the same time. How did you handle it?
  • What has been your greatest leadership achievement in a professional environment? Talk through the steps you took to reach it.
  • What have you done in the past to prevent a situation from becoming too stressful for you or your colleagues to handle?

Behavioral interview questions can address wide-ranging topics such as analytical skills, problem solving, attention to detail, customer orientation, communication abilities, decision making, initiative, integrity, interpersonal relations, leadership, teamwork and resilience.

 

How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions Using the STAR Technique

Given the broad spectrum of topics that behavioral interview questions may cover, preparing for them effectively may seem like a daunting task. It need not be. The Guardian recommends using the “STAR” technique, an acronym that stands for Situation, Task, Activity and Result.

The following is a breakdown of the process:

Situation

When asked a behavioral interview question, it’s best to give your answer in the form of a brief story. First, describe the situation in order to set up context. What exactly was the problem? How did the problem directly relate to the skill identified in the interviewer’s question?

Say, for example, you were asked to discuss a time when you had to take the lead on a team project and describe the process and results that followed.

You might start by saying:

“At my current job, I was part of a four-person task force responsible for ensuring that a major client stayed at our company.”

Notice how the language is specific and concise.

Task

The task describes what, exactly, was required of you. Again, it helps to add detail.

Example:

“As part of this task force, we were asked to create a multimedia presentation for the client.”

Activity

Activity describes the actual steps you took to achieve your goal.

Example:

“Although no one was officially responsible for any one aspect of the project, everyone seemed disorganized and daunted by the work. I quickly took charge, designating each section of the presentation to the team member with the most relevant skills for the job. I also organized weekly check-ins to allow us to update each other on our progress and ensure each task was in sync with the others.” 

Result

The result describes how the situation ultimately played out. Use data and numbers if possible. Make sure to clearly identify your accomplishments and end on a positive note.

Example:

“When we gave the presentation, not only did we manage to retain the client, but both the client and our employer expressed their admiration for the coherency and thoroughness of our work.” 

The STAR technique is a commonly recommended practice that has been recommended by Forbes, Monster, Fast Company and other major business information sources.

 

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