How to prepare for behavioral job interview questions
Increasingly, interviewers are finding that asking opinion-based job interview questions are unreliable in hiring the best candidates. For example, asking questions like “how do you deal with change?” is unlikely to generate anything other than an affirmative response.
That’s why more often than not, interviewers like mix in amongst the most top interview questions at least a few questions that are designed to elicit fact rather than opinions. Rather than ask what a candidate will do, it can be more accurate to assess what they will do in the future, based on what they have done previously. It may not be always reliable, but the past is a fair indicator of the future. These questions are called behavioral questions. You may also come across a slightly different version of this known as competency based job interview questions, which are based on the skills needed to perform the job. Similarly, the objective here is to understand if you’ve used certain skills before, how you will be able to perform them in similar situations again.
Very few candidates can bluff their way through questions like this, so it is a good methodology for interviewers. It is therefore critically important that as a candidate you’re well prepared in the best way of handling these questions, so that you get to the point quickly and demonstrate your experience without rambling. The questions are designed to reveal what motivates and drives an interviewee and the main purpose is to understand if they are good fit for the organization’s culture.
Here are the most 10 most common behavioural interview questions, with some examples of how to best answer them.
- Can you think of a time when you made a serious mistake and how you corrected it?
- Can you tell me about the toughest decision you’ve made in the last few months?
- Can you think of a time when you knew you were right, but still had to follow guidelines or directives that you didn’t agree with?
- Can you think of a time when one of you colleagues or customers was upset with you?
- Can you tell me about a time when you needed to motivate a colleague?
- Can you think of a time when you achieved a goal?
- Can you tell me about a time when you failed to achieve a goal?
- Tell me about a time you had to persuade someone who didn’t like you to perform a task at work
- Give me an example of your use of logic in decision making.
- Tell me about a time when you had to respond to change in the workplace
A good way to approach job interview questions of this type is to study the company and try to understand the culture. That’s where your interview research will come in very useful. For example, is the company traditional or more innovative in the marketplace. Does the customer response require a rapid turnaround or a more considered approach?
Your aim is to work out what the competency is then cover off all of the critical indicators for it. For example for question 5 “can you tell me about a time when you needed to motivate a colleague” the competency is teamwork. The critical indicators could be showing an interest in others, encouraging others, finding information to help others etc. Tailor your answer around the job description and person specification which illustrate how your previous work experience applies to this role.
Use the SOAR technique
This method of answering job interview questions will provide the interviewer with a comprehensive view of why you did what you did, what you had to achieve, how you achieved it and the outcome. Make sure you use active verbs and focus on your contribution, rather than what other people did.
Prepare answers to all of the questions listed above and think through whether they may be more role specific questions of a similar nature. It may seem like a lot of work, but you’ll come to understand more about the company and also highlight skills and abilities that you didn’t know you had. Rehearse the answers and if possible record the them or consider doing some mock interview practice.
Finally, look at the interviewing process from the perspective of the interviewer, because understanding their needs and concerns will help you tailor your responses to highlight that you are the perfect fit for your ideal role and company.