When it comes to interviews, there are some common interview questions that you should be prepared for. However, more and more interviewers are now asking candidates behavioral questions — in other words, questions about how you handled past situations at or dealt with challenges.
These might include questions such as:
- Give me an example of a time you handled a conflict with your team/your boss.
- Looking back, what is a time you wish you’d managed a difficult situation differently?
- Tell me about a failure you’ve had. How did you deal with it?
- Talk about an instance when you were under a lot of pressure and how you coped.
- Describe a client relationship you were particularly proud of. How did you build that relationship?
What is the reason for these questions? Well, it’s easy for anyone to respond to a general question like, “How good a manager are you?” with “I’m great! My team loves me!” However, if you are asked to describe how you handled a specific situation, the interviewer is much more likely to gain greater insight into how you think an operate. So a question like “How did you handle a situation when your team did not agree with you?” will provide the interviewer with more insight into your managerial skills and your style of interaction.
So how do you, as a job-seeker, prepare to answer these questions? The best strategy is to take a look at some of the common behavioral questions and prepare answers for them. The great news is that you don’t need to have 30 different anecdotes for every conceivable situation. Because your answer to “What was a time you dealt with a conflict with a coworker?” Could also be used for “How did you overcome a challenge?” Or “Tell me about a time when you had to make a hard decision.” Moreover, if you create good answers for just 4-5 behavioral questions, you will have practice coming up with strategic responses, and it will be easier to answer even an unexpected question on the day of your interview.
So what are you trying to convey in an answer to one of these questions?
Some of these questions can be viewed as “neutral,” in the sense that there is no right or wrong answer — the interviewer simply wants to get a sense of your personality. However, there are generally three things you want to convey in your answer:
- You can work well with others — including through conflicts. Conflicts and disagreements in the workplace are inevitable. Your hiring manager and future team want to know that you are someone who can deal with disputes in a mature, professional manner.
- You can recognize your mistakes. Nobody wants to work with someone who thinks they’re always right. Employers want to know that you are self-aware enough to recognize when you’re wrong, and to take action and fix it.
- You have a growth and learning-oriented mindset. In addition to simply fixing your mistakes, employers want to know that you are someone who can learn and grow as a result — that you will use that experience to become a stronger professional.
So what can you right now to be better prepared for behavioral interview questions? First, look at lists of common behavioral questions, such as this one from The Muse. And second, start thinking about how you would answer at least four or five of them.