No part of the interview process strikes fear in a job seeker’s heart quite like answering behavioral questions. The second the words “Tell me about a time…” leave the interviewer’s lips the panic starts. Thinking up a story that perfectly encapsulates your best traits within the context of the question can be hard to do on the fly. Fortunately, you can take steps to prepare quality answers well before you’re in the pressure cooker setting of a job interview.
Learn the STAR method – pages upon pages have been written on this method, and for good reason – it is a concise, step-by-step way to answer behavioral questions. Here is the quick and dirty breakdown:
- Situation – explain the situation in which you were involved
- Task – outline the task(s) you needed to accomplish
- Action – describe the actions you took to complete the task
- Result – identify the results that came about due to your action
The star method is your basic framework for how you structure your answer. Use it as a guide to ensure your answer has a logical flow. If you have details that don’t describe any of the four parts, ask yourself if they are truly necessary to the story.
Provide tangible results – your answer should focus on success. Do your best to describe what you accomplished in a way that the interviewer can appreciate. If you have numbers to apply, great; if not, talk about how it related to your company’s greater goals.
Don’t lose the forest in the trees – by their very nature, behavioral questions lead to longer answers than the average interview question. Long answers can overwhelm the interviewer, and you don’t want to compound that problem by loading your answer with unnecessary details. A shorter answer, stripped down to the essentials, is going to land with more impact. When thinking of what details to include in your story, do your best to omit anything that isn’t essential to the interviewers understanding of your answer. You don’t want them to get lost, or worse, to lose interest.
Know what strengths you want to highlight – if you don’t have specific strengths you want to show, your answers will lack focus. By highlighting three or four of your main strengths throughout the interview you will leave the interviewer with a clear vision of where you excel.
Behavioral interviews will always be challenging. It can be nearly impossible to have a prepared answer for every question you may encounter. However, if you take the time to have a few answers ready to go and are mindful of what you want to accomplish in that portion of the interview, you can walk into the interview with a leg up on the competition.