Can’t tell the difference between traditional interview questions versus behavioral ones? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It can be tricky to decipher between the two. The key difference is that in a behavioral interview, the employer has already pin-pointed necessary skills for the job at hand and will pose questions where you will be asked to portray “how” you behaved in given situations; in a traditional interview, you will be asked a series of standardized, straight forward questions. Behavioral interview questions do a bit more probing and are more specific in hopes of obtaining how you handled given situations in the past to help predict what you might do for the future in their position. This type of interviewing allows employers to gain deeper insight into your behaviors and problem solving skills, and you can expect to see this methodology become more prevalent in interviews to come!
It is always important to be prepared for each and every interview you step into, and behavioral interviews are no exception. There is an abundance of interview prep questions on the Internet (Google “Behavioral Interview Questions”) so be sure to practice your responses to both traditional interview questions as well as behavioral, as you won’t know the type of questions you will be asked until you’re actually in the hot seat. Before the interview, be sure to refresh your memory on past situations that you have dealt with or specific projects you have worked on. You want to be sure that you have a number of situations handy where you have successfully solved a problem.
Now the most important part of the behavioral interview question….answering it! Don’t stress, it’s not as challenging as people make it out to be if you consider these points:
– Listen to the question being asked and digest it. The thing that tends to confuse people with behavioral interviews is that the questions can often times come off long-winded and may even sound vague. Don’t allow yourself to get confused. Take a second and truly digest the question that is being asked, and make sure that you fully understand how you should answer it. If you don’t clearly understand the question, then just have the interviewer clarify more for you. It’s better to ask than to answer a question that isn’t really even being asked to you.
– Quickly organize your response. Always collect your thoughts and structure your answers mentally prior to answering the question to ensure a poised, thorough response.
– Communicate your point. A well-rounded, comprehensive response should take about 2-3 minutes to convey. Any longer and you could potentially lose the attention of your interviewer.
– Stay on Point. It’s important to remember to always stay concise with your answer and avoid rambling at all costs. Stick to your planned response and resist the temptation to add new details unless it’s necessary.
An additional technique that is extremely helpful when crafting your responses is the ‘STAR’ Technique, as outlined by startechnique.com. These four steps can help to ensure that you have a structured answer to help you narrate a diverse set of experiences.
1. ‘S’ for Situation: Give a brief background of your experience and highlight your involvement (i.e. when and where).
2. ‘T’ for Task: Describe the specific challenge and what needed to be done to alleviate it.
3. ‘A’ for Action: Elaborate your specific action in response to the challenge. What did you do and how did you do it?
4. ‘R’ for Results: Explain the results of your efforts, i.e. what you accomplished or what you learned. This is a great time to try to quantify the results as well (i.e. sales were increased by 15% as a result of….).
It’s important to remember that in a behavioral interview, there are no wrong or right answers, just answers that illustrate you and your experiences. Interviewers are not out to stump you; they just want a thorough depiction of how you have behaved or reacted in past situations to verify that you are the ideal candidate for their specific position. So keep in mind the ‘STAR’ Technique for your next interview to help you communicate direct, personalized success stories to best highlight your qualifications.