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Acing the behavioral interview

In the December issue of HR Connect, we discussed preparing for interviews, including researching the job / department.  We also talked about how to identify which behavioral interview questions the interviewer might ask by looking at the competencies identified in the posting.  For example, if the posting says the position requires “excellent customer service skills,” you can probably expect the interviewer will ask something like “Tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult customer.”

This time, we’re going to dig even deeper on how to answer those behavioral interview questions.  We’ll also provide a sample interview answer to help illustrate.

It’s helpful when developing your interview answers to have an idea of how the behavioral interview questions for each competency might be phrased.  To get an idea of how the interviewer might ask a competency-based behavioral interview question, you might try checking out a few of the following websites, which include example questions by competency:

As you can see from the links above, there are about as many variations of behavioral interview questions as there are stars in the sky.  Don’t get overwhelmed!  It’s more important to focus on the competency rather than the specific phrasing of the questions.  If you develop your answers to fit the core competencies of the position, they should serve you well in answering the interviewer’s questions.

As we mentioned in the last article, you want to make sure your behavioral interview answers provide specific examples from your past work experience.  The interviewers are not looking for a general answer that includes phrases like “I usually…” or “In most cases…” In formulating your behavioral interview answers, be sure that your previous work examples follow the STAR format:

S: Situation – identify the situation in a concise manner and identify the problem or issue that needed to be solved.
T: Task – explain what task you identified needed to be done in order to solve the problem.
A: Action – describe the action(s) you took in order to perform the task to its completion and respond to the situation.
R: Result – talk about the outcomes of your actions, and remember, numbers speak louder than qualifying words like “great” or “good.” Try to identify metrics that illustrate the results.

Let’s check out an example!

Competency: Teamwork

Behavioral Interview Question:
Give an example of a time when you worked effectively with others to accomplish an important goal.

Not-So-Good Answer:
Whenever I work in a team, I usually take the lead.  I typically work really hard to make sure everyone is happy.  It always turns out great.

Good Answer:
In my most recent position, I was approached by my supervisor to be on a committee of five other co-workers responsible for developing an employee satisfaction survey. The survey was in response to low employee engagement, and the team of co-workers was comprised of individuals from five different departments. We were given a timeframe of four weeks to prepare a proposal of survey questions. Right away, I e-mailed the entire team to identify good dates and times that we could meet each week in order to develop the survey. I volunteered to facilitate our meetings and another committee member volunteered to take notes. Although we had varying opinions about how best to conduct the survey and what questions should be included, we were always able to handle those differences professionally and reach a consensus. At the end of our third week, we had developed a presentation, which included our final draft of survey questions and a proposal for how to deliver the survey to all applicable employees. At that time, we had a goal of 50 percent participation among employees. The survey was implemented one month later and had a participation rate of 70 percent.

As you can see, the not-so-good answer above is very general and does not provide a specific answer from the individual’s part work history or follow the STAR answer format. The good answer above provides a specific example from that individual’s past work history, and follows the STAR answer format. 

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