What are behavioral questions in a job interview?
Behavioral questions are administered by hiring officials during a job interview. These are questions aimed at measuring a candidate’s capabilities in situations that require behavioral decisions. This may look into a person’s experience to understand how that person may behave in the future if a similar situation comes up. The central feature of a behavioral question in a job interview is that this question is not within a framework of yes or no type. In other words, there is no absolute answer or perfect reasoning for these questions. This essentially helps the hiring officials to judge the candidate more efficiently than any other type of question.
Behavioral questions during a job interview are open-ended questions. It is within the limits of the candidate to frame the answer to behavioral questions and present it in the most impactful manner possible. As your prospective employer questions how you handled your previous challenging work situations, you are expected to briefly illustrate the situation and attach a response that helps to surface your abilities, skillset, and overall personality.
Behavioral interview questions are in no way related to traditional job interview questions as it does not seek concrete answers. These questions force you to explain why you are a perfect fit for the job position you have applied for indirectly.
The intention behind asking behavioral questions
Candidates must understand the real intention behind asking behavioral questions during a job interview. The central logic behind behavioral job questions is the assumption that your behavior in the past may help them to judge how you may behave in future situations.
Hiring officials administer behavioral questions as it is highly effective as compared to other direct questions in understanding how an employee will achieve a successful outcome. The added advantage of behavioral questions from the point of view of the prospective employer is that it reveals the thought process behind answering. The intention behind behavioral questions is not just to see if you have succeeded in the past. This has two dimensions. If you have a successful past, they will be more confident in hiring you, and the procedure will be easy for you. Even if you didn’t have a successful past, you might have to channel the discussion in such a way that includes the measures taken by you to correct the mistakes of the past. This is the real intention of a behavioral question.
Behavioral questions completed the goal of the hiring official to understand you in-depth. They will come to know if you strike a perfect balance between pride and humility, success and mistakes, and past and future. They look forward to listening to you, your perceptions on teamwork, leadership, communication skills, conflict resolution, and problem-solving. Understanding the intentions behind the question will better equip you to craft an impactful answer.
Strategy to answer behavioral questions: STAR method
STAR technique is the most widely used strategy to answer behavioral questions during an interview. This is a 4+1 phased method that will help you to reap maximum benefits out of your answer. There is no other way to better organize your thought process and present your answer with clarity.
There are many behavioral questions commonly asked in interviews that give you the leverage to prepare beforehand. You must take maximum advantage of this and prepare the situation beforehand. You may be confused at the point when you have to present the answer. That risk is not worth taking.
Depending on the nature of the behavioral question asked, you might describe or identify a situation where you had an experience close to the question asked. This part is very important as it determines the course of the entire narration. A candidate may not be able to identify such a situation impromptu during the interview, and hence it may require preparation beforehand.
This is the second phase, where you have to explain the task assigned to you and how you receive it first. In this section, you may explain all dimensions of the responsibility assigned to you.
This is the most rewarding part of your narration, where you have to explain all the actions taken by you to complete the responsibility assigned to you. This section has to be a bit more length as compared to the previous two sections.
This section comprises the results you gained from the actions you have taken up. This section can be custom prepared depending on the requirements of the interview and focus on any particular soft skills that they prioritize.
Why questions on problem-solving?
Problem-solving is one of the central areas of inquiry when it comes to behavioral questions in an interview. Hiring officials are intended to identify the thought process to implement when there is a problem. In this section, you are required to explain all possible methods adopted by you to solve a problem in the past or those methods you may adopt in a hypothetical situation. As a candidate, you can explain different dimensions of the problem and how it would have impacted if you hadn’t stepped up.
● Can you please explain an instance where you had used your logic to solve a real problem?
● What are the models of brandy when it comes to handling a real challenge?
● Can you elaborate on how you plan to address professional challenges?
Why questions on leadership?
This question asked by hiring officials is intended to look into how you handled initial uncertainty and how successfully you overcame it. This also looks into your modus operandi if you have to step up as a leader in the future. Leadership questions are not confined to experience the campaigners but can be asked to entry-level jobs also to assess their mindset. Prioritization of goals at a personal level and team level comes under this question of leadership. In most situations, employees are interested in identifying if their idea of leadership or their leadership style matches with the company policies and work culture.
● Did you ever get an opportunity to set goals for your team?
● Can you illustrate how you achieved a goal for the team you are a part of?
● What is your plan of action if you have to step up as a leader in the future?
Why questions on time management?
Behavioral questions on time management are administered by hiring officials to see how they prioritize different goals and targets at the same time. They may be interested to know if they have a successful time management technique already adopted in their past. This is equally relevant for a fresher as well as an experienced candidate. It can be safely assumed that no organization professor candidate fails to manage their time even though they are hardworking and super skilled. As a candidate, you are expected to explain how you plan to prioritize things by highlighting your organizational and professional capabilities.
● Tell me about that instance where you crossed the deadline?
● Can you explain how you plan to work out your plans when multiple responsibilities come to you?
● What is your modus operandi to track long-term projects simultaneously with multiple short-term targets?
Why questions on adaptability?
Adaptability is the most celebrated characteristic trait expected from a good employee. In most of the situations in the dynamic industries you work in, you may have to adapt to changing situations in no time. Hence, adaptability is an essential component. Since no hiring official wishes to risk the adaptability of a candidate, you may be expected to answer a couple of behavioral questions based on adaptability. Your prospective employer will be curious to know how you plan to achieve the goals, even if you have to change your plans multiple times due to external pressures.
● Can you illustrate how you are adaptable?
● Are you able to reconnect an instance where you had to be creative in your approach?
● Tell me about a situation where you had to force yourself to learn things quickly to complete responsibilities on time?
Why questions on conflict resolution?
Conflict resolution skills are expected from employees at all levels of the organization. The tensions may arise within the organization, and it needs to be dealt with utmost caution. Hiring officials may be interested to know if you follow a positive or negative approach to conflict resolution. These questions are intended to bring to the surface those stories on how you see an issue within the organization and your thought process regarding resolving those.
● Tell me about a situation where you wish you should have handled a disagreement with a coworker differently.
● Can you illustrate how you will go ahead if you have to express a disagreement with your manager?
● Will you explain how you will handle a dilemma to stand up for your beliefs or to go ahead with the manager’s instruction?
Why questions on communication?
Communication skill is an essential component of a good employee. There is no substitute for good professional communication skills and interpersonal communication skills. Direct questions will not help the hiring official to assess the communication capabilities of you as a person. In this scenario, they will rely on behavioral questions during the interview.
● Tell me about a scenario where you had pressure to explain a complex topic to people having less subject knowledge.
● How will you establish a rapport with a colleague in your team whose personality is opposite to yours?
● If you have to persuade a client, how do you plan to go about it efficiently?
Why questions on stress?
Personal and professional stress happens quite often during a person’s career. A candidate must exhibit the different ways through which they plan to overcome personal stress. Hiring officials of the recruiting agency depends on behavioral questions to better understand how you plan to overcome stress. Your prospective employer may not prefer a candidate who finds it extremely difficult to cope with the professional stress as it may negatively affect the prospects of the company in the long run.
● What are the ways through which you plan to handle changes and challenges that occur unexpectedly?
● What was the single most challenging scenario you ever had to confront at your workplace or during your college life?
● What things do you resort to coping up with the rising professional stress?
Why questions on self-knowledge?
The self-knowledge section is one of the trickiest sections in the behavioral questions segment in an interview. The hiring officials are interested to know how you analyze your strengths and weaknesses. This comes along with the multiple ways through which you have corrected your mistakes in the past and how you plan to look forward to the future. The element of confidence you have in yourself will also be exhibited here. As an interview candidate, you are expected to own your mistakes from the past and illustrate how you learned from those mistakes.
● Is there any instance from your past where you feel that your value was undermined?
● Do you procrastinate?
● How often do you commit mistakes, and what do you learn differently from each mistake?
● Do you ever feel that you do not have enough work to do?
Why questions on teamwork?
A good employee is only complete when they are good team workers. Even though team working capabilities are different for different job positions, teamwork and collaboration skills are essential for all jobs across industries. There is no escape from this. The hiring official intends to measure if you can work efficiently and effectively in the particular position you have applied for. This is given top priority by hiring officials as it holds the potential to decide the success of the company itself.
● How do you ensure that your colleague works perfectly within the team even though the project is not thrilling enough?
● What are your checkboxes if you have to disagree with your colleague within the team?
● Illustrate how you will bring to the attention of your manager a mistake they committed?
How to answer behavioral questions? – Tips to follow
A few basic tips are to be followed while you prepare an answer for a behavioral question and while presenting it.
❖ Positive approach
Behavioral questions often force you to discuss any of your failures or an issue that you may have confronted in the past. This is equally applicable for fresh graduates as well as for an experienced person. It is to ensure that you maintain a positive approach throughout the answer and do not exhibit a negative approach or be emotional.
❖ Focus on your future
If it is the case that you do not have a successful past, you must focus on how you plan to correct those mistakes and maintain the overall positive atmosphere.
❖ STAR technique
There should not be any compromise with the usage of the STAR technique of answer preparation. This will help you to present your answers in a very structured and planned manner with the least confusion. This is also helpful from the perspective of the hiring official that your answer will be easy to evaluate.
❖ Background research
Good background research and preparation well ahead of time ensure that your job is half done. You will be able to correct your answers and present the best answer before the interview board.
❖ Stay calm
You may encounter a question that you may not have expected or planned. You mustn’t stumble. You must keep in mind that it is completely ok to pause before you start answering. This will give a cool-off period, ensuring that you do not mess up.
Sample questions and answers
Can you illustrate an instance where you worked efficiently under pressure and on short notice?
I just finished college. I was assigned the task of logistics for the social service society. I was assigned two weeks to arrange all necessary materials to conduct the program at the college hall. Due to the issues related to permission, the college administration instructed me to finish the logistic task within a week. I held a meeting for the members of the logistics department to convey the same. I am sure that all members are on board to increase their working hours by a couple of hours so that the event happens smoothly. Due to the dynamic planning adopted, we were able to finish the task just in time and ensure that there were no hiccups.
Can you explain how you plan to pull off an assignment successfully if it came to you unexpectedly?
When I was working in my previous company as an assistant accountant, I had to face a similar situation. On short notice, my senior manager left town due to personal reasons, and I was given the charge to complete the project on time. I had to present the final report before the client and have to plan accordingly. I asked other managers for some guidance and trusted myself to complete the project on time. The project and project representations were successful, and we got the final output as we expected.
How do you plan to confront a situation when you realize that you have committed a mistake?
While I was an office-bearer to the college students union, I invited an error in the accounting, which was later realized by myself. I brought it to the attention of the accounting department of the college before they finalized the same. It was appreciated by the college administration. I believe that if you realize the mistakes we commit and take necessary actions to nullify the effects of the same, it will be appreciated and help us to move forward with more confidence.
How do you focus on setting targets for yourself?
Beginning of my college days, I have dedicated enough time to plan my schedule for every day, week, and month. I have always strived to complete the targets I set for myself. I have also put enough effort into increasing the targets to achieve within the same period. My top priority was always to increase my productivity and my efficiency. This has helped me to excel in my academic and other extracurricular activities at college. I have decided for myself that I will continue to set short-term and long-term targets for myself to continue ahead with my efficiency.
What all things will you prioritize if you have to work within a team?
I had to work within a team for one complete semester in the final year of my under graduation. We wear a group of 10 students at the economics society. Before we pursued our team goal, we had set individual targets for ourselves and planned in time how to address the issues we might face in the process. We had made a set of guidelines for us to have clarity in our modus operandi. In the last phase of work, we came together as a team and finished the project with flying colors.
● Always present your answer like a story as it invites the attention of the hiring official more, as compared to any other presentation style.
● You must have a clear idea about your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you to craft perfect answers on how you are planning to correct your mistakes of the past.
● You must focus on the results and future. What hiring officials are interested in is the outcome of your actions and how it is going to benefit the organization as a whole.
● Prepare a long list of illustrations and examples so that you can personalize it according to the requirements of the question. You mustn’t go blank when they ask unexpected questions.
● Always have a clear understanding of the requirements of the job you have applied for. Your success is based on how you link your stories and illustrations with the requirements of the job.
● There should not be anything that stops you from learning more about the company. This includes their work ethic, work culture, and short-term and long-term goals.
● Whenever you are asked a question, quickly process the intention behind the question so that you can frame the answer in the most impactful manner.