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Never Get Caught Off Guard Again: How to Answer the Top 10 Behavioral Interview Questions

behavioral interview

One of hiring managers’ key objectives is determining how candidates will act in certain situations. To find out this information, they will ask “behavioral interview questions” that crop up frequently in all stages of the interview process. 

For candidates, the difficulty in answering these questions is proving their accuracy. After all, anyone could say they were relaxed under pressure, even if they consistently struggled to control their temper. 

Laura Hill, a senior resume writer for Ivy Exec, describes how to use power stories to prove that you have demonstrated a specific behavior. A common practice for resumes, power stories include three components: Problem/Opportunity, Action, Result, or PAR. 

Here’s how to use a power story. 

  1. Detail the problem or opportunity as quickly as possible. 
  2. Describe the actions you took. 
  3. Mention the results. 

Key here for behavioral questions is to identify actions that demonstrate a behavior. For instance, you could create a power story that focuses on your critical thinking skills. 

Laura suggests preparing six to 10 power stories to bring to an interview. Practice them, too, so you can recite them effortlessly and drop them in easily. 

Need more preparation? Here, we’ll introduce 10 of the most commonly-asked behavioral interview questions and provide sample responses. 

Tell us about your leadership in a difficult situation. 

Key to answering this question is describing a specific scenario. You may be tempted to discuss your general leadership experience, but remember that in power stories, you focus on one instance that really drives home the point. 

The instance you choose should be one when your team members were unmotivated, discouraged, or directionless. What did you do to encourage them, and what were the results that stemmed from your leadership? 

Describe a time when you had to deal with multiple high-importance tasks at the same time. 

This question asks you to focus on your time and stress management skills. It also can highlight your capacity to delegate and triage situations. 

What is your greatest weakness? 

Don’t take this question as a chance to humblebrag! No hiring manager wants to know that you’re too dedicated for your own good. 

Instead, answer this question with a sincere focus on your flaws and how you have worked to overcome them. Focus on a minor personality trait or area of weakness that won’t stop you from doing your job well. Also, be sure to demonstrate in your power story that you are self-aware enough to know your weaknesses and take steps to improve them. 

Describe a goal you did not achieve. What did you do as a result? 

Questions like these help hiring managers determine if you’re interested in learning and growing from your mistakes. 

In our guide “How to Answer the Top 30 Interview Questions,” we describe how to respond to a question like this one:

“In this scenario, you should first and foremost take responsibility for failure and do not pass blame to others or outside factors. To take your answer to the next level, you should highlight key lessons learned (perspective or skill-related) in the process both about yourself and the business process/activity (if it’s germane to the new employer). If you have a success story that builds upon the failed goal/project, this can truly set your response apart.”

How did you overcome the biggest challenge you ever faced? 

This question remains popular because it shows the interviewer how you operate under pressure. First, choose a specific project or initiative that faced a snafu. Then, describe the actions you took to overcome this problem. 

This question is also perfect for incorporating a quantifiable outcome proving that your solution was effective. For instance: 

By implementing data visualization tools, we were able to shorten our project completion date by three weeks. 

Tell us about a time when your solution didn’t work out, and you had to be flexible. 

This question also focuses on your adaptability and problem-solving skills. You may also want to account for ego in your response; in other words, prove that you are not so committed to your ideas that you can’t let go of them if they don’t work out. 

Tell us about an instance when you had to explain a complex idea to a client or colleague who was not on your side. 

Respond to this behavioral interview question with a two-fold focus. First, the hiring manager is ascertaining your communication skills. Especially if you are in leadership, you will have to communicate both clearly and persuasively. Second, this question tests your patience and self-awareness. 

Describe a time you went above and beyond. 

What the hiring manager wants from this question is clear: they want to see your commitment to your profession. So, choose a scenario when you lacked resources, faced an overwhelming dilemma, or went above and beyond for a client. 

How do you react in stressful situations? 

Of course, the hiring manager wants to know how you’ll act in periods of discomfort – as there will certainly be many of these in your future! While every candidate will likely paint themselves in the best light, consider also briefly mentioning your struggles or moments of frustration, before describing how you overcame your stress to identify a workable solution.

Describe an instance when you disagreed with your superior.

Questions like this one focus on how you work through situations involving difficult emotions. Key here is addressing how you identified practical steps in response to your disagreement, as well as building a relationship that was mutually beneficial to both of you. 

Effectively Answering Behavioral Interview Questions

You will almost certainly be asked behavioral questions in your next interview. Key to nailing these questions is preparing PAR stories that demonstrate how you used a behavior in action. Rather than just telling an employer that you’re a team player or adaptable, show them with a specific example. Use our list of questions to prepare your power stories and drop them into the conversation whenever applicable. 

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