Behavioral interview questions are specific to discovering how an interviewee will act in specific scenarios based on their previous experience and often, logic. It’s widely used by interviewers to predict your future performance and it’s unlikely that you’ll get through an interview without coming across at least one of these pesky questions.
It’s more than expected these days that interviewers will ask questions such as: “How have you overcome obstacles? How have you dealt with conflict in team settings? How do you prioritise your workload in order to meet deadlines?"
You’re not alone if you’re drawing a blank right now. While there are many online resources to prepare answers and examples, here’s Randstad’s take on answering the five most common behavioural interview questions from our long history of placing candidates in their dream roles:
1. describe a stressful work situation and what you did about it.
As with the rest of these questions, it’s good to be candid — but only to a point. You don’t actually need to describe the worst thing that ever happened to you at work. But you do need to make it clear that the stressful situation you’re describing, however bad it was, wasn’t stressful thanks to thorough preparation on your part.
One safe bet is to talk about a presentation you had to give. You could talk about how you prepared for it, any hiccups you encountered and finish it off with how it went and what you learned. The stronger the takeaway, the better - for example you could show off your new found confidence in public speaking from said example.
Structure your story example with how you turned a challenge into an opportunity. Putting more emphasis on the solution after briefly describing the problem for context.
2. describe a project you worked on as part of a team.
Teamwork is such a vital part of success for every organisation and the ability to collaborate effectively and communicate clearly will always be highly prized by employers. Candidates for highly collaborative roles may find that they are hired or not based on team camaraderie.
When developing your answer to this question, it’s better to use a successful project rather than one that failed. Focus on describing the goals of the project and go into the specifics in some detail, like your responsibilities and how the overall tasks were divvied up among team members and worked on collaboratively. It may be best to prepare for this question and be patient in articulating your response, as you’ll need to take the interviewer through it step-by-step.
3. how did you resolve a difficult situation with a client or vendor?
One key aspect of behavioral interview questions is that they highlight processes and outcomes. It’s part of the reason they remain so valuable for employers. Your prospective employer wants to know that you’re able to work within an established framework to solve problems. That’s why, as banal as it sounds, the best answer to this question is to simply talk about your communication skills.
For example, describe a situation in which you patiently addressed an issue with the client or vendor while alerting internal higher-ups of the situation and working with them to find a solution. If you can recall a situation in which a client or vendor was overreaching or overbearing, that’s not a bad place to start.
4. when you’ve disagreed with coworkers, how did you handle it?
This is another question about communication, but in this case your goal is to describe a situation where a compromise was found. After all, people working in teams always bring different points of view to the table and the success of teams depends on employees being able to talk out these differences and reach compromises. Think about your own experiences working in teams and the times you’ve resolved any potential conflict.
Keep in mind that the compromise itself doesn’t need to have come about through formal or public channels. If you and the coworker discussed the situation and arrived at a solution over lunch, that might be proof of the tact and diplomacy you bring to solving problems.
5. tell me about your proudest professional accomplishment.
With a little prep work and practice, this one should be a home run. Just make sure you tie the accomplishment back to the duties and responsibilities of the role you are applying for. That way, your accomplishment isn’t just something that happened in the past but something that you can bring to the table today.
Finally, it’s important to realise that the interviewer is actually asking you to speak to what motivates you. Line that up with the scope of the role that you’re applying for and you’re on your way.
Don’t panic! We have plenty of helpful interview tips and hints to share that’ll have you feeling confident and ready to shine in no time at all! Read our article about 'how to shine at your next interview' to learn more.