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Know What to Say on a Job Interview

Behavioral Interviews

Behavioral interviews are one of the toughest types, because they force you to reveal much about yourself and worse, on the spot while you're under pressure. In other words, they are among the classic "hot-seat" interviews.

Behavioral interviews are designed to predict your future behavior on the job, based on your past behavior.

Subsequently, during behavioral interviews, interviewers will ask you questions about how you acted or reacted in past job-related situations. That's because applicants are apt to repeat behaviors from their previous jobs, while working their new jobs.

Behavioral Interview Question Samples

Behavioral interview question samples of the common type are listed below. The way your interviewer words his or her questions might differ from the wording in the sample questions, but the gist will likely be the same or close.

Although referred to as "questions", some might consist of instructions instead, such as that listed first in each group below. None of the sample questions are in any particular order.

Initial Question Samples

Your interviewer will ask a behavioral interview question like one of these first, and then will likely interject secondary questions to pull more information from you if needed.

Q. Describe a time that you were challenged or put under pressure on the job.
Q. Have you ever taken it upon yourself to accomplish a job task without being asked?
Q. Tell me which accomplishment on the job gave you more satisfaction than any other and why.
Q. How would you handle it if a coworker (or subordinate) was not pulling his or her fair share of the workload?
Q. What was a major obstacle that you had to overcome to complete a project on time?
Q. Have you ever had to demonstrate team-leadership ability?

Secondary Question Samples

Depending on the initial questions and your answers, secondary behavioral interview questions that your interviewer interjects will likely resemble the following samples. It might put a feather in your cap to listen carefully the first time, so you can anticipate and answer your interviewer's secondary questions the next time, before he or she has to ask them.

Q. Tell me how you recognized the problem.
Q. How did you deal with it?
Q. Give me an example.
Q. How did you go about achieving it?
Q. What were you thinking at the time?
Q. How did it make you feel?
Q. What did you say or do?
Q. What was the outcome?

How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions

Your interviewer will know that you're in the hot seat, because he or she intentionally put you there. So, it's okay to take a moment or two to think about your answers to behavioral interview questions; avoid rambling, just to have something to say while you're thinking. Provide specifics and details, but keep each of your answers brief (two to three minutes or less) and to the point.

When answering an initial behavioral interview question followed by a series of secondary questions, think of it as telling a true story. Your interviewer might expect you to embellish a tad, but it's important to be truthful beyond that; for example, if you answer that you've never felt work stress, then your interviewer might suspect that you lied. Virtually all workers feel work stress at some point, including your interviewer.

Maintain reasonable eye contact and try to stay calm and cool. Don't go too far out on a limb and remember each of your stories, as interviewers might check them for consistency.

For example, interviewers in your second round of behavioral interviews, might ask you to expand upon your answers from the first round; if you filled out a questionnaire, interviewers might ask similar behavioral interview questions verbally, to check whether or not your answers are consistent with those you wrote on the questionnaire.

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