Let’s begin by defining what a behavioral question is because I think it’s a confusing term…and who thought up that name anyway?
A behavioral question is used in job interviews to help employers better understand the candidate’s work experience and skills. And they’re being used more and more so it’s important to understand what they are and how to prepare for them.
Behavioral questions are always open-ended which means you can never simply respond with a yes or no. Employers want you to give examples from your work experience that will help them understand how well you’ve performed in a certain area.
Maybe that’s why the term “behavioral” is used – they want to know how you’ve behaved in certain situations. Nonetheless, I still think it’s a strange name but I can’t think of anything better.
Some Examples of Behavioral Questions
If an employer wants to get a better idea of, say, how well you work with others, she may ask behavioral questions like:
- Give me an example that shows how you were able to develop productive relations with others, even when there were differing points of view.
- Tell me about a time when you were able to motivate others to get the desired results.
- Tell me about a difficult situation with a co-worker and how you handled it.
Need I say how important it is to prepare – or at least think about – what your responses to these questions will be before your interview?
Behavioral questions require you to pull up specific examples from your work history. If you’re not prepared it’s very easy for your mind to go blank. Not good to stare at the prospective employer like Bambi in the headlights. Take time to think about your work experience and identify examples you’d like to highlight during your interview.
Why Behavioral Questions are Important
From the candidate’s perspective these are very tough questions that really make you think – and they can also make you freeze. But if you’ve thought through your work experience before your interview, your responses to behavioral questions can make you shine. They can make you stand out from your competition.
From my perspective as a career consultant, behavioral questions are very powerful and can give the employer a much deeper understanding of the type of employee you will be. They are being used more and more in the interview process so it’s a good idea for you to expect them.
What are the Most Important Behavioral Questions?
That depends on the job you’re going after. If you’re looking for a customer service position you better be able to site specific examples of how well you handle customers. If strong communication skills are key to the job, be able to give work examples that show you are above average when it comes to communicating effectively.
There are also many focus areas for behavioral questions. Too many to mention here. The best thing you can do is review the job description. Get a clear understanding of the types of skills and experiences they are looking for. Think through your experience in each of those areas and then jot down a few examples that show you have those skills.
Here are a few more focus areas with related behavioral questions. Email me if you’d like my complete list.
- Tell me about a time when you had to analyze facts quickly, define key issues and either respond immediately or develop a plan that produced good results.
- If you had to do that activity over again, how would you do it differently?
- Give me an example of when you had to sell your idea to someone else.
- Describe a situation where you persuaded team members to do things your way. What was the effect?
- Tell me about a time when you were tolerant of an opinion that was different from yours.
- Give ma an example of when you had to deal with an irate customer.
- Tell me about a time when you made a lasting, positive impression on a customer.