A job interview has been scheduled for you, but do you know what types of questions you’ll have to answer? This is the dilemma most candidates face. Don’t panic. You can prepare for various types of questions, and I’ll give you a few hints later on. Most companies are using one or the other type: conventional questions or behavior-based questions; even a combination of them is likely.
Behavior-based questions have a clear purpose: the idea is to focus on your past and to conclude that if you behaved in a certain way in the past, then that would be the way you’d behave in the future in a similar situation. So, this expectation is based on predictable future behavior. The interviewer wants to hear how you applied your skills and whether you’ll demonstrate your capabilities in the future. The interviewer wants to assess the entire picture about what you did, what your thought process was, and how you felt about a particular situation. Best way to answer these types of questions is via storytelling. Start describing—in brief—the background situation, and then proceed to describe what you did or the actions you took. Finally, highlight the result of your action and its benefit to the company. Because behavior-based questions can be endless, I suggest that you prepare for them by organizing your thoughts in themes. Remember that the interviewer is looking to validate not only the skills mentioned in your résumé but perhaps also—and even more important—your traits.
Examples of themes are commitment, work ethic, problem solving, leadership, negotiation techniques, and dealing with adversity. To prepare for such themes, it’s best to write out in longhand some examples you could review before the interview and commit to short-term memory. In working on the examples, consider that the interviewer is more interested in the process than in the details of your stories. Rather, the interviewer wants to understand the reasoning that drove your actions: Why did you behave the way you did? And what skills did you have to use?
You will immediately know whether you’re being asked a behavior-based question because such questions typically start with, “Tell me a time when … ” or “What has been your biggest … ” or “What is the toughest … ” or “Describe a situation when … ” or “What example can you cite that … ” Notice that many behavior-based questions include a superlative or something of a superlative value such as biggest, fastest, toughest, and the like. This might be intimidating. My advice is that when you’re asked such a question, you first think for two or three seconds and then face the interviewer and say, “Well, I’m not sure I can come up at the moment with the [insert the superlative], but here’s an example,” and then give the story.
Behavior-based questions are not so difficult once you have half a dozen to a dozen examples, and you’ve had a chance to practice delivering them in a mock interview setting.