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Last Updated on March 13, 2020

How to Answer Behavioral Based Interview Questions Smartly

How to Answer Behavioral Based Interview Questions Smartly

Interviews can be terrifying. It is terrifying, as it is hard to predict what the interview questions will be like.

More often than not, the hiring managers like to ask questions about our past experiences. If we have not prepared a story or two to cope with this, we sit tongue-tied.

Behavioral Interview Questions Are the Hot Items in Interviews

We’d like to introduce to you the term “behavioral interview questions”. Behavioral questions aim to get information about how the interviewees behaved in the past.

By knowing how they behaved in the past, managers can get a sense of how they will behave in the future. The important question every interviewer wants to know the answer to is: will this person work well with our organization? [1]

You may have heard some of these questions in the past:

  • Describe a time when your team or company was undergoing some changes. How did that impact you, and how did you adapt?
  • Can you talk about a long-term project that you managed? How did you keep everything moving along in a timely manner?
  • Give me an example of a time when you did not meet a client’s expectation. What happened, and how did you attempt to rectify the situation?

Their formats are varying. But more or less they can be reduced to a simple question which starts with: “Can you tell me a time…”.

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Categories of Behavioral Questions

Here, we categorise all the behavioral questions based on the knowledge of experienced hiring managers.

If you are an interviewer, this article may serve as a reference for preparing interview questions; if you are an interviewee, by knowing the forms and expectations of these questions, you may be better equipped in the preparation of an interview.

1. Teamwork

As said by Pamela Skillings, the founder of Big Interview, interview questions about teamwork are the most common.

This type of questions aims to know if the potential employee will be a good team player. After all, the ability to cooperate is crucial in an organization, and hiring managers are responsible for finding out if the potential employees are cooperative.

Examples

  • Can you tell me a time when you had to work closely with someone with a personality which was very different from yours?
  • Please tell me a time you faced a conflict while working on a team. Did you handle it well?
  • Did you once try to get information from someone who, for whatever reason, was not responsive?

Expectations

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  • Provide one or two of the most relevant examples demonstrating your skills to cooperate with others well.
  • The ultimate goal of the interviewee is to show that they are easy and a joy to work with.
  • Understand the definition of teamwork the job requires. For example, a start-up company may look for employees who work well with others by taking different roles. Or a multinational company may look for newcomers who can adapt quickly to the established working environment.
  • In order to show their cooperativeness, interviewees should demonstrate their ability to help a team succeed, instead of emphasising on one individual’s success.
  • Show respect for the previous teammates, instead of raising complaint or criticism.
  • According to Alison Doyle, there are some qualities or skills that define the ability to work well in a team. It is best if the interviewee can show some of these skills or qualities, such as listening, reliability, respect, and timeliness.

2. Problem Solving

Questions regarding problem solving are another type of questions that are often asked in an interview. These questions aim to know if the employer can manage problems smoothly.

Examples

  • Describe a time when your company was under a change. How did you adapt to it?
  • Describe the most challenging work you have ever encountered. How did you handle that?
  • Tell me a time when you faced a difficult colleague. How did you work with him or her?

Expectations

  • When answering these questions, interviewees are expected to provide examples demonstrating they are capable of solving a problem strategically.
  • The problems discussed are expected to be about professional matters, instead of arbitrary daily chores.
  • Besides the concrete problem, interviewees are expected to describe how they approached the problem.
  • Through talking about their approaches to the problems, interviewees are expected to demonstrate their excellence in problem solving and critical thinking.
  • Interviewees should not overly emphasise their accomplishments; instead, they are expected to remain humble, and articulate their growth once they solved the problems.

3. Motivation and Value

It can be said that the purpose of the interview is to find out what kind of person the interviewee is. That is why questions aiming to know what motivates them are popular.

However, most of the time, these questions are not asked directly; very often they are hidden questions that may seem random at first!

Examples

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  • Tell me about a time when you worked hard to achieve something.
  • Tell me about a time when you tried hard to help a person.
  • Tell me a time you tried hard to learn a new hobby.

Expectations

  • Handle unexpected questions well. Lily Zhang suggests that interviewees should smile first at these questions before they come up with an answer.
  • And since these questions look random, the interviewees are also expected to explicitly address the focus of these questions, which is to answer: what motivates them.
  • These questions do not expect a solid “right” answer. There is no “right” answer to them. In this light, interviewees are expected to give an enthusiastic and coherent response, despite what the content is mainly about [2].

4. Failure

The questions asking interviewees how they faced failure may be the most difficult kind of all. They are difficult, as they require skills to answer them. Interviewers especially look at how the interviewees address their past failure without tarnishing themselves.

Note that these questions are not designed to embarrass the interviewees. The hiring managers ask these questions, as they hope to know: (1) how the interviewees performed in the previous job, and (2) whether they can learn from failure.

Examples

Questions like these can be blunt, as like:

  • Describe a time when you failed.

Or they may come in a more implicit manner:

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  • Tell me about a time when you were under a lot of pressure.
  • Describe a time when you had difficulty leading a group of people.
  • Describe a time when you faced communication break-down.

Expectations

  • Be honest when talking about failure.
  • Describe the failure, while remaining positive about it.
  • Humbly admit the fault, instead of blaming others for it, or denying the failure.
  • Since the goal of these questions is to find out how the interviewees handle failure, interviewees are expected to talk more about the qualities and skills they obtained out of handling the failure.
  • Avoid talking about some detrimental failure. You are instead expected, as suggested by Alison Doyle, to talk about failures that happened in the last job, which need not be tightly related to the future job.[3]
  • It is best if the interviewees can show how they conceptualise success and failure in general.

5. Achievement

The last type of questions is about your personal achievements. These questions may simply ask for one’s talents. Yes, they are questions eliciting information about one’s skills and qualities. However, it is also through these questions that the interviewers gain more understanding about how the interviewees view success, and what their future goal will be.

Examples

  • Can you describe a time when you successfully lead a project?
  • What was your biggest achievement recently?

Expectations

  • Specify one or some of the achievements to show your capability.
  • Interviewees should avoid being overly specific or spending too much time talking about their achievement. Otherwise, they may appear to be boasting themselves.
  • It is better, instead, if the interviewees can elaborate on their strategy that helped them accomplish their goal.
  • Align past achievements with the job you are applying for.
  • Near the end of the answer, it will be best if the interviewees could link their past achievement to the future. That is to say: what is the future goal he or she wants to accomplish?
  • And finally, it is wise if the interviewees can relate their future plan to the job they are applying for, which means interviewees should state that the job is a part of their life plan.

Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

Reference

More by this author

Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on April 6, 2020

How to Make a Career Change at 50 for Great Opportunities

How to Make a Career Change at 50 for Great Opportunities

Turning 50 is a milestone in anyone’s life, after all you are half way to 100! But seriously, turning 50 is often a time in life when people can sit back and take a look at where they’ve been and contemplate what the future holds.

Can you change careers at 50? It’s not uncommon for people in their 50’s to consider a career change, after all if you’ve spent 20 to 30 years in a career, chances are that some of the bloom is off the rose.

Often, when we are starting out in our 20’s, we choose a career path based on factors that are no longer relevant to us in our 50’s. Things like our parents’ expectations, a fast paced exciting lifestyle or the lure of making a lot of money can all be motivating factors in our 20’s.

But in our 50’s, those have given way to other priorities. Things like the desire to spend more time with family and friends, a slower paced less stressful lifestyle, the need to care for a sick spouse or elderly parents can all contribute to wanting a career change in your 50’s.

Just like any big life changing event, changing careers is scary. The good news is that just like most things we are scared of, the fear is mostly in our own head.

Understanding how to go about a career change at 50 and what you can expect should help reduce the anxiety and fear of the unknown.

What are Your Goals for a Career Change?

As in any endeavor, having properly defined goals will help you to determine the best path to take.

What are you looking for in a new career? Choosing a slower less stressful position that gives you more time with family and friends may sound ideal, but you’ll often find that you’re giving up some income and job satisfaction in the process.

Conversely, if your goal is to quit a job that is sucking the life from your soul to pursue a lifelong passion. You might be trading quality time with family and friends for job satisfaction.

Neither decision is wrong or bad, you just need to be aware of the potential pitfalls of any decision you make.

Types of Career Changes at 50+

There are four main types of career changes that people make in their 50’s. Each type has it’s unique set of challenges and will very in the degree of preparation required to make the change.

Industry Career Change

In this career change, a person remains in the same field but switches industries.

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With an industry change, a person takes their set of skills and applies them to an industry that they have no previous experience in.

An example would be a salesperson in the oil and gas industry becoming a salesperson for a media (advertising) company. They are taking their skill set (selling) and applying it to a different industry (media).

This type of career change is best accomplished by doing a lot of homework on the industry you want to get into as well as networking within the industry.

Functional Career Change

A functional career change would be a change of careers within the same industry.

For example, an accountant at a pharmaceutical company who changes careers to become a human resources manager. It may or may not be with the same company, but they remain within the pharmaceutical industry. In this case, they are leaving one set of skills behind (accounting) to develop a new set (human resource) within the same industry.

In a functional career change, new or additional training as well as certifications may be required in order to make the switch. If you are considering a functional career change, you can start by getting any training or certifications needed either online, through trade associations or at your local community college.

Double Career Change

This is the most challenging career change of all. A person doing a double career change is switching both a career and an industry.

An example of a double change would be an airline pilot quitting to pursue their dream of producing rock music. In that case, they are leaving both the aviation industry and a specific skill set (piloting) for a completely unrelated industry and career.

When considering a double career change, start preparing by getting any needed training or certifications first. Then you can get your foot in the door by taking an apprenticeship or part time job.

With a double change, it’s not uncommon to have to start out at the bottom as you are asking an employer to take a chance on someone without any experience or work history in the industry.

Entrepreneurial Career Change

Probably one of the most common career changes made by people in their 50’s is the entrepreneurial career change.

After 20 to 30 years of working for “Corporate America”, a lot of people become disillusioned with the monotony, politics and inefficiency of the corporate world. Many of us dream of having our own business and being our own boss.

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By this time in our life, we have saved some money and the financial pressures we had with young children have passed; so it’s a perfect time to spread our entrepreneurial wings.

Entrepreneurial career changes can be within the same industry and using your existing knowledge and contacts to start a similar business competing within the same industry. Or it can be completely unrelated to your former industry and based on personal interests, passions or hobbies.

A good example would be someone who played golf as a hobby starting an affiliate marketing website selling golf clubs. If you are considering an entrepreneurial career change, there are a lot of very good free resources available on the internet. Just be sure to do your homework.

Practical Tips on Making a Career Change at 50+

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and make a career switch in your 50’s. No matter what your reasons or what type of a career change you are embarking on, here are some helpful hints to make the transition easier:

1. Deal with the Fear

As stated earlier, any big life change comes with both fear and anxiety. Things never seem to go as smoothly as planned, you will always have bumps and roadblocks along the way. By recognizing this and even planning for it, you are less likely to let these issues derail your progress.

If you find yourself becoming discouraged by all of the stumbling blocks, there are always resources to help. Contacting a career coach is a good place to start, they can help you with an overall strategy for your career change as well as the interview and hiring process, resume writing / updating and more. Just Google “Career Coach” for your options.

I also recommend using the services of a professional counselor or therapist to help deal with the stress and anxiety of this major life event.

It’s always good to have an unbiased third party to help you work through the problems that inevitably arise.

2. Know Your “Why”

It’s important that you have a clear understanding of the “why” you are making this career change. Is it to have more free time, reduce stress, follow a passion or be your own boss?

Having a clear understanding of you personal “why” will influence every decision in this process. Knowing your “why” and keeping it in mind also serves as a motivator to help you reach your goals.

3. Be Realistic

Take an inventory of both your strengths and weaknesses. Are your organizational skills less than stellar? Then, becoming a wedding planner is probably not a good idea.

This is an area where having honest outside input can be really helpful. Most of us are not very good at accurately assessing our abilities. It’s a universal human trait to exaggerate our abilities while diminishing our weaknesses.

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Requesting honest feedback from friends and co-workers is a good place to start, but this is another area where a career coach can come in handy.

4. Consider an Ad-Vocation

Sometimes, making a career change all at once is just too big of a change. Issues like a severely reduced income, geography and lack of benefits can all be impediments to your career change. In those cases, you may want to start your new career as an ad-vocation.

An ad-vocation is a second or ad-on vocation in addition to your primary vocation. Things like a part-time job, consulting or even a side business can all be ad-vocations.

The benefit of having an ad-vocation is being able to build experience a reputation and contacts in the new field while maintaining all the benefits of your current job.

5. Update Your Skills

Whether it means acquiring new certifications or going back to school to get your cosmetology licence, having the right training is the foundation for a successful career change.

The great thing about changing careers now is that almost any training or certifications needed can be free or at very little cost online. Check with trade associations, industry websites and discussion groups for any requirements you may need.

Learn How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive.

6. Start Re-Branding Yourself Now

Use the internet and social media to change the way you present yourself online.

Changing your LinkedIn profile is a good way to show prospective employers that you are serious about a career change.

Joining Facebook groups, trade associations and discussion boards as well as attending conventions is a great way to start building a network while you learn.

Here’re some Personal Branding Basics You Need to Know for Career Success.

7. Overhaul Your Resume

Most of us have heard the advice to update our resume every six months, and most of us promptly ignore that advice and only update our resume when we need it.

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When making a career change, updating is not enough; this calls for a complete overhaul of your resume. Chances are that your current resume was designed around your old career which may or may not apply to your new goals.

Crafting a new resume emphasizing your strengths for the new position your looking for is key. There are many places that will help you craft a resume online and it is a service included with most career coaching services.

8. Know Your Timeline

There are a lot of factors when it comes to how long it will take to make the career change.

Industry and Functional career changes tend to be the easiest to do and therefore can be accomplished in the shortest period of time. While the Double Career Change and the Entrepreneurial Career Change both require more effort and thus time.

There are also personal factors involved in the time it will take to switch careers.

Generally speaking the more you are willing to be flexible with both compensation and geography, the shorter time it will take to make the switch.

Final Thoughts

Changing careers at anytime can be stressful, but for those of us who are 50 or above, it can seem to be an overwhelming task fraught with pitfalls and self doubt.

Prospective employers know the benefits that come with more mature employees. Things like a wealth of experience, a proven work history and deeper understanding of corporate culture are all things that older workers bring to the table.

And while the younger generation may possess better computer or technical skills than us, if you’re willing to learn, there are a ton of free or nearly free resources available to you.

Deciding on a career change at 50 is a great way to experience life on your own terms.

More Tips for Career Change

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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