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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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Published on August 4, 2020

36 Important Resume Skills (For All Types of Jobs)

36 Important Resume Skills (For All Types of Jobs)

Most jobs require specialized skills. At the same time, there are a lot of resume skills that apply across the board.

If you’re on the hunt for a new job, give your resume a refresh. Employers want to know: Can you communicate effectively? Are you easy to get along with? Can you manage your time effectively?

Remember, you may not get a second look. Use your resume to make a great first impression.

Holistic ability is what employers want to see when hiring. These resume skills can make you a top pick regardless of what role you’re applying for.

Communication

Being properly understood is critical. On any team, you must be able to relay and interpret messages with speed and precision. How you describe yourself, the concision of your phrasings, and the layout of your resume are great ways to showcase these skills.

1. Writing

Whether it’s emails or official documents, writing skills are essential for candidates in any industry. Clear, concise phrasings minimize misunderstandings and save the recipient time. This is probably one of the most important resume skills.

2. Verbal Communication

Speaking clearly and eloquently is one of the first things a hiring manager will note in an interview. Communicating over the phone is commonplace in business. Outline this skill on your resume, and they’ll invite you in to listen for themselves. This is easily one of the most important resume skills in most industries.

3. Presentation

Sales pitches and company meetings may include presentations, which require special communication skills. Being able to spearhead and properly carry out a presentation shows organization and resolve.

4. Multilingualism

Knowing more than one language can open doors for you and the business you represent.[1] Being able to speak another language allows your company to serve a whole new demographic.

5. Reading Comprehension

At any job, employee handbooks, company newsletters, and emails will come your way. Being able to decipher them quickly and effectively is an important resume skill. This goes hand in hand with having excellent writing skills.

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Tech Savvy

Technology is evolving rapidly, especially in the business world. Be sure to mention the technologies you’re familiar with on your resume, even if you don’t expect to use them daily.

6. Social Media

Almost everyone has some form of social media these days. Companies use platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook to reach new audiences, provide customer service, and build brand loyalty.

7. Operating Systems

Can you use a Mac? What about a PC? Most jobs today require the use of a computer. Prior experience navigating common operating systems will help you acclimate much more quickly. This has become an important resume skill ever since the start of the information age.

8. Microsoft Office

Of all the software in the world, Microsoft’s Office suite might be the most popular. Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Outlook are widely used in the business world. Having this as part of your resume skills is very helpful especially in certain industries.

9. Job-Specific Programs

Did you get the hang of HubSpot in your last role? Is Slack something you’ve mastered? Be sure to mention them on your list of resume skills. These demonstrate that you can pick up new tools quickly.

Interpersonal Skills

Despite the rise in technology, businesses are run by people. Working with and for people means you need to be able to handle yourself with poise in different social settings. Highlight roles and situations on your resume that involved tricky conversations.

10. Customer Service

No company can succeed without its customers. Being able to treat customers with respect and attention is an absolute must for any applicant. Specific industries regard this as the most important resume skill their prospective employees should have.

11. Active Listening

Listening is an underrated skill, especially for leaders.[2] If you can’t listen to other people, you’ll struggle to work as part of a team.

12. Sense of Humor

You might wonder why having a sense of humor is a part of your resume skills. Humor is important for building rapport, but getting it right in the workplace can be tough. Everyone loves someone who is entertaining and can lighten the mood. On the other hand, people are turned off by immaturity and inappropriate jokes.

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13. Conflict Resolution

A customer stomps up to your desk and starts yelling about a problem he or she is having – how do you handle this situation? The right approach is to work to resolve the situation, not to escalate or avoid it.

Teamwork

One of the best parts of any job is the bonds you build with your co-workers. Fostering healthy relationships can make the workspace more enjoyable for everyone.

14. Collaboration

Whatever your line of work, chances are good that you’ll be working with others. Being able to collaborate effectively with them is critical if the whole team is to hit its goals. You can use various apps and tools available to help you collaborate with your team.

15. Leadership

Even if the title of the job you’re applying to isn’t “manager” or “executive,” there will still be moments when it’s your turn to lead. Prove that you’re up to the challenge, and you’ll be looked at as a long-term asset. Listing this as one of your resume skills is certainly an eye-catcher for most.

16. Reliability

Work isn’t always easy or fun. You have to be willing to pull your weight, even when times are hard. Otherwise, your co-workers won’t feel as if they can count on you. Reliability is important in maintaining the cohesion of a team. You should let people know that they can rely on you.

17. Transparency

To work as a team, members must be willing to share information with each other. Are you willing to own up to your mistakes, share your challenges, and accept consequences like an adult? Let them know that you’re transparent and reliable.

Personal Traits

Your resume is about selling yourself, not just your education and work history. The good news is, your “soft” skills are a great opportunity to differentiate yourself. Use bullets beneath your past experiences to prove you have them.

18. Adaptability

In any role, you’ll need to adjust to new procedures, rules, and work environments. Remember, these are always subject to change. Being able to adapt ensures every transition goes smoothly.

19. Proactivity

An autonomous employee can get work done without being instructed every step of the way. Orientation is one thing; taking on challenges of your own accord is another. Being proactive is an essential resume skill, especially if you’re eyeing for managerial roles in the future.

20. Problem-Solving

When problems arise, can you come up with appropriate solutions? Being able to address your own problems makes your manager’s life easier and minimizes micro-management. Problem-solving is an important yet often overlooked resume skill.

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21. Creativity

Can you think outside of the box? Even roles that aren’t “creative,” strictly speaking, require creative thinking. Creativity also helps in your ability to solve problems.

22. Organization

Staying organized makes you more efficient and reduces the risk of mistakes. Organization skills make life easier not just for you, but also for other members of your team. This makes it an important skill to put in your list of resume skills.

23. Work Ethic

Every company wants hard workers on its team. You’re applying for employment after all, not a place to lounge around. Putting this on your list of resume skills is just as important as actually exhibiting it in the workplace once you’re hired.

24. Stress Management

How well do you work under stress? If you’ll be required to meet tight deadlines, you’ll have to prove you can handle the heat.

25. Attention Management

Whether you’re developing a partnership or writing a blog post, attention to detail makes all the difference. People who sweat the details do better work and tend to spot problems before they arise. Use Maura Thomas’s 4 Quadrants of Attention Management as a guide to managing attention.[3]

26. Time Management

Time is money. The better you are at using company time, the more valuable you’ll be. Show that you can make every second count. Managing your time also means being punctual. No employer wants to deal with a team member who’s constantly tardy. This is commonly included in most people’s resume skills, but not everyone lives up to it.

27. Patience

Things won’t always go your way. Can you calmly work through tough situations? If not, you’ll struggle with everything from sales to customer service to engineering.

28. Gratitude

When things do go your way, are you gracious? Simply being grateful can help you build real relationships.[4] This also helps foster a better team atmosphere.

29. Learning

Employers want to invest in people who are looking to grow. Whether you love to take online courses, read, or experiment with hobbies, make sure you show you’re willing to try new things.

30. Physical Capability

Many job postings have the classic line, “must be able to lift X amount of pounds” or “must be able to stand for X hours per day.” Play up past positions that required you to do physical labor.

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31. Research

How easily can you dig up new details about a concept? Research skills are critical for marketing, business analysis, writing, account management, and more.

32. Money Handling

Being able to count bills quickly and accurately is important at any company with a brick-and-mortar storefront. Integrity and honesty are key when you’re running the cash register or reconciling bank statements.

Commitment

To employers, every new hire represents an investment. Are you worth investing in? Prove it. Employers need to see signs of commitment before they bring you on board.

33. Longevity

Hiring managers love to see long tenures on your resume. This suggests that you’re in it for the long haul, not just passing through for a quick buck.

34. Fidelity

For an employer-employee relationship to work, there has to be trust. Employers tend to find out when someone is hiding side gig or sharing information they shouldn’t be. References from past employers can prove that you’re loyal to companies that hire you.

35. Obedience

You won’t agree with every choice your employer makes. With that said, you have to respect your role as an employee. Obedience is about doing what your leader decides is best, even if you have a different perspective.

36. Flexibility

Life is full of surprises. A month into your new job, your role could change entirely. Flexible people can roll with the punches.

Final Words

Perform a self-audit: Which of these skills will your potential employer want to see? Add them to your resume strategically, and you’ll be that much closer to your dream job.

Tips on How to Create a Great Resume

Featured photo credit: Van Tay Media via unsplash.com

Reference

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