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Deborah Walker

Do Behavior Interviews Make You Sweat?

Three easy steps help you succeed.

November 15, 2007
by Deborah Walker, CCMC

Behavioral interviews often make candidates sweat with anxiety. But, with the right interview preparation, you can turn any nightmare behavioral question into an opportunity to sell yourself. Before your next interview, learn the following three steps to perfecting your behavioral interview responses.

Some of the most challenging interview questions are found in behavioral interviews. These interviews are designed to test your abilities in three ways:

  1. Determining how well you work under pressure
  2. Finding out how well you work with others
  3. Establishing whether you can resolve conflicts

Behavioral interviews can be disastrous if you don't know how to prepare for them. And you really do need to be prepared.

Sample Interview Questions

For many employers, it is critical that their staff be able to think clearly, act quickly and stay calm in a fast-moving, ever changing work environment. Employers want to know how much stress you can take before you crack. An employee with low tolerance for stress may increase the workload for others while destroying team spirit among colleagues — a one-two punch that employers definitely want to avoid.

To test your stress-coping skills you may get a question like:

“Tell me about the most stressful situation you’ve encountered in your current position.”

Additionally, employers want to hire people who are cooperative, easy to work with and willing to respect leadership. An organization that runs like a team is a more productive, efficient workplace. Increased employee synergy also leads to low employee turnover.

To find out how well you work with others you might be asked:

“Tell me about a time when you strongly disagreed with your team?”
“Tell me about a time when you thought your boss was wrong? How did you handle it?”

Finally, employers want staff members who can resolve conflicts to gain win-win results for all concerned. When employees cannot resolve difficulties with internal or external customers, the result is stifled operational growth and depleted sales. The company’s bottom-line objectives are at stake, so employers really want to be sure they’ve made the right hiring choice.

To discover your conflict-resolution skills you might be asked:

“Tell me about a time when you had difficulty resolving a customer conflict?”

Once you understand the motivation behind such questions, you can begin mapping out a strategy for interview preparation.

How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

There are three steps to preparing for a behavioral interview:

  1. Notice that behavioral questions ask you about specific events, so take inventory of the stressful or difficult situations you've encountered at work. Think back to times when you didn't agree with your boss, or when your peers drove you crazy or when customers made unrealistic demands.
  2. If the workplace doesn't provide much to choose from, expand your thought process to include other circumstances where you work or must cooperate with others, like community activities, neighborhood associations, or church functions. For instance, planning a school fundraiser, participating on a neighborhood committee or participating on a professional association board. Any of these situations are ripe with opportunities for conflict and cooperation, where something must be accomplished for the betterment of the group.
  3. Once you've thought of several situations, plan how you will present them in a positive light. For situations you didn't handle well (like your boss yelled at you and you ran off crying) present them in terms of what you learned, like this:

    “Yes, I learned an important lesson about following directions and asking questions for clarification when ... ”

For situations that did turn out well, present them based on what was accomplished, like this:

“Yes, I had to deal with a really angry customer just last week. But when I calmly asked a few questions I was able to get to the heart of her issue. I was able to fix the problem and she was happy with us again.”

With the right interview preparation, you can turn nightmare behavioral questions into opportunities to sell yourself. You’ll be seen as an employee who is able to stay calm under pressure, who works well with others to advance corporate goals and who contributes to, customer retention and revenue growth. In other words, the type of person all employers would want to hire.

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Deborah Walker, Interview Coach, offers an individualized approach to interview strategies. Her background as former executive recruiter and veteran career management coach provides an insider’s perspective on the toughest interview challenges. Visit Deb on the Web at http://www.AlphaAdvantage.com.