In recent years, job interviewers have looked to get away from questions for which candidates tend to give stock answers; questions like, “What is your greatest weakness?”
Instead, interviewers are using ‘behavioral’ interview questions that put an applicant in a hypothetical job situation or a situation from their past and ask them how they would, or did, respond. In addition to mixing up the interview, these questions are designed to get a sense of how a candidate might behave if they were to be hired by the company.
When answering behavioral interview questions, it’s important that you don’t give a one-word or one-sentence answer. You need to go in-depth and talk about how you would handle a particular situation based on your skills and experience.
The following list of behavioral questions and responses should show how and why you need to expand on your answers.
“Tell me how you handled the last big mistake you made.”
There are two traps you can fall into when responding to this kind of question. First, you can play it too conservatively and talk about how you easily fixed a very minor mistake you made. Second, you could go the other way and mention how you made a massive mistake that caused major harm or damage.
Ideally, you should pick a common, but significant, mistake that you handled by using skills and experience the employer is seeking. For instance, you might talk about how you used your customer service and negotiation skills to smooth over missing a deadline with a client.
“What is the hardest decision you made in the past year?”
The point of this question is to assess a candidate’s reasoning skills, problem-solving abilities, judgment, and even desire to take risks.
A bad response is to give a “weak tea” response. Everybody makes hard decisions at work that are stressful and difficult. For instance, restaurant servers often have to decide if they can handle an upset customer themselves or if they need to bring the situation to their supervisor.
A good response provides details on a decision-making process. For instance, a tough decision might involve research on a challenging issue. A great response includes all sides of a problem, not only the personal side, but the business side as well.
“What happened the last time you had to challenge your boss?”
Companies want to hire honest, forthcoming people and this question is meant to determine if a candidate knows how to be honest in the face of potential negative consequences.
It isn’t a good idea to say you have never challenged your boss. Instead, you should talk about the important reasons why you felt you needed to challenge your boss, such as a major safety concern or decision based on faulty data.
As with the two sample questions above, it’s important to be honest here, but not brutally, uncomfortably honest. It’s also important to showcase your knowledge of professional issues that informed your actions.
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