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Behavioral Interviewing, how to answer an interview question

behavioral interviewing answers

Behavioral Interviewing, specific examples of prior behavior

Behavioral Interviewing:

Most recruiters are conducting the interview on the premise that prior behavior is an indication of future behavior. This technique is referred to as Behavioral Interviewing. It is important to answer any question that you may encounter with not just the affirmation that you are capable of doing the job, but give a specific EXAMPLE of where you demonstrated the inquired behavior. Just saying “I increased sales is not an example”. Explaining at a high level the 3 or 4 steps included in your sales process and then explaining how you applied these steps to a specific client by name is an example. A good recruiter will ask you a question and if you don’t take the hint and give an example, will keep on prodding you for the example, with the mentality that most people don’t know any better. As I mentioned in prior blog posts, the recruiter is looking for examples that they can give to the hiring manager so they can “sell you”.  Help them help you.  If you are not prompted for an example it doesn’t mean one was required, but there are very few questions that can NOT be answered with an example.

Example Interview Questions

Do you handle stress well?

  • Bad answer: “Yes, I handle stress well.”
  • The better answer, but not acceptable: “Yes, I handle stress well. You know the reputation of the company I worked for and the industry.  I am confident that I survived 4 rounds of layoffs because of my ability to handle pressure.”
  • Better Answer: “Yes, I believe I handle stress well. I believe that the true colors of a person come out under pressure. This last quarter, we had a scheduled rollout. 2 weeks before the rollout, we discovered a pretty major bug, and the client asked for a revision.  1 week before the rollout, 2 of our Sr. Dev’s quit. Believe me, this was a very stressful time!” “In each instance, even though I wasn’t the sr. person, I called a meeting with all the Dev’s, Biz Dev folks, Project and Product managers and posted a timeline on a whiteboard. Working backward, we broke out what each unit needed to do to get the project done on time. We also came up with a plan such that 1 week before the deadline, if it looked like we wouldn’t make it, we would have the Biz Dev guys go to the client. This was only discussed with the Biz Dev guys. We didn’t want the rest of the teams to think there was an out.” “I then went to each team individually to make sure they understood their needs and made sure they had access to the resources.  When the Dev’s quit, because we just went through the routine a week earlier, everyone knew what to expect. We were able to roll out on schedule after some all-night sessions.” “To answer your question, yes, I believe I handle stress well.”

This answer shows you are proactive, willing to sacrifice, and maybe you mediated an argument in there.

Tell me about a time when you mentored someone:

  • Bad Answer: “I was a mentor in our company mentor program last year.  It was a great experience.”
  • Decent answer, but not acceptable: “I haven’t been in a formal mentor program, but I have taken it upon myself to watch out for the last two new hires we brought into our department at my last position. When I came into the department, no one really watched out for me, so I figured, I should watch out for folks and make their entry easier.”
  • Better Answer: “I haven’t been in a formal mentor program, but I have taken it upon myself to take the last two new hires that were brought into our department under my wing.  When I came into the department, no one really watched out for me, and I saw an opportunity to improve the onboarding process. “When the last new hire came on board, I made it a point to take them to coffee on their first day and just introduce myself. Give them some ideas about the culture and what it took to succeed in my opinion within the company. I made sure to introduce Johnny to other folks on the team and made it a point to meet with him twice a week for just a few minutes to make sure he had an opportunity to ask questions. One thing that I am proud of is that when John did make a mistake, he came to me to ask for some advice.  We were able to talk about the process, get the problem fixed, and actually improved the process in the way.”

The above answer is a behavioral interviewing “example” and demonstrates not only what the recruiter is asking for, but you can weave in much more detail into your answer. When I sit down with folks and go over interview questions to practice, I always make it a point to say “Examples, Examples, Examples!”  Recruiters are looking for Behavioral Interviewing examples!  Most people can cite examples, but they forget to go into detail and this is what is going to separate you from the next candidate.

I can’t stress enough how important the specific answer is. Practice with someone and ask them to listen for your examples. I have yet to meet anyone that can be asked 10 questions and give 10 examples, so if you feel like you have this handled, ask a friend to practice interviewing you. I dare you!

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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