What are your weaknesses? Tell me about a time when you had to adapt to a difficult situation. Have you ever had a job interview and been asked questions like these?

Allow me to introduce you to behavioral interview questions. These seemingly innocuous questions were created, in essence, for an employer to get insight into your thought process. These questions assess your soft skills, as opposed to technical skills. They are structured open-endedly to probe a truthful, behavior-based response.

Behavioral interview questions can cover a wide array of topics, such as adaptability, ambition, analytical thinking, building relationships, and whether you’re “big picture” or detail-oriented. Your goal is to cruise through these questions without giving an employer any concerns or raising any red flags.

So is there an art to behavioral interview questions and answers?

Generally, the employers have determined ahead of time the behaviors or soft skills are needed to succeed in the role. Working with a recruiter is advantageous because they can share what those core competences are. If you’re not working with a recruiter, there are still things you can do to prepare. First, if there’s a job description, make sure to reread it and look for behavior-based qualifications listed, e.g. “can-do attitude” or “self-motivated.” Think of situations you’ve been in or qualities you possess around those topics that strengthen your candidacy.

Secondly, every behavioral interview question is a leading question; each one contains an obvious hint as to the answer they’re looking for. For example, “tell me about a conflict with a coworker and how you resolved it” is a common question. The hint here is “how you resolved it.” Don’t start sharing a conflict that you weren’t able to resolve.

Also, no matter how nice or friendly the question may be phrased, always be on guard.

A common trip up question is: “What are your weaknesses?” A good answer would be: “I have a hard time saying ‘no,’” then back up your response with why this is not in fact a weakness. You could say, for example, that despite having a hard time saying ‘no’, you take a lot of pride in your work and have learned that it is not possible to deliver your best if you’re over-committed. Show how you’re learning to “deal” with this weakness by offering a solution. (I usually say I’m learning to delegate when I’m over-committed.)

Armed with these tips for behavioral based interview questions, I’m sure you will cruise through!

What are some questions like these that you’ve been asked? I would love to hear the good and bad answers you’ve given in response!


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