How To Answer Behavioral Interview Questions

Every time you walk into an interview room, you want it to be your last. You want to emerge the best and hopefully be the most outstanding candidate. You want to have the deliverables that the interviewer is looking for. The question is…. how do I assure the interviewer that I am the best fit for the role?

More often than not, the interviewers will ask similar questions especially if you are looking to start on a specific area of your career. The more interviews you attend, the more exposed you are. You get the opportunity to learn what the industry requires of you as a professional in your career and what every recruiter is looking for.

There are different types of interviews that can be conducted. One should keep in mind that the interview is an opportunity to sell their skills, knowledge and attitude as the best product. It is an opportunity to show that you are what employer has been looking for. One important type of interview is the behavioral interview. These types of interviews are structured in a way to understand the behavior exuded in a particular real work situation.

Behavioral interviews using the S.T.A.R method analyze the Situation, Task, Action and Results. Below is a breakdown of the STAR method.
• Situation – One is required by the interviewer to describe a situation that they experienced either during their previous role in a different organization, a project that they handled or a crises that they may have faced. It is important for the candidate to be brief and to the point. Husain Jabir, HR Director Al Barari Dubai, points out that a candidate should answer the when, what and who questions even on their CVs. This gives the required information on the situation one has experienced.
The interviewer uses this type of questions to understand the behavior of the candidate and how similar it is to the working environment the candidate would be exposed to while working for them.

• Task - The tasks describes the challenge or job one was expected to perform. For example, developing a system to monitor progress of a particular project. The task describes the challenge that the candidate faced in their work situation or in a given project. During an interview, the recruiter is keen to understand how the tasks the candidate performed match those of their organization’s objective and what the job holder is expected to do in the role that is to be filled. More often than not the situation and task are described together in one category. The candidate should clarify what he/ she had to do.

• Action- This describes how the candidate accomplished the task. The candidate is expected to give clear details including the steps that they took to accomplish a given task. This enables the recruiter to determine the technical ability of the candidate and how proactive they are in their approach to work. Candidates are encouraged to use action words like managed a team of 20, resolved a disciplinary matter, led the sales team and was able to meet the sales target of Ksh 300,000 etc.

• Results- These are the goals that were achieved from the action undertaken. Employers are interested in the end results. The results are the impact of the actions taken. Most candidates are keen to state the positive results as opposed to the negative results. The positive results enable the candidate increase the chances of success. Giving positive results increase the chances of succeeding in the interview.

Employers have mastered the skill of asking behavioral questions using the STAR method. This approach is used in screening candidates that can deliver and those that are proactive in their work. They ask questions like;
1. Tell us about how you managed to reduce the number of complaints in your customer care department.
2. Describe a situation when you had many projects due at the same time. What steps did you take to get them all done?
3. What problems did you encounter during the project you worked for and how did you resolve them?
4. How did you improve the performance of your training department?
5. Tell us about a time when you were particularly effective on prioritizing tasks and completing a project on schedule.

Candidates should prepare for interviews by ensuring that they practice answering behavioral questions by giving relevant information in brief. Short descriptions of the behavior adopted during a situation are also helpful. Giving too much information or rambling may lead to unnecessary details. One should therefore give short answers that are precise. Giving names of the projects, the time taken to accomplish or complete projects and the outcome of the projects are helpful in the success of the interview process.

Question: Explain a project you handled and portrayed leadership skills.

Answer: Situation and Task- Our team was assigned to deliver a project on improving communication within the company. The reason why this project was carried out was to improve communication within the group companies for both the management and the staff members. For example communication on upcoming events in the company or in the local community that required high participation of group companies.
Action-The team decided to do the assignment in different ways such as having opinion polls open for a few days within the group companies for feedback from the staff members. They also used questionnaires to gather as much information within the time frame given. As the Project coordinator, I liaised with the technical team in the group companies and they were able to create an online live platform as well as an application for the companies. For the Project to be successful I also created a Business case that fully justified the project and the team was able to attract a few sponsors that became the major stakeholder for the project.
Results-The project took six months to be completed and even though there were risks involved such as unavailability of some technical experts the project was worthwhile. The group company’s communication platform has greatly improved. Reason because the staff members are more aware and involved of events happening as well as improved relationships with the management.

Maryann Kiburi

Maryann Kiburi is a quality-driven Administrative and Human Resource professional with qualifications and experience in Business Management/ Human Resource Management.

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