Understanding the Behavioral Interview

Understanding the Behavioral Interview

Almost all large companies now employ what is called Behavioral Interviewing (aka Structured Interviewing), which is a specifically geared question requiring a behaviorally-based answer.  What that means, is that employers want you to answer a pointed question such as ‘Tell me about a time when…’ with an answer that is based on the actions you took – or what you actually did in a given situation.  The answer is based on what is called the STAR method – which requires your answer to have the following 3 components in your response where you must state:

ST –What is the SITUATION you were in and the TASK you were doing.

You explain where you were and what you were doing when the event took place:  An example:

“I was at a convenience store as a new manager working behind the counter when I observed two of my employees starting to argue in the store aisle”.

This type of answer lets you set the stage for the people doing the interview so they can clearly picture where you were – what your duties were and where the issue took place.

A – What ACTION did you take to resolve the situation?

What did you do to address what was happening? Focusing on the steps taken to help fix what had gone wrong is the key they are looking for to see if you are an effective problem solver and at what level you approach conflict.  A sample answer would be:

“I approached the two employees and asked them what they were arguing about – they stated they both thought they were in charge of stocking the same isle with snacks.  I looked at the assignment roster and discovered one of them was actually in charge of the freezer section and clarified their duties.  I thanked them both for their hard work and asked them to check in with me every morning first to assign duties”.

This is an example of a misunderstanding cleared up, shows employee respect and proactive interaction when handling the situation.  It essentially provides a concrete resolution to the conflict.

R – What RESULT occurred from your actions?

The result is important because it shows that your solution was effective and had not only short reaching consequences but was a chance to create a positive and extended outcome for all involved.  A sample result is:

“The result of this altercation was that not only was the conflict solved, but the employees were able to feel they could come to me with their issues – I was approachable as a manager and we developed a better rapport and team environment with clear job descriptions”.

This shows not only a short term solution was effected but also a long term positive benefit for team cohesion was derived.

The type of questions asked by an employer are open-ended and broad-reaching. The interviewee can take a real-life work situation from their own experience and apply it as any answer. When you draw a blank and cannot think of a work-related situation, answers can also come from to volunteering, community interactions and real-life experiences. Always answer all questions as skipping one could lead to not making the cut.

It is helpful to think of some work/life situation and review your resume before the interview to have some examples ready on topics like teamwork, conflict resolution, correcting mistakes, goal setting and problem-solving.   Always answer in the FIRST person using ‘I’, taking responsibility for your own actions – and never answer with ‘WE’ as it takes credit for someone else’s work.  Stay calm and keep positive. Smile and try to enjoy talking with your prospective new employers as an upbeat attitude makes the interview a great experience for both sides.