Interview Type: Behavioral and Situational

Often, behavioral questions are used to assess skills required by the position, such as time management, teamwork, initiative, organizational and communication skills. You should approach and answer those questions by using the S-T-A-R method described above. Here are some examples and pieces of advice for you to consider.

Example: Tell me about a time you had to work under pressure.

S Situation On my last co-op I was asked to help organize the logistics of a 250 person fundraising event. But two weeks before event, my co-coordinator left for a new job.
T Task My part was to secure some of the vendors for the event specifically 2 bands, a catering service, a photographer.
A Action I used all of my resources (LinkedIn and Facebook connections) as well as just basic google searches to find several options for each category.
R Result As a result, I was able to book two very different but talented bands and found a service that contracted with freelance caterers and photographers. Overall the event was a big hit. We raised $2,500. I am grateful to have had an independent role in the planning process.

Example: Give me an example of a time you used creativity to solve a problem.

S Situation When I worked as a camp counselor last summer, there was one day that it was raining very heavily so that 150 6-11 year old boys had to spend the day in the recreation hall.
T Task I was the most senior counselor at the time with 4 junior counselors and 3 CITs. We knew we had to keep the boys active the entire day.
A Action All of the counselors were allowed to have their cell phones just in case so I quickly used my phone to do a google search for STEM classroom challenges. I was surprised to find so many but the other counselors and I divided the group into 4 groups so that each group had 2 counselors. The supplies were easy to find so we were able to do many of the challenges.
R Result Not only did it turn out to be a really fun day but I now have a number of activities I can use for team building and other ice breakers (and I learned some STEM principles along the way).

Additional Examples

You might think that leadership questions are only relevant for management positions, but that’s a common misconception. Most companies are looking for people with leadership potential even when hiring for entry-level positions. So, it is recommended that every job seeker prepare at least one example of a leadership experience and get comfortable speaking about it in an interview situation. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an on-the-job leadership role. Recent grads can speak about leadership experience gained through volunteering, hobbies, clubs, and academic projects.

For this question, that would be whatever project you were working on that you missed the deadline for. Be as specific as you can in laying out what you were facing. Next, mention the goal is you were striving for and refer to the actions you took during this process. Describe why the deadline was missed. The result portion of the S-T-A-R method for this question will be you discussing how you were reprimanded and what you learned. If you learned a skill that you successfully implemented at a later date that would be a great thing to bring up.

In addition:

  • Do not pick too huge of a deadline you missed;
  • Do not blame others;
  • Avoid saying you have never missed a deadline.

Everyone disagrees with the boss from time to time, but in asking this interview question, hiring managers want to know that you can do so in a productive, professional way. “You don’t want to tell the story about the time when you disagreed but your boss was being a jerk and you just gave in to keep the peace. And you don’t want to tell the one where you realized you were wrong,” says Peggy McKee of Career Confidential. “Tell the one where your actions made a positive difference on the outcome of the situation, whether it was a work-related outcome or a more effective and productive working relationship.”

In asking this interview question, “your interviewer wants to get a sense of how you will respond to conflict. Anyone can seem nice and pleasant in a job interview, but what will happen if you’re hired and Gladys in Compliance starts getting in your face?” says Skillings. Again, you’ll want to use the S-T-A-R method, being sure to focus on how you handled the situation professionally and productively, and ideally closing with a happy ending, like how you came to a resolution or compromise.

“Choose an answer that shows that you can meet a stressful situation head-on in a productive, positive manner and let nothing stop you from accomplishing your goals,” says McKee. A great approach is to talk through your go-to stress-reduction tactics (making the world’s greatest to-do list, stopping to take 10 deep breaths), and then share an example of a stressful situation you navigated with ease.

Situational Interviews

This type of interviews are similar to behavioral interview questions – but they are focused on the future, and ask hypothetical questions, whereas behavioral interview questions look at the past.

The advantage is that employers can put all candidates in the same hypothetical situations, and compare their answers.

Situational Interview Questions

  • What would you do if you made a strong recommendation in a meeting, but your colleagues decided against it?
  • How would you handle it if your team resisted a new idea or policy you introduced?
  • How would you handle it if the priorities for a project you were working on were suddenly changed?
  • What would you do if the work of an employee you managed didn’t meet expectations?
  • What would you do if an important task was not up to standard, but the deadline to complete it had passed?

Adapted from betterteam.com.