A good deal of the job interview time is dedicated to the employer formulating an assessment of your personality. They want to get a feel for your workstyle, communication skills, and professionalism.
Employers generally already assume that you have the work experience and ability to do the job. If your resume hadn’t given them that impression, they wouldn’t be interviewing you in the first place.
So, the key takeaway interviewers are looking for is if you will be a good fit with the team.
One of the techniques employers use to determine this is to ask behavioural questions. Unlike questions about your precise skills or work experience, these are questions about how you behaved – or would be behave- in a given situation.
The most convincing, authentic-sounding answers to these questions will be the ones that tell specific stories. Any candidate can offer a generic response that they think the employer wants to hear. Memorable candidates will offer concrete examples.
In order to nail potential behavioural questions and stand out from rival candidates for the interviewer, have four stories ready to go. While the exact wordings of the questions might change, these are the most common responses employers will be looking for.
A workplace achievement. You may be asked what your biggest accomplishment has been, or what you are most proud of in your career. So, have an example prepared about what you achieved on the job, how you did it, and why it is important to you. Make sure this story is relevant to the nature of the job you are applying for. Don’t be boastful about it, but don’t be shy either. After all, they asked.
A challenge you overcame. Very often, employers will want to know about a time you encountered a setback or unforeseen difficulty at work and how you managed to surmount it. People don’t like to talk about negative experiences in interviews when they are trying to impress an employer. That’s why it is important to have an answer for this one prepared in advance. This is a good opportunity to showcase your problem-solving skills. Explain a time that you were able to change strategies and still deliver successful results.
A time that you failed. You can’t win all the time. Every professional will encounter situations that don’t work out in their career. Employers might ask this question to see how you deal with setbacks, but it is more likely that they want to see how you perform under pressure. Of course, you won’t want to talk about past failures to a potential employer, so the question puts you in an uncomfortable situation. The employer will be assessing whether you panic and freeze up or remain cool and collected.
Have an example in mind of a time when you were unable to achieve the desired outcome of a project, but emphasise how you dealt with the difficult situation and what you learned from the experience. Failure is a learning opportunity, a chance to grow.
A workplace conflict and how you dealt with it. Naturally, job candidates are on their best behaviour, acting gregarious, and saying they get along with everyone. Nobody gets along with everyone. The interviewer know that if they hire you, you will be dealing with their team every day, as well as potentially speaking with customers, partners, vendors, or visitors. This provides plenty of opportunity for differences of opinion and potential personality clashes to arise. The best way for an employer to get an idea of how you will handle these situations is to see how you have behaved in the past.
You don’t have to be perfect in your story, you just have to be professional. Tell them about an occasion where you and a colleague just couldn’t see eye-to-eye, and how you managed to get past it – or at least kept a personality conflict from interfering with the workplace. Be sure not to bad mouth anyone or sound at all bitter. Any negativity will only reflect poorly on you.
Prepare your stories, and practice telling them in a conversational manner before the interview, but don’t try to memorize them word-for-word. The point of the behavioural job interview questions is to get a feel for your personality. Sounding like you are reciting a script will not create the positive impression you’re hoping for.