Behavioral interview questions are about you and your work experience. During the phone screening call with the recruiter, you will be asked questions to evaluate your fit with the job description and your level of interest. Once you pass the recruiter call, the hiring team will ask you questions about your past experience across five different areas: leadership, challenges, successes, failures, and teamwork.
Most behavioral questions that probe about your past experience can be answered using a story-like structure. We recommend using the following framework:
Nugget: The nugget is a short one or two sentences that introduces your story. This sentence should include an element of suspense that leaves your interviewer wanting more.
For example, say the question was: “Tell me about a time when you had a challenging situation, and how did you resolve it?” Your nugget could be something like: “Sure, this was a time when we launched a major release and were immediately hacked. I had to decide whether to shut down the platform to find a fix, or keep it going while working on it.”
Context: The context is where you explain the situation that caused the problem.
Challenge: Like any good story, there is a challenge to be surmounted. Even if you found a way to solve the problem, talk about hurdles that were in your way. Leaving out challenges will make your story sound flat.
Action: Here, you tell what decisive actions you took to solve the problem.
Result: The result is where you describe the fantastic outcomes of your actions and learnings.
What is the interviewer looking for?
When an interviewer asks a behavioral question, they are checking for the following:
- Did you indeed do what is listed on your resume, or are you stretching the truth?
- Can you communicate well?
- Are you articulate?
Behavioral interview questions usually revolve around five themes: leadership/influencing, successes, challenges, mistakes/failures, and teamwork. Below are highlights of what the interviewer is probing for in your answer.
- Which tactics did you use to build a team?
- How did you motivate, persuade, or influence others?
- What did you do that was successful?
- How did you do it?
- What were the results?
- Why was it a success? (e.g., Did you solve a hard problem or did the solution have a significant impact?)
- How do you react to challenges?
- How do you solve problems?
- Give an example of a time you failed at something and describe how you handled it.
- Can you admit to a mistake and explain how you made things right?
- How did you handle the failure?
- What did you learn from your mistakes?
- Do you have excellent interpersonal skills?
- Are you able to resolve issues related to teamwork?
- Can you manage conflicts within your teams?
How to prepare your stories ahead of time?
Create a table with the following columns as headers: Themes, Job 1, Job 2, and Job 3.
- In the “Themes” column, add rows for each of the following five themes: Leadership/Influencing, Successes, Challenges, Mistakes/Failures, and Teamwork.
- For each cell that intersects, write three compelling stories that touch on that specific theme for that particular job.
- Schedule a mock interview and rehearse your stories with a peer.