Behavioral interview questions often throw people for a loop when they first encounter them- because their goals and methods are not as clear and easy to comprehend as those of traditional interview questions. This is because they are not seeking specific information that can be relayed easily; they are looking at a snapshot of your problem solving process- both to evaluate the process and to find out what it's outcomes tend to be. This gives the interviewer insight into how people are likely to function on the job- but it also means that the interviewee needs a little more preparation to be successful.
When interviewers give you prompts like- 'Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem-' they are looking for more than just your command of the procedures and protocols of the job. They are also evaluating exactly what you consider good judgment to be- and what your priorities and assumptions are when you apply logic to a situation.
Acknowledging that this is their goal and crafting an answer that uses the STAR method to ensure clear communication and identifiable results is the key to giving a memorable response that helps you clinch the job offer down the road.
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How to Answer the Question
Set Up Around the STAR Method:
The easiest way to make sure you are getting the most out of the STAR method for organizing responses to behavioral interview questions is to begin there. That way- you know that each aspect of your answer relates to one phase of the method or another- and it becomes easier to keep things concise without leaving out important details.
The STAR method is this:
- ST: The situation or task you were put into. This should be a single- specific event or project.
- A: The actions you took. Specifically describe what you were responsible for and how it fit into the overall situation.
- R: The results you obtained. These results should be clearly tied to your actions- so the listener is able to understand the cause/effect relationship between them.
Values-Match Your Answer:
Your answer needs to do more than just be specific. It also needs to demonstrate clear critical thinking and good judgment. What constitutes good judgment is partially in the eye of the beholder- though- and that means understanding the corporate mission and values of the company you are interviewing with. This ensures that your answer provides them with the kind of judgment they hope to see in a candidate that they want to hire.
Maintain a Positive Approach:
The goal with these questions is to demonstrate how deftly you are able to manage difficult situations and resolve them. This means that whatever the situation was that led to your use of good judgment or logic- the emphasis should be on your actions and their favorable results. You need to explain the problem in a way that clearly shows why it is a problem- but staying mired in its negative effects and outcomes will not advance your explanation- so you need to keep the outline of the problem as value-neutral as possible while you highlight the details the listener needs to know.
Keep Things Concise:
Behavioral interview questions have a tendency to invite longer answers than traditional interview questions do- but it is important to keep them to a manageable length to avoid rambling. The longer you take to answer- the more likely it is that the listener will miss a detail or misunderstand the point. The best answers will last about as long as an elevator speechÂ—long enough to tell a clear- brief story and make a point- but that is all.
After my last promotion- when I was left in charge of running the loading dock for the entire second shift- we had a problem with our label printer giving us UPCs that did not match the orders going out. No matter what we did- the software said that things would scan correctly- but the actual hand scanners were giving us different inputs. I organized a cross-shift problem solving team that spent the next day going back through our product codes and orders to find the discrepancy- so that we had the shortest possible delay on properly packing and shipping out orders- and I helped to keep our packing department moving forward during the delay by designing and implementing a short-term hand-tracking system that sidestepped the computer until the crisis was over. That way- our longest delay shipping out an order was 48 hours.
Your own answers to behavioral interview questions should be about this specific- and they should also reflect the same kinds of stages of description and explanation. To get to your best response- keep practicing throughout your interview preparation period.