It’s common for interviewers to focus more on your past behaviours than on future situations. They might make a request of you to “Please give me an example of a situation that required you to make a good decision quickly. How did you react, and what were the outcomes?”
The Past Is a Predictor of Future Behaviour
An assumption being made in this line of questioning is that how you’ve acted in the past is the best indication of what you’ll do in the future. Whether or not this is entirely true, you are best off to prepare for behavioural interview questions.
The way to answer this type of interview question is in the form of a brief story that relates to question that you have been asked. The story should be no longer than a minute or two. It can be broken down into three distinct parts: a description of The Situation, a summary of the Actions that you took, and highlights of the Results that you achieved.
Become A Storyteller
Here are the three parts, in more detail, of a reply to behavioural questions.
- The SITUATION: What was happening at the time? What was the nature of the problem or opportunity?
- The ACTIONS you took: Describe what you did, either personally or as part of a team, to solve the problem or take advantage of the opportunity.
- The RESULTS: Describe how your efforts paid off. Try to quantify in specific terms wherever possible.
Here’s an example from an interview with a potential salesperson at a toy manufacturing company, using the following bullet point from an applicant’s resume:
• Designed a new in-store promotion based on input from the store owners. Boosted sales by 20% above initial projections.
Now, here’s how the job interview might go.
Interviewer: How have you made sure that you’ve met your sales quota when helping to launch a new product?
Starts with Situation. “Hmmm…well, back at Playtime Inc., we launched a new doll based on a character from “The Addams Family” movie. Sales weren’t anywhere near what we’d hoped for after the first three months.
Shifts to Actions. “So I went out and met with buyers from three of our other key accounts to determine what the problem was. Based on their input and that of the store owners, I worked with our marketing department to re-design the in-store sales material and we created a contest.”
Finishes with Results. “After that, sales jumped up within three months to 20% above what we’d budgeted. My boss was so happy she put a letter of congratulations in my file. Here, I brought a copy to show you.”
Keep The Story Short and Punchy
See? All it takes is a quick story about a relevant accomplishment. Structure it in three parts, including the Situation, Actions and Results. Tell the story with confidence and enthusiasm.
Then when you’re finished answering the behavioural question – STOP TALKING. Let the interviewer probe further if they want to.