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Behavioral Questions

Before you begin reviewing the questions, take a moment to sit down and think about how well you know yourself. How well do you know who you are, what you believe, what your strengths and weaknesses are, what your abilities are, and what drives you. If you are unclear in any area of your life, you will probably find unhappiness there. An easy example would be the area of relationships. Most of us have never sat down and written out what our ideal mates should be like, or what we have to offer them. By not being clear in our needs and wants, we often settle for less. The same holds true for all aspects of our lives, especially our jobs.

Take a moment to sit down and be honest with yourself. Being honest with yourself means identifying your weaknesses and realizing that you are a human being. The nature of a human being is not to be perfect. Think about your strengths and weaknesses. Think about what skills you have to offer to an employer. Think about your style of using the skills that you possess. Think about your values. Think about how you can apply each of these traits to get the job that you want.

Now, see if you can answer these questions, but before you begin, follow these simple rules:

  • Pick out the most likely questions that you will be asked during your interview
  • Write out a brief answer on a 3 X 5 card (Make each answer stand out!)
  • Have someone ask you the questions
  • Repeat until master
Sample questions The interviewer is trying to determine Tips on answering
What extracurricular activities were you involved in, and what was your role?
  • If you are self-motivated
  • If these activities were goal oriented or for fun
  • If you were the leader, if not, how you related to the leader
Emphasize: How the activity helped you develop certain skills (team work, etc.)
How would you compare your verbal skills to your writing skills?
  • If your skills are adequate for the position
  • If you are able to speak and write effectively
  • If you have difficulty expressing yourself
  • If you are aware of your weaknesses and what steps you have taken to rectify them
Five answers emphasizing speaking and writing development. ("It's a continual learning process.")
How do you keep track of the status of a project in relation to its deadline?
  • If you can plan effectively
  • If you anticipate problems or react to them
  • Your organizational skills
Emphasize that even the best-laid plans need a contingency plan when working with a deadline. Cite an example where you met a tough deadline by making everyone accountable. Avoid blaming others or circumstances for a missed deadline
Has a team member openly criticized you for a mistake? Have you ever openly criticized someone in a similar situation?
  • If you realize that it is all right to disagree
  • What kind of actions you take
  • If you are flexible
  • If you are going to be a demoralizer
Explain how you define problem situations and redirect the focus back to the task or goal. Avoid examples of non-communication with peers
Give me an example of a specific event in your past that has shaped your approach to dealing with people. How do you deal with difficult people?
  • If you are sympathetic to the needs of others
  • If you are compassionate and fair
  • If you can put the needs of the team ahead of yours
Cite teamwork. The good of the team comes first. You look for the best in people. Perhaps give an example of kindness given to you by a stranger.
How has your education prepared you for your career?
  • What skills or abilities you can offer them
  • Your level of maturity
  • If you are confident in your abilities
Emphasize that an education teaches transferable skills as well as builds a foundation for learning new skills. Cite an example of a learned skill. Avoid answers that are non-specific or vague
Do you work well under pressure? Could you give me a specific example?
  • How well you cope with pressure
  • Whether you can meet deadlines
  • If you can maintain your focus on the project
  • If you know how to prioritize tasks
Give them an example of a deadline that you had to meet. Cite an example of how you prioritize tasks to avoid getting overwhelmed. Show how you delegate responsibilities to others to achieve a goal.
Why did you decide to major in...?
  • If you took a long-term view of your education
  • How you make major decisions
  • If you are confident or defensive
Focus on the courses that are job-related, and why your education can help the employer with their challenges. Avoid rambling and non-direct answers and complaining about heavy course work.
Could you give me five key reasons why you're better than the other candidates?
  • If you know what value you bring
  • Reasons to NOT hire you
  • If you are assertive and tactful
Prepare at least FIVE key points that will distinguish you. NEVER leave an interview until you have stated these five ("I am confident that I am the person for this job because I am...")
If you had to do it over again, would you attend the same university? Would you change your major?
  • Your level of maturity
  • If you are able to admit a mistake
  • If you can make good decisions
Emphasize that it was the right choice. An education is what you make of it. An education is a broad foundation for handling future challenges. Avoid negative comments about the institution, faculty, or saying that you made a wrong decision
Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision that would normally have to be cleared with your supervisor, but your supervisor was unavailable. What did you do?
  • If you have a mature problem attitude
  • How you make important decisions
  • If you are willing to take charge if necessary
Cite that you are willing to take charge on minor decisions but respect authority for critical decisions by asking management for clearance first. Don't be apologetic if your decision was a mistake.
Would you rather work with others or alone? Why?
  • If you are compatible with others
  • If you are a team player or a loner
  • Your attitude and your personality
  • How you relate to others
Be careful. This could be a loaded question. If you say that you would rather work alone and the company has a team environment, you're out. Focus on your adaptability and flexibility.
What is one of the toughest decisions that you had to make?
  • If you are analytical, thoughtful or impulsive
  • If you maintain other individual's rights
  • If you can specify alternate solutions
Delay answering to show thoughtfulness. Cite an example that distinguishes you as a systematic, fair, and decisive individual.
What would you do if some members of your team weren't doing their share of the work?
  • If you've had experience in team building
  • If you can constructively lead a team
  • Your interpersonal skills
  • Whether you complain to others
Show "backbone." Cite an example of a team endeavor where the members of the team collectively disciplined the poor performer
What are your long-term career objectives?
  • If you have given serious consideration to your career goals and if you know what you want
  • How long you plan to work there
  • If your goals are consistent with their needs
Show them that you have considered other alternatives before making this decision. Point out how this job satisfies your career objectives.
Why should I hire you?
  • Whether you are enthusiastic
  • If you believe in your abilities
  • If you are a self-starter
  • Whether you understand the company's challenges
  • Whether you have high personal standards
Tie in your skills to the position. Let them know that you understand their challenges, that you offer a solution and that you really want the job.
What is your biggest weakness?
  • If you are aware of your shortcomings
  • What have you done to overcome them
  • Your level of maturity
  • How you handle uncertainty
  • If you have high personal standards
Identify a weak area. Tell the interviewer that you view a weakness as a challenge. Challenges are what allow a person to grow. Be positive.
Could you give me an idea of your management philosophy?
  • If you go on gut instinct or on facts
  • If you can delegate authority
  • If your management style is fair
  • If you are decisive or indecisive
Review the culture of the organization and find out what style of management they are using. Cite an example to show how your style is similar.
How do you manage your time? How organized are you?
  • If you are organized
  • How you set your priorities
  • If you are a procrastinator
  • If you are flexible
Give them an example of an average day in your life. Highlight the fact that you set daily goals, but are still flexible. Carry a daily organizer with you.
Which person had the most influence on your life?
  • What you value in other people
  • What your values are
  • The type of person you may turn out to be
Emphasize how that individual impacted your life and what they taught you. (Genuine concern and belief in others, dedication to excellence, etc...) and why you want to be like them.
How did you prepare for this interview?
  • How you manage your time
  • If you really prepared
  • If you are an organized individual
Say, "I researched the company, went to the library, and read the annual report." Be careful what you say; the interviewer will probably ask you to elaborate on your statement.
How would you handle an angry customer or an angry supervisor?
  • How you approach a problem situation
  • Your maturity level
  • An insight into your personality
  • How you act interpersonally
Strive for an answer that is a win-win situation. It is easier to keep a customer, than to replace one. Avoid defensive examples
What five questions would you like for me to answer?
  • If your questions are insightful or average
  • If you really prepared for this interview
Emphasize questions like: Could you give me the profile of someone who does really well here? Avoid questions about benefits and salary, questions about the prior employee, or questions answered in the annual report.
What one story could you tell me that would make me remember you over the rest of the candidates?
  • Why they should hire YOU over others
Look at interviews from their perspective. Candidates seem to say the same boring things. Give them something to remember you by. DISTINGUISH YOURSELF. (Ex: I windsurfed across the English Channel, ran in a marathon.) Show how you bring these traits to their company.
How do you deal with surprises on the job? Let's say a supervisor gives you a new project, and you are trying to complete another project by the deadline.
  • How you manage multiple tasks
  • How you plan and organize daily events
  • If you can effectively handle deadlines
  • If you know how to prioritize tasks
Show how you prioritize tasks to reach a deadline, and that you are willing to put in extra time to complete a project
Describe how you go about making a decision.
  • If you weigh your options or go on gut instinct
  • If you believe in your decisions, get opinions
  • If you are more prone to lead or follow
  • If you are focused
Cite an example where you use a system for making decisions. Cite direction and flexibility. Show "backbone." ("Learn the company's decision-making culture-instinct or facts and figures.")
How will our company benefit if I hire you?
  • If you understand the company's direction
  • Whether you are aware of how your skills relate to the needs of the company or the position
Pull out your list of five things that the interviewer absolutely must know about you. Be direct and concise in your answer. Summarize.
Tell me a little about yourself.
  • What your accomplishments are
  • How organized you are
  • If you are self-motivated
  • If you are focused
Answer by saying, "Where would you like for me to begin?" Or, "What area would you like for me to talk about?" (Former job, education, etc...)

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