Why You Need to Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions

By Robert Half October 24, 2016 at 5:30pm

Your job search has paid off. You scored an interview for an accounting position, and you’re comfortable answering questions related to your skills and job experience when the time comes. But what’s this about behavioral interview questions?

Ah, those are the unpredictable ones. Behavioral interview questions ask what you’ve done — or would do — in certain circumstances.

The idea is that your answers provide insight into your work experiences and personal attributes for the interviewer. Managers are looking for people who are competent and a good fit for their organization, even for temporary and part-time accounting jobs, and they can get at that by asking behavioral interview questions.

Thinking on your feet

Some behavioral interview questions require you to put yourself in a situation and use your imagination for an answer. You have to think on your feet, especially if you’ve never considered the question in advance.

Let’s say you were asked, “How would you persuade your supervisor to move financial functions to the cloud?” Or this: “What steps would you take if you were told that you needed to increase productivity in this job?”

You’ll have to come up with an immediate solution to what could be a tricky matter. What helps to make behavioral interview questions like this easier?

Developing your stories

In the past, you may have solved similar problems to the hypothetical question being asked. To make these top of mind during your interview, take the initiative now to create a storehouse of work experiences. As you think about issues you’ve tackled in the workplace, try to compose several short stories you can share in 60 seconds or less.

For example, you might be asked to talk about a time when you worked with colleagues as part of a team. How did you contribute to make it a successful collaboration? Or was there ever a time when you had to overcome stress, deal with a crisis or handle a failure? What did you do?

Don’t memorize your lines but try to have a general strategy for approaching topics with compelling anecdotes. Practice rehearsing your stories out loud to yourself and to someone else. You might find a friend or family member to coach you.

Exploring different topics

It’s true that behavioral interview questions can be about something you may have encountered in the past, or they can be a “what if” question, where you have no past experience to call on and have to use your imagination.

Either way, the stories you’ve prepared can help. Even if the question isn’t specifically about something you’ve handled before, your preparation will make you more in the habit of describing your thought process and approaches. Think about how open you are to new ideas, how good you are at negotiating solutions and what you might draw upon to think through a problem.

Here are some more examples of behavioral interview questions:

  • Describe a situation where you found yourself outside your comfort zone.
  • Tell me about a time when you set a goal and met your objectives.
  • Have you ever been persuaded to change your mind about something?
  • What were the best things about your very first job?
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to explain something complex to a client or co-worker.  
  • How have you saved your company money in the past?
  • How have you interacted with a difficult boss?

This is a case where past behavior (yours) may indeed be used as an indicator of future success (also yours). So practice thinking on your feet, developing your stories and exploring different topics — and you’ll rock your job interview, which might just lead to the next step in your career.

Keep reading our blog, where you can find useful posts like this: 5 Questions You Shouldn’t Ask in a Job Interview (And What to Ask Instead).

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