Preparation: The key to answering behavioral interview questions

by Arlene O’ReillyBusinesswoman Assisting Customers

When you’re on a job interview try to remember where you are – you’re at an interview, not inside a confessional – so you don’t have to divulge every last detail when asked how you handled a dicey situation at one of your previous jobs.

The best way to answer any behavioral interview questions is to prepare your answers long before you go to the interview.

To do that, you can use either the Situation Task Action Result (STAR) method or the Situation Hindrance Action Result Evaluation (SHARE) approach to tell your stories, according to Behavioral Interviewing in a Fortune 500 Company, an article written by Rich DeMatteo.

It’s up to you to determine which procedure you will use, if you use either, or if you decide to use a similar methods, like the Problem Action Result (PAR) or Situation Action Result Benefits (SARB) methods.

Whichever method you use, be aware that the first four steps of the SHARE method are similar to the STAR system, but the former includes evaluating the result as the final step. And that demonstrates to a future employer you’re always aiming to improve your performance.

Here’s an outline for the SHARE story format, according to DeMatteo’s article.

S – Situation – Position held, who was involved, etc.
H – Hindrance – The problem.
A – Action – What you actually did to resolve problem.
R – Result – What was the result and was it favorable?
E – Evaluation – Would you do the same thing next time?

When using any of these methods, be sure to provide specific details about each problem and how you handled it. Take time to think before you speak. Keep your answers as brief as possible.

Elissa Collier, at, recommends using these kinds of examples of difficulties you handled in your past work experiences:

• pulling off a big project on a miniscule budget
• a contract fell through at the last minute and you had to do all the work to keep things moving
• how you dealt with clients’ requests to meet tight deadlines
• an unexpected event that threw your plans into disarray and what you did to resolve the situation

By asking about your involvement in a cumbersome situation, the Interviewer is just trying to determine your definition of difficult. So, always try to choose examples that seemed challenging at the time, but were not impossible to resolve. Provide just enough details and no more.

In his article, DeMatteo recommends bringing up other essential points when telling your stories, such as:

• the specific project you worked on
• the job titles of the people you worked with
• the time of year the project took place
• your responsibilities for the project
• any customers involved
• how long the project took to complete
• the problems you (or your group) faced, and
• the end result

In fact, before you even begin to tell your first story, think about why the Interviewer is asking the question in the first place. Remember, with Behavioral Interviewing (BI), the Interviewer is asking you specific questions about your previous work experience because it relates to the skill sets critical to the open position at the company, according to DeMatteo’s article.

Simply put, understanding how someone reacted in a past position, or situation, will be the best predictor for future performance, according to the article.

By asking a question about a difficult work situation, or project, the Interviewer, or Hiring Manager, wants to know how you work under stress and solve problems, according to the article. She wants to see how you apply your critical thinking skills. The best answers to these questions show how you approached the problem and how you developed the solution – using your creativity.

For example, to answer the question you might say, “I managed some of the largest accounts, at my last job, and my sales figures were 130 percent on target, overall. For instance, in my previous role, I ran into a challenging situation with a client asking for our full attention. I first recruited three more consultants, then turned to outsourcing our technology activities with my knowledge and experience of offshoring and international virtual organizations,” says Jorgen Sundberg, of

When you tell your story, right up front, explain the value of what you delivered and how your decisions benefited the company, says Sundberg.

In her article, Behave in behavioural interviews – improve your interview skills, Australian Karalyn Brown explains how much information you should divulge when answering behavioral questions in a job interview.

As you tell each story, provide details about how you achieved something, but don’t provide so much detail that you lose track of what you are talking about, says Brown, a LinkedIn Profile Writer.

Give just enough detail to be credible, to reassure the Interviewer that you have the skills that he is looking for, she said. Remember, interviewing does not have to be a “one-way reaction,” she said. You can always ask the Interviewer if he needs more detail or how much detail he wants you to provide, Brown says.

Preparing answers to behavioral interview questions, especially ones that might make you uncomfortable, can only help when you’re in the interview chair. You’ll be able to show case your skills confidently and show the Interviewer who you really are and how you actually do your work and solve problems.
To read more of Rich DeMatteo’s article, go to

To read more of Karalyn Brown’s article visit

To read more of Elissa Collier’s advice about how you handled difficult problems at a former job, go to

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