3 tips for answering behavioral interview questions

Behavioral interview questions can make anyone sweat during a job interview. But it’s possible to avoid getting caught off guard — here’s how to handle them the next time you’re trying to make a good impression on a recruiter.

Get creative during the prep phase

Alison Green, author of the Ask a Manager blog, demonstrates how to do this in U.S. News & World Report. While outlining how to get ready for the job interview, she eventually talks about how you should come up with “supporting evidence” by listing your experience for every “responsibility or challenge” listed on the job description.

Here’s what she says next:

“Keep in mind that don’t need to be direct one-for-one matches. For instance, if you’re applying for a sales job without any actual sales experience, you might talk about how you made fundraising calls to alumni when you were in college,” Green writes. “Or if you’re applying for a manager job and haven’t formally managed anyone, you might talk about how you were the go-to person for training new employees in your last job, managed numerous group projects, and were known as a diplomatic problem-solver. And if you don’t have a lot of work experience to draw on, you can use examples from school, volunteering, and hobbies.”

Stick to the point

This is a must.

Lily Zhang, manager of Graduate Student Professional Development at the MIT Media Lab, writes in The Muse that you should “make a statement.”

Later on in her explanation, she writes, “to make sure your stories are as effective as possible, make a statement before you start telling the story. In this particular example, it might be something like this, ‘I learned early on in my professional career that it’s fine to disagree if you can back up your hunches with data.’ Now, when you tell your story, it’s not about the various ways you could have approached the situation better, but about how you learned from that experience and how you use it to inform future disagreements,” she writes.

Be sure to use the right tone during your explanation

Alison Doyle, a career expert, author, CEO and founder of CareerToolBelt.com, writes in The Balance that you should “be positive” during your response.

“Often, behavioral interview questions require you to focus on a problem or a failure at work. Describe the problem or issue you faced, but don’t focus too much on the negative. Quickly shift to describing how you solved the problem, and the positive results,” she writes.