Employers want to know about more than just your skills and experience--they want to know how you'll get along day-to-day. How will you react in stressful situations? What will you do when a customer gets cranky, or there's some issue with the product?
One way for hiring managers to get to that information is to use behavioral interview questions that try to uncover how you have reacted in similar situations, or that set up a theoretical problem to see how you would go about solving it.
Both types of behavioral (or situational) interview questions show how you think, which can be much more informative for a hiring manager than asking about your greatest weakness.
The easiest and most effective way to answer Behavioral Interview Questions is to use the STAR format.
The STAR format is a great way to help you structure your answers to interview questions when you need to give an example because it helps you include everything you need to in your answer:
Situation or Task
This is whatever was going on at the time. What were you faced with? What was going on? Set the scene.
Action you took
What did YOU do to affect this situation?
Always, always finish the story by telling them what happened as a result of your actions. This is the most important part!
Using the STAR format to structure your answers provides the manager with real-world detail about how you do your job. You can't just get by with "standard interview answers" here. But it also gives you a fantastic opportunity to set yourself apart from other candidates and demonstrate why you're the best candidate for the job.
You should always be prepared for these kinds of questions in your job interview. They really are a great way for you to highlight your experience, and many hiring managers like to ask them because they're so effective. Your best way to prepare is to think back over your career. What situations can you think of where you resolved some issue, or successfully addressed a problem? Make a list. As you're preparing for your interview, think about which of these stories best fits the requirements of the job you're interviewing for (since you always tailor your answers to fit the job). Be sure to emphasize the positive outcome that was a result of your actions in each situation.
Look at these examples of how to answer interview questions using the STAR format:
** SALES REPS - Don't miss this transcript of my interview with a sales manager, sales trainer, and a vice-president of sales and marketing. We discuss behavioral event interviews in-depth. It's a great resource for you.