Tell Stories To Ace Behavioral Interview Questions

Businesswoman Interviewing Male Candidate For JobBehavioral interviewing is a common technique in almost every interview you’ll encounter. It’s also the hardest technique to prepare for. Or is it? Find out how you can simply tell stories and ace any interview you walk into.

Behavioral interview questions are certainly not a “new” interviewing technique, however they can catch you off guard if you’re not prepared. While you can spend time learning a great “canned” response to questions such as “tell me about yourself” it’s much harder to prepare for questions you don’t know.

Or is it?

The real problem with this interview approach for interviewees is that instead of getting nice predictable questions such as “tell me about yourself” or “Why should I hire you” a behavioral interview question could be anything. In fact, you’ll probably never hear the exact same question twice.

This technique is designed to probe your ability to use experience to answer questions in an open ended fashion. Typically recruiters use your answers to predict your future behavior.

How To Prepare For the Unknown?

If you don’t know what the question is how could you possibly prepare?

I found overall the best way to answer these types of questions is to literally tell a story.

As a recruiter I also enjoy listening to a quick story instead of hearing boring robotic answers, especially because a response like, “Yeah, I can do that.” is not going to impress anyone.

But there is a catch! When you tell a story, it should be relevant, convincing and short.

How do you do that?  Be a STAR that’s how.

STAR is a very popular acronym for constructing answers to behavioral interview questions and it suits our short story method perfectly.

Here’s how it goes:

S = Specific situation

T = Task or target

A = Actions you took

R = Results from your actions.

The format of your stories should include a problem or situation, a task or target you set, the action or activity you took, and the outcome that benefited the company.

Keep your story fast paced and to the point. If it’s interesting you might be asked to elaborate even further.

Getting Specific about questions

Before heading into an interview try to work out what the company might value most, are they are startup and want flexibility, or a large enterprise looking for a specific skill, or a non-for profit that looks for core values.

When you’re asked a question try to come up with an example where you successfully “used” methods that are inline with the company values. Such as I “saved money by doing xy”, or “I developed a new abc”, or “I understood the values and worked on a mutually agreed deal”.

Don’t Go Wandering

When you answer interview questions don’t let your answers wander from topic to topic. Remember to tell your story with STAR in mind.

First, describe the situation, then what task you did, actions you took and your actions accomplished. Stay on topic.

Prove You Can Do it!

Behavioural interview questions are a great way to prove that you are the right person for the job by citing exact examples. While you can’t exactly anticipate a question you can recall stories from your career that demonstrate that you have the skill and competencies necessary to be successful.

How to Survive the Job Interview If You Are Tanking


How to handle situations in a job interview that may be uncomfortable and know the signs for an interview that is going no where.

How To Know You Are Tanking

1. Watch the interviewer’s eyes.

An interviewer that is simply going through the motions will not make eye contact. Check for a glazed or glassy stare and heavy eyelids.

2. Listen carefully.

A bored or disinterested interviewer may quietly hum a tune, whistle softly, or shuffle papers repeatedly.

3. Observe actions.

Constant watch- or clock-checking, the eating of a sandwich, and lots of phone calls are all signs that a job offer is not forthcoming.

If You Are Late

1. Call ahead. If you are stuck in traffic or otherwise running late, call. Ask if you should reschedule or if you should come in anyway.

2. Clean up. If you are sweaty and disheveled, ask to use a bathroom before meeting your interviewer. If you are nervous, put anti-perspirant on your palms and face (make sure it’s clear) to reduce moisture.

3. Apologize, but do not overdo it. Say you are sorry for your tardiness, but do not give a sob story: Never discuss personal information in a job interview.

If You Are Asked a Difficult or Leading Question

1. Always respond with a positive. If the interviewer says, “I see you don’t have experience making coffee,” counter with, “That’s true, but I’ve always wanted to learn and I’m a quick study!”

2. Tell a personal story, but only one that relates skills applicable to the job. If the interviewer asks about project management experience and you don’t have any, talk about planning your wedding: organizing vendors, designing a database, and creating seating charts based on the interests of guests.

3. Put the question off until later. If you are unable to come up with an answer, say “Can we get back to that later, I need to give it some thought?” Use this strategy only as a last resort.

If Your Interviewer Hits on You

1. Accept compliments gracefully. If an interviewer compliments your suit, blouse, or a piece of jewelry, they may simply be impressed with your appearance. Say thank you and move on. More than one compliment is inappropriate and should be deflected (below).

2. Deflect personal questions. In most states it is illegal for a job interviewer to ask personal questions, including age, marital status, children, and sexual preference. If you get such questions, gently suggest that you keep topics to professional matters.

3. Say you are not interested. If your interviewer asks you out on a date, simply say “no thanks.” However, if the interview is at lunch time and things seem to be going well, it is appropriate to accept a lunch invitation (keep the conversation on business matters).

4. Accept a date only if you don’t want the job. Starting a new job while being personally involved with someone in the company is not a good idea. If you make a connection with your interviewer and there is true chemistry, accept the invitation but make it clear that you do not want the job.

Be Aware

Always remember the three “C’s”: Cool, Calm, and Confident. An interview is as much about you wanting the job as it is about the job wanting you.

Avoid scheduling interviews after lunch, when most people get sleepy and irritable.

How to Reply to the Interview Question, Why Are You Available?

SollicitatietipsWhether you were let go from your job under unfair circumstances or for something you did and regret, scripting your job interview answer ahead of the interview will help you.

This is a question that is asked in almost every job interview. The interviewer wants to know, “Why are you available?” The answer you give regarding your departure from your last company will be either simple and straightforward, or very challenging – depending on your circumstances.

The following are three possible categories to answer the question of why you are available:

Need a Change/Challenge

Even the simple, straightforward answer can raise suspicions if the wrong message is conveyed. What if you are just tired of your job, don’t like your boss, or need a change? Everyone is entitled to a new position or challenge now and then, right? Of course, but the tricky part is telling the interviewer the reason you are leaving but not sounding like you’re “burned out” on your current job.

“I am looking for a new challenge. I have been with my current company for two years and don’t find the work as interesting as I once did. I am looking for a company where I can take on new challenges and learn new things.”

If your answer has too much emphasis on “challenge and change,” the employer becomes concerned that you may be dissatisfied with this job once you’ve learned new things and met the challenges. The interviewer is listening for patterns, and if you were bored on your last job, what makes you think you won’t get bored on this job?

Changing the tone of your reply to be more pro-active is a stronger answer.

“Since there are no advancement opportunities within the company, I decided it would be a good time for me to look outside. I have set some career goals for myself, and I know that I cannot achieve them at my current company. My goal is to work for a larger company with a possible career path.”

This answer has a tone of control and planning. When you think as an interviewer, it will help you see “their” point-of-view and will address the concerns “they” have about your leaving a company.

Laid off

If you are among the millions of people who have been laid off in the last two and a half years, you can simply state, “I was laid off.” This answers the question but still leaves a lingering doubt in the mind of the interviewer, – “Why were you laid off?” The more specific your answer, the more effective it will be.

“There were six rounds of layoffs at my last company. I survived five rounds, but when it came to round six they had to cut deep. My position was eliminated along with half of my group because the project we were working on was cancelled.”

Not everyone will have such a definite statement to make. Whatever your situation is it will be helped by including facts and figures to explain the circumstances surrounding your layoff.

“10% of the workforce was let go,” or “One out of every ten jobs was affected, company-wide.”

When you quantify a statement it has more depth. When you tell the interviewer whether it was 10 or 1000 people were laid off helps put the situation in perspective.


If you were fired, you probably dread being asked this question. Not only have you been fired, you have to talk about it – over and over. How you deal with questions about being fired will depend on how you have resolved the issue with yourself.

Whether you were let go under unfair circumstances or for something you did and regret, scripting your answer ahead of the interview will help you. You don’t want to bad-mouth your former employer or sound like a victim (even if you were). Practice your answer with someone in a mock interview and obtain feedback on your comfort-level while discussing your situation.

Preparing will make a difference

Any question can throw you off balance during the interview, but there are certain standard questions that you can almost expect to be asked every time. For example, “Why did you leave (or are planning to leave) your last company?” is a question that you can bet will be asked in one form or another in almost every interview. You will feel more confident and focused if you script and practice answering this question before it is asked.

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