Behavioural questions are an interviewer’s way of assessing your problem solving abilities. For these types of questions, you’ll be asked to give an example of how you reacted to a certain type of problem or conflict that occurred in your past. The Hiring Manager will be especially interested in how you solved the problem and what impact you made on the organization you were a part of as a result.
If you’re facing a question like this, your challenge is to create a compelling story that will spark interest in your expertise as a candidate.
To nail the behavioural questions, keep the CAR method in mind:
C – Context and Challenges
Use this part of your answer to help your interviewer understand what the overall situation was like, what went wrong, and what impact it had on you. This is the beginning of your story, so think of it as the hook. The hook is the first sentence or two that should capture your interviewer’s attention and make them wonder how you did what you did.
For example, if the interviewer asks you to talk about a time when you had a complex problem to solve in a tight timeline, a good hook would be:
“As a Sales Strategist at Coca-Cola, I used my communication and analytical skills in combination with my proactive nature to spearhead an initiative that saved the company $1.1 million annually.”
Follow this with some clear context that highlights the challenges:
“I realized that the packaging we were using for a product was outdated. It was preventing us from competing on an industry-wide scale and was ultimately losing us money. I also realized that I only had 2 weeks to strategize and propose a solution to the Senior Management team because the product was going to market shortly.”
And voilà! You have just nailed this section!
A – Action and Accomplishment
This is the meat of your answer. While your hook may have given some indication as to what you actually did, use this section to talk about how you did it. Give the interviewer the top 2-3 steps that you took to address and resolve the problem. The clearer you are with the points, the easier it will be for the interviewer to make notes. A clear structure would include using leading words like ‘First, …” “Then, …” “Lastly, …”. The easier you make it for the interviewer to keep up, the more likely it is that they’ll think of you as a compelling communicator!
Here’s a great example:
“To address this problem, I pitched a new strategy to the Senior Management team. First, I conducted market research to analyze opportunities. Then, I conducted financial analysis to gather information on feasibility. Lastly, I compiled this data into a comprehensive report and presented it to the Senior Managers.”
R – State the Results
This can be as simple as re-wording your hook:
“In the end, the new packaging strategy was accepted by the Canadian Board and was implemented shortly thereafter, leading to substantial cost savings.”
Great, you’re done! Well, not quite…
Another approach that you can take is to incorporate a few points about what you learned from resolving the problem. Did you grow personally? If you could go back, what would you have done differently? Do you now have a better understanding of how to tackle these types of issues?
So, consider adding on an extra line that shows the interviewer what you took away from the situation. Something like:
“In the end, the new packaging strategy was accepted by the Canadian Board and was implemented shortly thereafter, leading to substantial cost savings. This opportunity taught me how important it is to be proactive when I see an opportunity for a new initiative. It also gave me great experience communicating with multiple divisions and synthesizing what I had learned into a comprehensive, logical report.”
How do you structure your interview answers to achieve maximum impact? Leave your tips in the comments section below!