As job-seekers prepare for interviews with potential employers, they should be mindful of popular questions designed to predict a candidate’s suitability for a new role based upon prior performance. These behavioral interview questions are a technique most commonly used to determine the candidate’s skills, attitudes, and values by asking them to demonstrate their aptitudes using examples from their past performance.

Instead of asking “How would you handle a difficult client?”, interviewers are opting to use phrases like, “Tell me about a time you gave exemplary customer service in a difficult situation.” Providing off-the-cuff examples from past experiences can be nerve racking, but these tips will help you answer behavioral questions with professionalism and poise.

  1. List Your Success Prior to your interview, make a list of your successes, both academic and professional. Include examples you may not have listed on your resume due to length, for example the time you scored a five-star customer review after you went above and beyond their expectations. Write down instances where you exemplified innovation, creativity, interpersonal communication skills, and adaptability. Be ready to explain how these examples demonstrate your qualifications.
  2. Demonstrate Self-Awareness Employers want to know how candidates handle failure as well as how they strive for success. Be prepared for questions such as, “Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a client’s expectations and how you dealt with it.” Practice objectively explaining the situation, and emphasize what you learned from the experience. The ability to learn and grow in the face of adversity is a key quality for any position.
  3. Diversify Your Experience Vary the source of your examples. Don’t limit your answers to the job experience that you feel is most pertinent to your prospective employer. Draw from various areas of your life to present yourself as a multi-dimensional, dynamic candidate with a variety of developmental experiences, both personally and professionally.

Successful hiring tactics are essential, as the average cost of hiring a new employee is $4000 according to Glassdoor. Not only do behavioral interview questions help companies ascertain what aptitudes and skills an interviewee has successfully demonstrated in the past, this type of query allows candidates to offer concrete examples of their abilities. Demonstrate to potential employers that you came prepared, by reflecting on your past experiences and using these guidelines to respond to behavioral questions successfully.

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

Amanda Alden is a cross-cultural communications intern with Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is currently a senior at St. Edward’s University, majoring in Global Studies with concentrations in Europe and International Business, and minoring in French. Feel free to connect with Amanda at Linkedin.

Photo by Unsplashed