You may have heard of behavioral based interviewing before or even been asked behavioral questions in an interview.  However, you may not be aware that there is a specific formula for answering this type of question.  A behavioral based question normally starts out with  ” Give me an example of a time when . . . . “  or “ Tell me about a time when. . . .”  The purpose is to discover how you, the interviewee, dealt with specific work-related situations in the past, and to use your past behavior as a predictor for how you will respond in the future.

The employer knows which skills are needed for the available position. By asking behavioral based questions, the employer is seeking to learn whether you have utilized those skills, perhaps in a different setting, in your past experiences.  The questions are designed to determine how you responded to a specific situation utilizing those skills. 

The most effective way to answer a behavioral based question is to use a formula: S A R – Situation, Action, and Result.  Adopting a formula to frame your answer ensures you will reply to the question completely giving the details the employer seeks.  First you must select a specific example from your past, a story which illustrates when you successfully solved a problem or dealt with an issue.  Avoid generalities; stick with specifics. 

Utilize the formula by describing one specific SITUATION which illustrates the skills asked for in the question.  For instance, if the question is “ Tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult client”, you would select a time when either the situation was problematic or for explicit reasons the client was challenging.  This would not need to be a legal setting, it could be in any past work experience, but the example should spotlight how you dealt with the person.  Set the stage by describing the details and elaborating on the tasks that were necessary.

Once the stage is set, explain the ACTION you took which allowed you to deal with the parameters of the problem.  Be specific about the steps you took to resolve the issue.  Using the example of a difficult client, what did you do to diffuse the situation and keep things moving forward?

Lastly, focus on the RESULT.  What was the outcome based on the actions you took?  This is arguably the most important part of the question.  The ending of any story is always the most impactful part.  Be honest, present the story.  If looking back on the situation, you have insight, things you could have changed, be sure to include it in your summary.

Behavioral based interviewing takes preparation.  Reflecting on situations and examples before an interview is important.  Remember though, there are no right or wrong answers.  Through you answer, you are allowing the interviewer to understand how you behaved in a given situation.  How you respond will determine if there is a fit between your skills and the open position. Listen carefully, be clear and detailed, spotlight how you solved the issue presented.