How to Get Ready for Any Behavioral Interview Question, with Porschia Parker-Griffin

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 358:

How to Get Ready for Any Behavioral Interview Question, with Porschia Parker-Griffin

Airdate: July 27, 2022

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. 

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume. TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster. 

Get a free review of your resume today. 

Go to macslist.org/topresume. 

You can always expect to get behavioral questions in a job interview. 

That’s because the interviewer wants to see examples of your experience. 

But which behavioral questions will a hiring manager use, and how can you prepare? 

Porschia Parker-Griffin is here to talk about how to get ready for any behavioral interview question.

She’s the founder and CEO of Fly High Coaching. Her company helps you find your ideal career, generate an awesome income, and create a life you love. 

Well, let’s get started, Porschia. Let’s start with the basics. What is the behavioral interview question?

Porschia Parker-Griffin:

Alright. So, behavioral interview questions – they’re sometimes called story-telling questions, and sometimes people call behavioral interviewing story-telling interviews. Because they can put you in a situation of telling about a specific story or a specific circumstance and how you acted or performed in that instance. 

So, a typical kind of behavioral interviewing question might be, tell me about a time when you had to successfully navigate deadlines. Well, what’s interesting about that is that’s a statement, not really a question. So, sometimes, that throws people off a little bit, Mac, about behavioral interviewing because sometimes, they’re not technically questions. But what they’re doing is they’re probing. They are trying to get you, the interviewee, the candidate, to talk about a specific time in your past when you used a certain skill, demonstrated a specific behavior, or applied specialized knowledge. 

Mac Prichard:

How can you tell, Porschia, if you’re being asked a behavioral question? 

Porschia Parker-Griffin:

Alright. Well, generally that, I mean that right there is a good question. Most of the times, people kind of stop and think. Right? So, if someone’s asking you something and you stop and think, and you’re like, hey, I’ve got to think about that – that’s one good indicator that you’ve been asked a behavioral interviewing question because they’re not like standard interviewing questions, where a lot of times, people can have a lot of rehearsed answers to them. I mean, you can obviously prepare for behavioral interviewing questions, and we’re gonna dig into that today, but they’re generally more thought-provoking. 

Mac Prichard:

Do most employers, Porschia, use behavioral questions? 

Porschia Parker-Griffin:

They do, and it’s been a trend that has become more popular over the last, I would say, decade or so. Now, I would say that most employers are going to use behavioral interviewing questions more frequently than not. 

Mac Prichard:

When you work with your clients, or just when you talk to recruiters, what mistakes do you hear candidates make when they answer behavioral questions? 

Porschia Parker-Griffin:

There are a lot of mistakes, Mac. So, one, because behavioral interviewing questions are thought-provoking, sometimes people haven’t prepared, so they literally have a very long silence, and we know in an interview, it’s okay to stop and think, and I recommend that if you are gonna do that, that you make a statement something similar to, oh, you know, that’s a great question, let me take a moment to think about that. As opposed to just like letting a long silence, you know, kind of hang in the air. But I would say that’s one mistake is because they haven’t prepared for behavioral interviewing questions, they have a long pause that can be an awkward pause. Right? Awkward silence. 

Another one goes back to not preparing. They might have a lot of ums, or likes, or what we call crutch words when we work with our clients, and a lot of times, people have their own crutch words that they use, but like, and um, and you know, those are some common ones that people might throw out when they’re thinking about their response to a behavioral interviewing question. 

Another mistake when it comes to behavioral interviewing questions is not really answering the question. So, because you might be really wrapped up in, you know, how interesting or specific the question is, you don’t really answer the question at all. 

Mac Prichard:

What does a good answer to a behavioral question look like, Porschia? 

Porschia Parker-Griffin:

Alright. So, a good answer – one, answers the question that they’re asking you or relates back to the skill or the specific knowledge that they want to know about. But really, I think the best way to answer behavioral interviewing questions is to use the STAR method, and I know that you guys have covered the STAR method a little bit on your podcast already. But I really tell our clients that the STAR method is, in my opinion, the most compelling way to answer behavioral interviewing questions. 

For those of you who are not familiar with the STAR method, it stands for a few things. S, in STAR, stands for situation; T stands for tasks; A stands for action and R stands for result. So, to break that down a little bit more for you – the STAR method really helps you to discuss a lot of the kind of who, what, where, when, and how of an experience. 

So, with the S, the situation, what you’re doing is you’re describing the context of what was going on in the project or the challenge that the interviewer is asking you about in that behavioral interviewing question. For T, tasks, you’re gonna explain the responsibilities that you had in your role to address the situation. Right? So, you might be outlining some of your kind of previous objectives or experience to give the interviewer a clear idea of what the problem was and kind of what your initial goals were. A, for action, is when you really want to mention what you did to fix the specific problem or to help a project be successful. And then for R, results, that’s when you want to tell the interviewer about the outcome of the situation. 

So, how did your particular contributions influence results? What did you learn? What were some of the quantifiable accomplishments that were results to what they’re asking you? So, I know that was kind of long, but I really think the STAR method is the best way to answer a behavioral interviewing question. 

Mac Prichard:

And why have you found that the STAR method is so effective, Porschia? Why do you recommend that to your clients? 

Porschia Parker-Griffin:

Yeah, because it’s one, it’s easy to remember, in terms of the acronym, and it helps people to make sure that they’re hitting, what I call, the highlights in their answers. I don’t know if you’ve seen this or heard people talk about it, Mac, but one of the most common things – well, there are two really common challenges to interviews that we see – but one of them is that we’ll have clients say, “You know what? I went into the interview, and I answered all of the questions that they asked me. But I just feel like I did okay. I don’t really feel like the interviewer walked away believing that I’m the best person for the job or believing that they have to hire me,” and that’s because the person was probably just kind of passively answering questions. 

But when you use that STAR method, you’re slipping in a lot of interesting things, and that result, to really highlight what you’ve done. 

Mac Prichard:

Why are results so persuasive to interviewers when a candidate is answering a behavioral question? 

Porschia Parker-Griffin:

Results are so important because one, results are what the recruiter or the hiring manager’s eventually looking for in the role. Right? But it kind of goes back to the whole reason why they created behavioral interviewing. Because behavioral interviewing is actually rooted in psychology. And basically, a lot of people got tired of candidates lying to them. Right? 

And so, for example, someone, you could say, someone might ask you, you know, are you reliable with meeting deadlines? And a lot of people might lie and say yes. You know, most people aren’t gonna say, no, I can’t meet deadlines in an interview. And because a lot of people that say yes to that might not be telling the truth, behavioral interviewing is really getting at the results. 

Because they’re asking you about a specific point in time where you actually utilized that skill, and so, it’s really kind of making the candidate speak to that result so that then the interviewer can decide if that result is what they want in their organization. Because behavioral interviewing is really using your past behavior to predict your future behavior. Right? So, it’s using that result that you mentioned, Mac, to predict what they think you’ll do in this new job. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, this is terrific, Porschia. I want to take a break, and when we come back, I want to unpack for our listeners the steps that you recommend to your clients about how to get ready for any behavioral interview question. 

So, stay with us. When we return, Porschia Parker-Griffin will continue to share her advice about how to get ready for any behavioral interview question. Stay with us.

A good answer to a behavioral question talks about results. 

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Porschia Parker-Griffin. 

She’s the founder and CEO of Fly High Coaching. Her company helps you find your ideal career, generate an awesome income, and create a life you love. 

Porschia joins us from Atlanta, Georgia. 

Now, Porschia, before the break, you took us through what behavioral questions are, and a good way to answer them, and why results are so important to employers when in the interviews, and why they ask behavioral questions. 

So, let’s talk about how to get ready for any behavioral interview question. How do you work with your clients on this? What’s the first step you recommend? 

Porschia Parker-Griffin:

Okay, great question. I want to first say to that point of how we work with them, they have to understand that the interview is really an important time for them to shine. It sounds obvious, but I’ll tell you this, Mac, the vast majority of our clients are overconfident about their interviewing. They think, “Oh, everyone loves me. All I need to do is just get into a room, and people are gonna love me.” And a lot of times, that’s not the case. So, to your point, you’ve gotta take some specific actions to make sure you’re prepared for any kind of behavioral interviewing question or any type of interviewing question that you might be asked. 

A few tips that we have for our clients, one, I recommend that our clients have what I call two to three accomplishments in their back pocket. What that means is that they’ve thought about two or three accomplishments ahead of time. So, these accomplishments, they might be big projects, they might be key initiatives, they might be, you know, great client results that they got in their previous roles, and they think about those ahead of time, and they move through the STAR method with it. Right? So, what was the situations? What were the tasks? What was the action that they took? What was the result in each of those accomplishments? 

And for some clients, it’s helpful for them to write it down. Maybe not in a long paragraph, but just a bulleted list of those things, and what’s great about thinking about those accomplishments ahead of time is because one, it helps you not have a lot of filler words like um, and uh, like we talked about before, or having some of those long pauses. But really, we’ve found that when you have those accomplishments ahead of time, what that does, is it helps you be prepared for a myriad of different behavioral interviewing questions that might be on different topics. So, that’s one thing that I think is really important. 

Mac Prichard:

And, what’s your best advice about how to choose those accomplishments? Anyone who’s been in the workplace for a while can probably point to dozens of results. If you’re gonna come up with a short list of three, what’s the best way to do that, Porschia? 

Porschia Parker-Griffin:

I think the best way to do that is to start with the end, what you touched on earlier, Mac, the results. It’s usually, I think, most effective for people to talk about quantifiable results that they’ve gotten. Right? So, there’s a difference in saying, well, all of my customers like working with me, as opposed to saying, well, ninety-eighty percent of the customers that work with me have given me five stars when it comes to customer service ratings, and that’s ninety-eight percent out of over two hundred customers. Right? 

So, thinking about those quantifiable results. Those times in the past where you kind of have some metrics, I think, those are some of the best accomplishments to use because that gives someone who was not in your organization or might not have been in your industry an idea of your impact. 

Mac Prichard:

Once you’ve come up with this short list of accomplishments, how can you prepare for or identify the questions an interviewer might ask, Porschia? Should you look at lists of possible questions online? Or do you look at the job description? What has worked well for your clients? 

Porschia Parker-Griffin:

Yeah, so there are some common behavioral interviewing questions. We sometimes provide our clients with like the top six just to think about. But you don’t want to necessarily get sucked into that because we’ve worked with clients that before working with us, they said, “Oh my gosh, you know, I was memorizing answers to fifty or a hundred interview questions,” and imagine the anxiety that they had going into the interview when, not only are they nervous, not only do they really want the job, but now they’ve got answers that they’ve pre-prepared to a hundred or fifty questions. 

So, there’s really a top six that we provide our clients with just for you to kind of review and think about. But the great thing, Mac, about having those accomplishments, the two to three that I mentioned, well thought out – I tell our clients that you can use those instances as answers to multiple questions. 

So, for example, if you just thought about two to three accomplishments in your own background, I would guess that at least one of those, there was some timeline pressure. Right? Or, you know, maybe you weren’t sure how everything was gonna come together when it came to resources. For most people, there’s some timeline pressure. For most people, when they think about those two to three accomplishments, and they really flesh them out, there might have been some conflict with other people or personalities that didn’t get along. Right? 

Those are some common areas that people will zoom in on when it comes to behavioral interviewing, and if you’ve really fleshed out your accomplishments, then you can use one scenario to answer multiple questions, and again you’re not anxiously trying to memorize or remember or recall hundreds of answers. 

Mac Prichard:

Is there one behavioral question that you see get asked again and again that candidates should always expect to get? 

Porschia Parker-Griffin:

Oh, wow. It really depends on your industry and the type of role that you are, you know, applying for. But one that I think is pretty common across the board is something along the lines of, can you tell me about a period when things didn’t work out well? Another way that people kind of get at that same question is, tell me about a time when you failed at something. That’s a relatively common behavioral interviewing question, and what they’re looking for is they want to know how you handle adversity. How did you handle failure? Did you learn from it? Did you grow? Those sorts of things. 

Mac Prichard:

That’s a tough question to answer. How do you help your clients get ready for a question about failure or adversity? What has worked well? 

Porschia Parker-Griffin:

Well, the first thing is you’ve got to be reflective, and you really want to think about a time when things didn’t go well, and I think what’s really important is that one, you’ve learned from that situation so that you can talk about it. Right? If you haven’t learned from that, or you still have a lot of kind of emotions around it, it would not be something you would want to bring up in the interview. But I think, usually, thinking about a time where you can clearly draw back to something that you learned as a result of that experience or something that you changed about yourself is really something to kind of highlight there. 

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned earlier recommending to your clients that they practice using the STAR method and applying that short list of accomplishments that they have in their back pocket. What kind of practice is most effective? Is it just a few hours before an interview? What have you seen work? 

Porschia Parker-Griffin:

Well, I generally recommend that people practice at least, you know, a few days before. The whole cramming right before the interview can be stress-inducing for, I think, most people. I think it’s best if you’re practicing ideally at least a week before, and then a few days before, and then perhaps, you know, if you want to kind of review things again, you know, the night before, that can be good. 

Mac Prichard:

And, how do you recommend practicing, Porschia? Do you have someone ask you the questions? Are you recording yourself on video? 

Porschia Parker-Griffin:

So, repetition is important. So, I don’t recommend that someone just do it once. Right? But kind of like I mentioned, that week before, maybe a few days before, and then the night before. So, the repetition is part of how I would recommend that you practice so that you really get comfortable with your answers and your responses. 

Now, there are quite a few ways that you can actually practice. I generally recommend that people practice with someone outside. Friends and family can be great, but we know that friends and family are usually biased. Right? They have their own idea about who and how we are and how far, a lot of times, they think we can go. So, I generally recommend, not necessarily friends and family because they’re not the most objective. I generally recommend that you practice with maybe a colleague, a mentor, or a career coach. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Porschia. Now, tell us what’s next for you? 

Porschia Parker-Griffin:

Well, we work with hundreds of clients a year, and we want to continue working with those clients to really help them advance in their careers. One way that we do that is with our interview coaching service. 

We know it’s an extremely competitive job market, and you need every advantage to really prove that you’re the best candidate for the role, and interview coaching can really help you gain that strategy and that confidence to show others that you’re the right person for the job. So, really, interview coaching is what’s next for us and helping our clients. 

Mac Prichard:

Terrific. Well, I know listeners can learn more about you and your services by visiting your website www.fly-highcoaching.com. 

Now, Porschia, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to get ready for any behavioral interview question? 

Porschia Parker-Griffin:

That’s a tough one because there’s a lot to it. I would say the one thing that you really need to remember is to be confident. A lot of times, I think confidence, and lack thereof, can really hold people back when it comes to behavioral interviewing. And so, wrapped in that confidence is thinking about those accomplishments, having them ready, and really feeling as though you are the person for the job. 

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be John Neral. 

He helps mid-career professionals find a job they love or love the job they have. 

John also hosts The Mid-Career GPS Podcast. 

You see a job posting. And after reading it, you know that you have exactly what the position requires.

Join us next Wednesday when John Neral and I talk about how to show an employer you’re the best person for the job.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

This show is produced by Mac’s List. 

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Matt Fiorillo.  Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week. 

Are you ready to answer the question, “How have you handled failure in past positions?” If not, you’re not ready for behavioral interview questions. These questions aren’t about memorizing answers, says Find Your Dream Job guest Porschia Parker-Griffin. These questions are a chance to share your accomplishments. Hiring managers want results; sharing your results shows them what they can expect from you on the job. It’s also crucial to practice so that you’re comfortable sharing these stories and therefore avoiding long pauses in the interview. 

About Our Guest:

Porschia Parker-Griffin is the founder and CEO of  Fly High Coaching. Her company helps you find your ideal career, generate an awesome income, and create a life you love.

Resources in This Episode:

  • Porschia loves helping job seekers nail down their interviewing skills. Find out how she can help you by visiting her website at  Fly High Coaching.
  • From our Sponsor: Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume.  TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster. Get a free review of your resume today from one of TopResume’s expert writers.