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Interview Tip: Do Get Caught Up in the Details

Of all the types of questions you may be asked in an interview (from "Why do you want this job?" to "What kind of tree would you be?"), behavior-based questions are the most telling. Unfortunately, they’re also the questions applicants bomb the most.

You definitely know a behavioral question when you hear one, and chances are, they fill you with dread. The interviewer has pitched you a few softballs about your previous experience and your strengths and weaknesses; then she hits you with, "Tell me about a specific time you had to adjust your communication style to get through to a co-worker." Sound familiar? Then to find out how to answer, read more.

The most important thing to remember when you’re hit with a question like this is to be as specific as you can. That’s the point of behavioral interview questions; the interviewer wants to know exactly how you’ll act in specific situations. Giving a vague or hypothetical answer doesn’t give the interviewer any insight into what you’ll be like as an employee; on the contrary, it just tells her that you weren’t prepared and can’t think on your feet.

Even if all you can think of is a hypothetical answer, or a situation that happened to someone else, tweak it and make it your own. Just remember to keep the details professional, stay on point, and avoid going into overshare territory.

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classicsugar classicsugar 5 years
Great advice for the most part, but I disagree with the comment about taking someone else's situation and making it your own. Behavioral based interviewers are trained to ask probing questions for even more details about the situation, and will most likely catch you in the lie. If you can't immediately come up with an example, ask them to give you a moment to think. These interviewers understand that it's hard to think of an exact situation right away. Most likely you'll realize you have your own example that at least relates somewhat to the question once you have a second to collect your thoughts. Taking this time is much better than answering immediately with a lie.
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