Anyone who has ever interviewed for a new job has no doubt been asked the standard interview questions; possibly the most common being “Tell me a little about yourself” but in the last couple of years, a new trend in interview techniques has gained popularity among hiring managers.
Interviewees are being asked what are known as behavioral interview questions, situational interview questions, and stress interview questions. All are used to determine an applicant’s ability to handle work-life experiences. What are the differences between behavioral, situational, or stress related interview questions?
Behavioral interview questions are primarily used to determine how an applicant has handled past experiences. The reason; because the best indicator of future behavior is relevant past behavior. If an employer wants to know what your behavioral patterns are going to be moving forward in the desired position, the hiring manager will ask you questions relating to how you have behaved in past jobs. Some of these questions include; asking you about a particular type of situation or emergency, asking you to describe a specific instance, or asking you to describe a specific type of problem and how you handled them. The hiring manager is not looking for how you should or will handle that particular instance, he/she is looking to see how you actually did handle that problem.
When faced with these types of interview questions, according to Steinbright Career Development Center, the ideal answer would be what is known as the “STAR Method”, meaning that the response should “describe the Situation, the Tasks with which you were charged, the Action you took, and the Result of your action.” (Steinbright Career Development Center)
When preparing for a behavioral interview you need to determine what the employer is seeking in a candidate regarding skills, strengths, and experience. Once you have determined the employers desired criteria, you can then look back on your career experiences and match them to those of the current job you are applying for. That way, when the hiring manager asks you to “Describe a time when…”, you’ll be fully prepared using actual, factual scenarios describing the situation, the task you were given, the action you took, and the result of your action. Make sure you pick a strong story that makes a statement as to your manner of dealing with tough decisions, tasks, or duties. Finish strong by matching the story with the position you are interviewing for. Practice your answers beforehand by anticipating that you WILL be asked behavioral interview questions, and you’ll sound polished, calm, relaxed and ready to take on any type of challenging task they can throw at you once you land the job. (Types of Interviews)
Separately, stress interview questions are obviously designed to determine how a candidate has handled stressful work situations in the past, enabling the employer to gauge future stress management. If the position comes with a high degree of stress it would be evident by the questions you as a candidate are asked during the interview. This is a great indicator for the job seeker as to how much stress is related to the position, not only giving the hiring manager and insight into the candidate but also giving the candidate a glimpse as to the position, how stressful it might be, and if that candidate wants to accept the position should it be offered to them.
A good indicator of a stress interview is being asked “strange questions.” These are questions that seem to have no bearing on the job, the company or to you, the candidate. An example might be “How many tennis balls can you fit into a stretch limousine?” The purpose of this question is to determine your problem-solving skills and manner of deduction. Break this type of question down into manageable sections. Verbally describe your decision making and reasoning processes. The hiring manager is not looking for a correct answer, he/she is paying attention to how you problem solve, how you dissect a problem into sections and then deal with each one separately in order to come to a resolution. Another indicator of a stress interview is being asked to take a lengthy test in an unreasonably short period of time such as a two-hour exam in 30 minutes. The employer is looking at how calm, cool and collected you remain during that stressful period. (Types of Interviews)
If you are called in for an interview, research the position, carefully read the job posting and list the requirements the employer is looking for in a candidate. Then, go back through your experiences in past positions and where there have been significant stressful situations, then match how you broke down those situations and solved the problem(s) to the particular job posting. Always prepare yourself for the possibility of a behavioral interview or a stress interview. All jobs will eventually have days full of stress that challenge how we problem solve and behave during those stressful times. If you are currently working and looking for another position, pay close attention to how you manage your daily tasks. Do you stress out easily? Do you get flustered quickly? Do you easily lose your train-of-thought? Do you lose your patience with people easily? Do you get angry or lose your temper? If you know you cannot complete the desired task on time, how to you approach your boss? Take note of these situations and prepare for the upcoming interview using your personal experiences. This will greatly improve your interviewing skills and give you a much better chance of being offered the job. (How to Answer “Tell Me About a Time When…” Interview Questions)
For situational interviews, according to Dr. Randall S. Hansen, an applicant is typically asked to answer questions pertaining to a specific situation that they may face on the job. Again, these questions are used to gauge your problem/analytical skills and how you would manage to handle that hypothetical situation with little or no notice and minimal preparation, or how you would handle that situation on the fly. The question most likely would begin “How would you handle…” (Situational Interviews and Stress Interviews: What to Make of Them and How to Succeed in Them)
Again, according to Dr. Randall S. Hansen, to answer this type of interview question effectively and efficiently, reflect on past experiences in the work place, and much like the stress interview, note the steps taken by you to identify and fix the problem(s). Then apply those factual actions to answer and resolve the hypothetical situational interview question. (Situational Interviews and Stress Interviews: What to Make of Them and How to Succeed in Them)
Happy career hunting!
Hansen, Ph.D. R. S. (n.d.). Situational Interviews and Stress Interviews: What to Make of Them and How to Succeed in Them. In Quintessential Careers. Retrieved from www.quintcareers.com/situational-stress-interviews/.
Types of Interviews. (n.d.). In Steinbright Career Development Center. Retrieved from www.google.com.
Zhang, L. (n.d.). How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions. In The Muse. Retrieved from www.themuse.com.