When you don't know the Answer
Behavior-based interviewers can be like bulldogs. They wonít give up until they get the information they want. But you donít have to answer a question just because it was asked. At times, you really wonít have the answer. Much as it may hurt to say, "Iím sorry but nothing comes to mind," that may be the most honest answer. Rather than lie, youíre better off being honest about what you have and havenít done.

You also can ask for clarification. If you donít understand what the employer is looking for, ask him or her to be more specific. Most employers will appreciate your interest and thoroughness.

That said, donít ever provide information that will hurt your prospects. When faced with negative questions, look for the positive spin. This could mean taking the initiative to rephrase the question.
For example, if asked to describe a time when you failed, you might reply, "I need you to help me out here. Since I tend to view most events as opportunities to learn, Iím not sure I know what you mean by the term Ďfailure.í If you learn something from an experience, It can never be a failure; and I try to learn from everything I do. Would you like me to share a learning experience with you?"
If youíre asked to describe a time when you lost your temper, you might say, "I get angry at times but I almost never lose my temper."

If the tone or content of a question throws you off-balance, donít be afraid to buy time to regain your composure and collect your thoughts. In those cases, you might say to the interviewer, "Do you mind if I take a minute to collect my thoughts?"

Although silences can be uncomfortable, they also can be productive. Rather than rush into an ill-advised statement, make sure that youíre in control of your response. If this takes more time, the interviewer will need to wait. Most interviewers will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

The 25 Most Popular
Behavior-Based Questions
Tell me about a time when you Ö
1. Worked effectively under pressure.
2. Handled a difficult situation with a co-worker.
3. Were creative in solving a problem.
4. Missed an obvious solution to a problem
5. Were unable to complete a project on time.
6. Persuaded team members to do things
your way.
7. Wrote a report that was well received.
8. Anticipated potential problems and
developed preventive measures.
9. Had to make an important decision with limited facts.
10. Were forced to make an unpopular decision.
11. Had to adapt to a difficult situation.
12. Were tolerant of an opinion that was
different from yours.
13. Were disappointed in your behavior.
14. Used your political savvy to push a program through that you really believed in.
15. Had to deal with an irate customer.
16. Delegated a project effectively.
17. Surmounted a major obstacle.
18. Set your sights too high (or too low).
19. Prioritized the elements of a complicated project.
20. Got bogged down in the details of a project.
21. Lost (or won) an important contract.
22. Make a bad decision.
23. Had to fire a friend.
24. Hired (or fired) the wrong person.
25. Turned down a good job.
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Strategizing Behavioral Questions
Behavioral questions pose a real challenge to interviewees who are striving to make the interview a conversation between equals rather than an interrogation. This isnít impossible, however. Many of the same techniques you use with standard questions can be employed successfully in this situation. For example, you can finish up a story or response by asking for feedback: "Is that the kind of example you were looking for?"

Nor should you be afraid to ask for clarification: "Iím not sure what kind of information youíd like me to provide here. Can you be more specific?"

Fortunately, the right labor market has forced interviewers to soften their styles a bit. In some cases, you may be given a list of behavioral questions youíll be asked before the interview. This is because employers recognize that itís difficult to think of examples on the spot.

This raises an interesting point. Employers primarily use behavioral questions to gauge your skills and accomplishments. But they also may want to see first hand how you function, think and communicate under pressure. You can give yourself a competitive edge by anticipating questions and formulating your responses in advance. This will reduce the pressure and make you seem clear thinking, level-headed and well-prepared. Given todayís frenetic business climate, those are traits any employer would value.