Unlike traditional interview questions or situational questions, behavioral questions require jobseekers to do more than just rely on canned responses.
Traditional: “How do you handle conflict?”
Situational: “How would you handle this type of conflict?”
Behavioral: “Give me an example of a time you had a conflict with others.”
Hiring managers ask behavioral interview questions with the rationale that how you performed in the past will indicate how well you’ll perform in the future—and ultimately how well you’ll succeed at their company.
Recounting specific stories from your past is not easy to do at a moment’s notice, much less in a high-pressure situation like an interview. Harder still, what if you don’t have concrete examples to demonstrate the quality or skill the interviewer is seeking?
Here are three tips to use when answering behavioral interview questions you don’t have experience for.
Prepare examples of your skillsets (not specifics)
There’s no way to know exactly what questions the interviewer is going to ask. That’s why it’s best to prepare stories that speak to common skillsets like leadership, decision making, problem-solving, teamwork, and conflict resolution. It will allow for flexibility in your responses and minimize your chances of getting hung up.
Draw from all your experiences
It’s best to use professional examples when answering behavioral interview questions, but if nothing comes to mind (or doesn’t portray you in the best light), draw on your experiences outside of work. Education, volunteer work, or even participation in a community group are all worth discussing, provided these experiences are applicable and recent.
Recall something similar
Perhaps you’ve never missed a deadline, but was there a time you almost missed one? Or maybe you’ve never had conflict with a boss, but have you run into disagreements with coworkers? Get to the root of what the interviewer is trying to assess and describe similar situations if you don’t have experience that speaks directly to what the interviewer is asking.
If you truly cannot relate to the question or situation, it’s okay to say so, but don’t just leave it at that. You could respond by saying “I haven’t experienced a situation like that yet, but here is how I would approach it…” or “I haven’t had the opportunity to do X, Y, or Z, but I’d be great at it because….” With or without experience, a little preparation and practice can go a long way toward helping you ace any behavioral interview questions!
Read also: The Right Way to Follow Up After an Interview