Unlike traditional interview questions (“How do you handle conflict?”) or situational questions (“How would you handle this type of conflict?”), behavioral questions (“Give me an example of a time you had conflict with others.”) require jobseekers to do more than just rely on canned responses. Hiring managers ask behavioral 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 questions you don’t have experience for.
Prepare examples for 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 on all your experience
It’s best to use professional examples whenever possible, but if nothing comes to mind (or doesn’t portray you in the best light), draw on your experiences outside the office. 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, its 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 to 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!