Sample Behavioral Interview Answers
Below are some possible behavioral questions with answers. Use them to help you prepare your own answers to behavioral questions.
1. Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a major change, one that affected your entire team.
2. Tell me about a time when you had to tell your team about a major reorganization in the unit.
3. Give me an example of a good decision you made recently.
(Note - One answer can work for more than one question as long as it covers the required competencies):
Situation and Timeframe:
About 18 months ago, there was a major reorganization in my Branch. Two units were merged to form one completely new unit. Several of the employees on my team were moved to a new team while others were expected to take on different tasks. Also, new employees from a different unit joined my team. Everyone was nervous and stressed.
The first thing I did was call a face-to-face meeting with my entire team, bringing people in from across the country for a two-day workshop. I decided to have the workshop off-site so that we could concentrate on the task at hand and not be distracted by day-to-day activities.
I chose a hotel about 50 kilometres from the office with great conference facilities, a good restaurant, a gym and a spa. Having people stay at the hotel overnight meant that they could get to know each other on a social basis as well as on a work basis. I gave them free time between 4pm and 6pm on the first evening and invited them to meet me for dinner at 6:30pm. After dinner, I asked them join me for a short session to reflect on the events of the day and plan for the next day.
To ensure that things ran smoothly I hired a facilitator who was experienced with the SOAR method of strategic planning (a variation of Appreciative Inquiry). My reason for getting the team together like this was not only for us to get to know each other and build trust in the team but also to set some goals for the team and plan some processes for going forward.
I decided to end the second day around 2pm to give everyone time to get home or to the airport in good time. To that ensure we made the most of the day I ordered lunch to be brought into the board room so that we could work straight through.
The workshop was a great success. New team members felt welcomed and valued. Existing team members felt equally valued. Everyone was pleased to have some input into how we would work as a team going forward. When the reorganization finally occurred, we were ready.
Change Leadership, Team Leadership, Initiative, Strategic Thinking, Communication, Decision Making
1. Describe a time when you initiated a major change in your unit/branch and met with considerable resistance from your team.
2. Describe a situation where you had to deal with a major conflict in your team.
3. Give me an example of a difficult decision you made recently.
Situation and Timeframe:
Last year I was really unhappy with the way my team was functioning. I had inherited two new units within a six-month period and there really weren’t any commonalities amongst the (now) three groups. One group was responsible for applications, the second group was responsible for programs and the third group was responsible for policy. Not only did they not know what each other did, they did not seem to be interested. In addition to that, there was a certain amount of rivalry/conflict between the groups. Since they worked on different floors they rarely met outside of staff meetings.
To try to change this and to get some cohesion across the team, I decided to move some of the team members around. First, I met with them individually to let them know what I planned. I asked them to think about where they would like to go. I explained that I might not be able to satisfy all their requests but that I would do my best.
There was a great deal of resistance to my plan. Several team members came to see me, saying that it would never work. They pleaded lack of skills knowledge and competencies. I reassured them and told them that they would receive training/coaching for the new tasks.
Not only that, I arranged that there would be several days of job shadowing before they took over their new responsibilities. I helped them to think of the changes as opportunities to learn and grow. Once they saw it that way they were more willing to agree to my plan.
As a result of this the three units came together as a strong team. An added bonus was that individual employees began to fill in for each other when someone was away – or provide extra help when deadlines were tight.
Change Leadership, Team Leadership, Team Building, Decision Making, Communication
1. Tell me about a time when you were asked to be a part of a change management initiative for your organization
2. Tell me about a time when you were tasked to do something you did not feel comfortable doing.
Situation and Timeframe:
Two years ago, I worked for a large global pharmaceutical company whose headquarters were based in Basil, Switzerland. The company had been struggling for a while to meet its projected sales numbers and the shareholders were getting restless.
The CEO decided it was time for a change. The Vice President of Human Resources hired a consulting company to shake the organization up. I was asked to be part of the change management team with about 60 other people from across the organization. We were all invited to corporate headquarters for two weeks of training. At first I was nervous because I am very introverted and I was worried about getting to know all those new people.
However, I told myself that we were all in the same position and I decided to make the most of the opportunity. Once there, I took it upon myself to get to know several members of the team on a one-on-one basis. I invited one for coffee, another for dinner, asked another to go for a walk, etc., etc. until I felt comfortable with them.
This helped me participate in group sessions and gave me the confidence I needed to start implementing the change processes when I returned to my country. The first thing I did when I got back to the office was to debrief the senior management team, present a plan and a budget for going forward and ask for approval to put the plan in place.
Then I prepared a deck and organized a series of briefings. Next, I asked for volunteers to be part of a “change management team” that would spread out across the country to develop a critical mass for change.
By working together and sharing our knowledge and experiences we were eventually able to create a buzz around change. It was a slow process, but after several months we started to see some changes in the organization. We are not there yet, but sales are beginning to pick up.
Change Leadership, Decision making, Teamwork/Team Leadership, Communication, Initiative, Adaptability, Self-confidence
Tell me about a time when you had to change your presentation at the last minute to suit the audience
Situation and Timeframe:
Three months ago I was asked to make a presentation on a new piece of software we were introducing to the Human Resources Branch. I was pretty nervous because I had never made a presentation in front of more than three or four people before and then it was always in front of y team members.
At first didn’t think much about the audience because I was focusing on developing my slides and on what I would say. Then on the morning of the presentation it occurred to me that perhaps the HR team wouldn’t understand some of the jargon I was using.
There wasn’t much time so I called a friend in the HR department and asked her if I could go and see her. I asked her to look at my presentation and tell me if she could follow it. She had difficulty understanding some of the technical terms and she thought her colleagues would have the same problem. So, I went to see my team leader and asked her if she would help me explain things in plain language.
We worked on it together for over an hour then it was time for me to deliver it. I spoke confidently using the right language for my audience.
The HR team understood everything I said and gave me a great round of applause at the end. I felt really good about this and volunteered to make the same presentation to other branches in the organization.
Change Leadership, Communication, Client Focus, Teamwork, Initiative
A FINAL QUESTION:
Tell me about a time when you were working on a favourite project and your manager told you the project was cancelled and that she needed you to start working on something else right away.
Situation and Timeframe:
Two years ago, I was working on a project to develop some new tools to help implement my company's competency profiles. I had been contacted by someone from HR who wanted me to help them develop some self-assessment tools for employees and an interview guide for hiring managers.
My contact in HR had some good ideas about what he wanted but did not have the technical skills to do it. We had been working together for about six weeks and were in the middle of development when my manager told me that a new priority was to take precedence over this one.
I told my manager I could do both, but she said that was not possible and suggested I contact HR right way to let them know. I was very disappointed and I knew they would be too, but I accepted my manager’s explanation without complaining.
That night, however, I had an idea. I knew that we were getting two new Co-op students in the coming weeks, so the next morning I suggested to my manager that if one of the Co-op students could work on the HR project, I could oversee it without compromising my own work on the new priority.
My manager agreed with the understanding that if I got behind with my own work, I would have to give up the HR project altogether. I agreed to that. The Co-op student was excellent and with very little supervision from me he completed the project in record time.
HR was very happy with the new tools, my manager was pleased because we had a happy client, the Co-op student was pleased because he had had the opportunity to use his developer’s skills and I was happy because my pet project was up and running for everyone to see.
Client Focus, Innovation, Flexibility/Adaptability, Teamwork, Initiative
REMEMBER: INTERVIEW PREPARATION IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS!
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