A Positive Spin on Behavioral Questions

Every job seeker has issues that employers may ask about during the interview. It might be a low GPA for the recent college graduate or the appearance of job hopping for the more established job seeker. So how do you address those issues with the employer during the interview?

Look at each question as an opportunity to explain to the employer how you have overcome obstacles in your career. If you put a positive spin on the answers to questions that highlight issues, you can make a positive impression with the hiring manager in spite of previous problems.

Behavioral Questions

Many hiring managers will ask behavioral questions in order to root out information about issues they have identified or want to avoid because they believe that past behavior is an indicator of future performance. These types of questions ask you to tell a story and many times they are asked in such a way that you have to provide a negative answer.

  • Tell me about a time you missed a deadline.
  • Tell me about a conflict with a client.
  • Explain the steps you took to counsel an employee who was ignoring corporate policies.

As you can see, behavioral questions can require a negative answer and all these questions require the answer to be in the form of a story that is cohesive and easy to follow. Practice creating answers to these behavioral questions.

Situation Action Result (SAR) Method

Using the SAR method, you provide background information about the situation. Then you talk about the actions you took and the reasons for those actions. Now that the stage is set (Situation) and the actors are in play (Action), you explain the Result of your actions.

Never End with the Negative

Notice that with a behavioral question such as the missed deadline question, a negative answer is required. Never end with a negative because you do not want employers left with a negative impression of your skills and abilities.

Practice answering behavioral questions and turning the negative into a positive. What did you learn from this negative situation? What process did you put in place so that you never miss deadlines now? How has this situation improved your abilities or strengthened your professionalism.

Situation Action Result – POSITIVE!

Behavioral questions require practice to answer and there are an infinite number of possibilities for questions in an interview. Practicing the SAR method and turning the negative result into a positive is an interview strategy that will help prospective employers see you in a professional, positive light.

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