Your Behavioral Story Bank
How to tackle complex behavioral interview questions.
Can you believe it’s July already? Time flies. A powerful reminder to occasionally take a moment to pause, embrace stillness, and admire the beauty around you.
I missed NYC, and I’m glad to be back after a few weeks on the the road. The NYC summer energy is unparalleled, though it’s slightly hotter and stickier than I’m used to. Time to break out the tank tops.
Rooftop season is officially here and I’ve got 10+ NYC events planned in the next month or so. Hope to see y’all around this summer!
In the last article I talked about the importance of nailing the question “Tell me about yourself” as it shapes the interviewer’s first impression of who you are. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out here.
The next thing an interviewer will seek out is the relevance of your background and experience to the job. Usually, they do this through behavioral interview questions.
Questions that start with:
“Tell me about a time you…”
At first glance, they can be intimidating. How could I possibly remember and recall everything I’ve done in my career?
Well I’ve got good news for you: these questions are easy to prepare for.
Here’s how you you do it:
Build your story bank
Identify desired skills and experiences
Map stories to skills and experiences
Let’s dive in.
Step 1: Build your story bank
First, compile a list of your most prominent career stories (or accomplishments) in your recent years. Aim to have at least 20.
Structure each story in this format (ideally in a spreadsheet):
Name of story
Problem you wanted to solve
What you did to solve it
Impact of your actions (quantify as much as you can!)
A brief example:
Name: “Building a Customer Feedback Dashboard”
Problem: Sales teams didn’t have visibility into how they were performing and could not improve their processes, strategies, and workflows.
What I did: Conducted 20+ user interviews to identify what an ideal dashboard would look like. Then worked with engineering and data science to develop and launch it.
Impact: Launched it to a sales team of 1,000+ people, including both executives and individual contributors. Dashboard was used to identify new revenue opportunities that results in an incremental revenue gain of $10M over 6 months.
Step 2: Identify desired skills and experiences
Next, do research on the role you’re going for. Do this by evaluating the requirements of the job posting, talking to employees at the company, and looking at similar roles until you have a sense of the skills and experiences required for the role.
Pick 6-8 skills and experiences and do more research on the typical questions used to evaluate these areas.
Common skills and experiences:
Team collaboration (e.g. tell me about a time you worked with a team)
Data analysis (e.g. tell me about a time you used data to make a decision)
Project management (e.g. tell me about a time you had to prioritize multiple competing priorities)
Product management (e.g. tell me about a time you designed and shipped a feature—what was the outcome?)
Leadership (e.g. tell me about a time you had to influence another person without authority)
Resilience (e.g. tell me about a time a hard problem you solved)
Stakeholder management (e.g. tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult stakeholder)
Conflict (e.g. tell me about a time you disagreed with a teammate—what was the outcome?)
Step 3: Map stories to skills and experiences
Once you’ve identified 6-8 skills and experiences, map 2-3 stories to each one. You might have to slightly tweak it to fit the question.
It’s easiest to do this in a Google sheet:
If you find yourself short of a story, go back to the first step and brainstorm more of them. The first step is always the hardest.
Once you’ve got your stories mapped to interview questions that represent different skills and experiences, the final step of this process is to practice.
Rehearse these stories in your head, out loud, and in front of a small audience until they become second nature to you. Do as many mock interviews as you can (I would aim to do 3-5 mock interviews, ideally with different people).
Use the 4x rule for interview preparation: If an interview is 2 hours long, spend 4x that (8 hours) preparing ahead of time.
When it comes to the actual interview, you’ll be ready, confident, and optimistic.
Best of luck out there. You got this!
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