Advice for Acing Behavioral Interviews

Behavioral interviewing is a popular technique in wide use today, one that conceptually states that past performance is an accurate arbiter of future performance. Though it sounds simple enough, if you have never experienced a behavioral interview, it can present some challenges.

Being prepared for what you are likely to encounter will give you a good chance of getting through it with ease.

Acing Behavioral Interviews - three women at interview

In a behavioral interview, questions are answered anecdotally. Essentially, this means you will be telling stories about how you would handle certain situations and challenges as they relate to the position and its required skill sets.

These questions may begin with statements such as:

  • Describe how you reacted when …
  • Give me an example of …
  • Tell me about a situation in which you …

While your skills and experience may technically qualify you for the position, if you can’t back them up with examples of how you put them into practice, they are words without substance.

How to prepare for a behavioral interview

To prepare for a behavioral interview, try to anticipate the challenges inherent in the job itself. Try to identify a few likely scenarios and imagine what your potential employer might like to hear. Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes as much as you can.

Go over the job description in great detail. Do a bit of digging into the company and its culture. Look for clues that illustrate what qualities and skills are valued within the organization. Try to think of what questions might be asked that would elicit a response illustrative of these qualities or skills.

What follows are some examples of some situations, along with questions that might be asked in an attempt to bring them to light:

Behavioral skill #1: problem-solving

Problem-solving is a skill indicated in most positions but especially so for management or higher.

You may be asked to talk about an occasion where you used your own judgment to solve a problem or had to make a decision on the fly.

Behavioral skill #2: Leadership

Convincing your team to agree with a new idea or methodology is often a challenge. You might be asked about how you have dealt or would deal with such a situation and whether or not you were successful.

Think about challenges you have had in bringing this type of action to a successful conclusion and what you did to make it work.

Behavioral skill #3: Motivation

Your ability to go above and beyond is a strong indicator that you are invested in the success of the organization as well as the rest of your team.

You may be asked to talk about a time when your actions were well beyond the scope of your job description and how it impacted those around you.

Behavioral skill #4: Communication

Communication is essential, but not all people are easy to communicate with for various reasons. Even when another person is being difficult, you need to be able to make your case clearly.

You will likely be asked to describe an occasion when you had to leverage your verbal or written communication skills to get your point or idea across to such an individual or group.

Behavioral skill #5: Interpersonal skills (aka teamwork)

To demonstrate teamwork, you might be asked to provide an example of how you have encouraged and supported others with whom you work.

You may also be asked to describe a widely unpopular judgment you have made, the end result, and how you handled it. Whether it was successful or not, having insight into how it could have been handled better is always good to mention.

Behavioral skill #6: Planning and Organization

Time management, prioritization, and all the challenges inherent in such activities can wreak havoc on your productivity. In a behavioral interview, you may be asked to describe how you prioritize such tasks and how you handle interruptions to your own workflow.

Acing Behavioral Interviews - Word Cloud

Developing your story

Now that you have a general idea of what questions you might be asked during a behavioral interview, think about some experiences you have had that are relevant to each issue and develop stories around them.

Keep them simple and to the point while providing as much detail as you can. Each anecdote should include the following:

  • Very specific examples of real situations you have experienced
  • Detailed descriptions of how you were able to rise above the challenge
  • A quantified rundown of the results

Here is an example of an answer that covers all these points:


Tell me about a challenging objective you achieved and how you were successful.


Faced with cuts to our overall program funding, we were faced with losing a significant portion of our marketing budget but could not afford to reduce our outreach as it would have negatively impacted enrollment. As the director of the program, I reviewed our promotional spending and sourced new suppliers who could provide us with the same or better-quality collateral at a much-reduced cost. As a result, we were able to reduce our marketing expense by more than 40 percent. Additionally, our new media partners had a lot more to offer in terms of digital alternatives, so we were able to broaden our reach and improve enrollment by 15 percent while optimizing our budget in the process.

Once you are familiar with the behavioral interview process, you should be able to prepare much more effectively and make sure you won’t be caught off-guard when you are asked such questions.

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Fred Coon, CEO

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Integrating Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

All human interactions within the business world are affected by Emotional Intelligence (EI), from customer service to troubleshooting and brainstorming, meeting presentations, and employee emotional-intelligence-group-of-business-employees-smilingmotivation.

When a staff is emotionally intelligent, they are further empowered to achieve maximum effectiveness through teamwork.  On all levels, an emotionally intelligent workforce warrants a successful business.

The Theory Behind Emotional Intelligence

We have all heard the adage, “think before you speak”.  Instead of allowing our emotions rule our actions, we must learn how to recognize them as they develop, realize their cause and potential effects, and do our best to control how we react.  While our emotions can warrant inspiration and inventiveness, we must be sure to not allow them to trigger a regrettable situation.  Essentially, emotional intelligence can be described as a very important social skill, which is not only critical in our personal lives, but is also indispensible in the workplace where tensions can sometimes run high.

Achieving Emotional Intelligence at Work

According to professors Peter Salovey and David R. Caruso, authors of the publication “The Emotionally Intelligent Manager”, developing a sense of emotional intelligence can be broken down into four basic skills:

  • Recognize your own feelings as well as those of others.emotional-intelligence-smiling-business-woman-with-working-staff-in-background
  • Utilize your emotional mindset to help guide your own thoughts and analyses, in addition to those of others.
  • Realize the variableness of feelings and initial reactions, and how they change and evolve with unfolding events.
  • Remain open to the information that feelings may disclose and incorporate this into your actions and choices.

The incorporation of these practices within a corporate culture can help managers remain empathic to their employees; support healthy and constructive collaboration among team members; and promote a general ethos of patience, logical thought, and staying power among employees and managers alike.

Where to Begin

Of course, attaining a pinnacle level of emotional intelligence within yourself is the first step toward it becoming second nature within your company.  Whether you are a business leader or team member, you can still provide others with an example of emotional intelligence by employing these values on your own.  Achieving this balance will not occur instantaneously, but through practice and perseverance, you and your team will begin to learn how to view the larger picture when a potentially reactive moment arises.

By Fred Coon, CEO


Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200


Guidelines for Accepting a Job Abroad

Due to the increasing movement toward globalization, more and more Americans are accepting jobs abroad. Nevertheless, it is not a decision to be taken lightly. For instance, if you are considering a job in another country, it’s critical to ensure that the employer presents you with a viable employment contract.

Writer, marketing consultant, and employment connoisseur, Anne Shaw presents a set of guidelines for those planning to take the leap abroad.

Accepting Job Abroad - Businessman holding laptop with virtual map

Your new employer should help steer you through the changes.

A good employer should offer you a quality relocation package by contributing toward the packing and shipping of your belongings, home sale assistance, as well as a stipend for temporary housing. In addition, they should support you in acquiring the proper visa and — depending on your particular circumstance – employment search assistance for your significant other. To bridge language barriers, many companies will even help re-locators comprehend new local laws, tax differences, and leasing regulations.

Get to know the company’s work-life balance standards.

When it comes to vacation plans and work-life balance, different countries have different standards and customs. Whereas the U.S. norm is approximately 12 to 15 days vacation time, London for instance, provides approximately double this amount. Be sure to inquire about any possible shifts in work culture.

Think ahead.

Before leaving a position in Europe, it is expected that you provide a full three months notice, as opposed to the U.S.’s mere two weeks. Therefore, if you become an employee in another country – rather than simply a U.S. employee fulfilling an international assignment – it’s important to ascertain how long your position is likely to last. Establishing this from the beginning could prevent a more complicated situation down the road.

Be familiar with your visa specifications.

Since work visas vary from country to country, make sure you research the stipulations surrounding the one you’ll be under. Remember that a reputable employer will assume responsibility for helping you obtain your work visa due to the intricate process involved. Nonetheless, be prepared to complete a copious amount of paperwork. Additionally, be aware that the banking processes and tax laws will also be at a variance, so make note of your specific employment status so you’ll know exactly how your income will be taxed.

Your taxes will still be filed with American IRS.

Bear in mind that even if you are paying taxes in a new country, you’ll likely still have to file with the IRS to indicate that you paid your taxes abroad.

Sort out any banking challenges.

Even if you have an excellent credit rating, getting credit in another country can be quite difficult. To avoid the hassle, open a credit card with an international company before leaving the U.S. Therefore, when you arrive you’ll only have to transfer the card, rather than apply for a whole new line of credit. Moreover, be sure to educate yourself on how to set up a bank account abroad. Research the minimums, fees, timing on transfers, as well as online capabilities. As a precaution, also look into obtaining a reference letter from your bank in the U.S.

Accepting Job Abroad - Luggage and passport

Consider the extras.

While the professional facets of your move are essential, Shaw reminds those relocating internationally to also take the social and personal factors into consideration. The following tips may help make your time abroad significantly more pleasant and contented.

  • Connect with fellow expats for camaraderie.
  • Get acquainted with local popular culture.
  • Prepare for the language barrier with basic conversational skills.
  • Reach out to and learn from your extended network.
  • Begin the visa process as far in advance as possible.
  • Don’t over-pack in the event you have to switch locales.
  • Get to know the driving laws and licensing differences.
  • And finally, don’t forget your visa when traveling between countries!


Fred Coon, CEO

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

Relief for Workaholics

Work, as a cultural dynamic, has something of an interesting place in American society. Throughout the latter half of the previous century, ‘work’ was the subliminal metric by which we measured ourselves and others in terms of utility, worth, even social status. To this day, we often hear proud exclamations in the realm of:  “I put in 60 hours this week alone!” While a strong work ethic is commendable, there is nothing glamorous about working yourself down to the bone, putting your mental and emotional well-being at risk, and burning out. And that is precisely what happens to those who cannot find a healthy balance between work and life:  burnout.

Workaholics - man at desk writing

So then, how do we isolate the line between healthy and unhealthy? Taylor and Francis, an online repository of scientific journals and academic materials, ran a study on the correlations between ‘workaholism’ and health. Their findings indicated “significant relations between workaholism subscales and SHC, job stress, burnout, and work engagement.”


Many psychologists today are of the firm opinion that workaholism is a disease, passed down from parent to child, which values perfectionism and running oneself ragged to achieve, far over and above any concerns of mental health and emotional balance. It is, overall, indicative of a mindset that believes any real value must be earned as a byproduct of economic success, which again, is a largely unexamined hand-me-down from Industrial American culture. It is a paradigm that is doing very few people any long-term favors—although your boss may certainly appreciate all the extra work you’re putting in, depending on their overtime stance.

As far as unexamined paradigms go—and they are often the most potentially insidious of modern influences on society and culture the world over—the notion that “wealth equals happiness” is among the most powerful and pervasive. While it’s understandable, given that so much of the world’s population lives in considerable poverty (in the US alone, over 60 percent of the population makes well under 50k a year), a great many studies have shown, again and again, that once a certain monetary threshold is reached (around 75k in the US), increased income has very little contribution to happiness.

It’s not money, then, that is important—it’s the lack of it.


Given all this, then, how can you determine where you stand? Say you’re a highly motivated professional who genuinely cares about both career and living a full life—where do you draw the line? Consider asking yourself some questions:

  • Have you heard comments in the last month about how much you work?
  • Can you actually take weekends off without checking your email?
  • Do you turn to work when feelings of guilt, concern, or anger rise up?
  • When was the last time you took a few days to pursue something you enjoy but won’t be paid for?

These questions may seem basic, but they should, and their answers matter. If you find yourself shying away from this kind of topic, that is also a good indication you need to sit back and give some careful reflection to the subject: How much better a job can you do if you’re healthy and balanced?

Workaholics - Scale with Question marks


To be clear, the difference between a healthy work ethic and a tendency toward “workaholism” is typically quite vast. However, if you feel you fit the latter demographic, all hope is not lost. Chances are a shift in perception and a proverbial “letting yourself off the hook” may be one of the first steps toward a positive change.

Work smart (not hard).  Perhaps you can put your penchant for hard work to use by maximizing your knack for efficiency. Remind yourself that being highly productive for a shorter time is an accomplishment in and of itself. Setting reasonable limits is vital to ensuring that your work doesn’t consume all other aspects of your life.

Look at the “big picture”. Viewing your life as a complete entity can help you realize what may be missing from it. Although somber in nature, imagine what those closest to you will remember most. Will they recall pleasant and fulfilling memories of time shared? Sometimes we must take a glimpse at ourselves from a different perspective in order to improve and make the most of the life we’ve got.


Fred Coon, CEO

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200