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How to answer hypothetical behavioral questions?

behavioral interviews Final Round
New answer on May 10, 2024
7 Answers
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Jack asked on Jan 13, 2024

I had an interview recently with a strategy consultancy. The last round was with the MD and they were assessing my behavior in the workplace. The questions I was asked were hypothetical behavioral questions such as what would you do if working with a client who is knit picky about a deliverable or what to do if given two assignments due on the same day by two different managers. I answered the questions with my thought process and reasoning but failed to mention personal experiences. Did I mess up? Or is this an acceptable way to answer the questions?

(edited)

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Anonymous updated the answer on Jan 17, 2024

The traditional approach is the STAR method - situation, task, action and result. 

Personally, I think this approach is a bit rigid and the conversation just won't sound very spontaneous. I normally like to prepare a few stories that I know very well (so that I can potentially refer back to a similar situation in the past), be flexible when answering the question and try to explain my impact without overdoing it - show, don't tell! 

This type of interview is all about practice. :) 

 

 

(edited)

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Ian
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replied on Jan 14, 2024
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi Jack,

I actually (respectfully) disagree with the other coaches here.

Diving into a pre-planned/memorized answer here is definitely NOT what they want (the worst is when a candidate tries to force a story into a behavioral question that is not for a story).

#1, you need to first make sure you're clear on the question/situation. Normally there are a few “tricks” about the situation…if you haven't truly understood the context you could give the wrong answer.

As in, you cannot give a good answer to just this question….unless you asked followup questions…

So, for example, what are these 2 assignments? How important are both? Who are the managers (do they know each other etc.). Etc. Etc.

Once you have this then give a reasonable answer that shows that you can make the right decisions in important situations.

Happy to practice these live with you if needed!

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Francesco
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replied on Jan 14, 2024
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ interviewoffers.com) | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Jack,

Q: I answered the questions with my thought process and reasoning but failed to mention personal experiences. Did I mess up? Or is this an acceptable way to answer the questions?

If you had a personal experience related to the point you wanted to make, it could have strengthened your answer. This doesn’t mean your answer was necessarily bad though. 

Whether it was acceptable depends on what exactly you said, so it is difficult to comment on that without additional information.

Good luck!

Francesco

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John Mendoza replied on May 10, 2024

You'd want to aim for structure. What I generally see are people overconfidently going into interviews focused on the technical skills side but not paying attention to how they talk about their past experiences. If it helps, I had tremendous help in behavioral interviews with The Behavioral Interview Deck - search for it on Amazon. Their shuffling deck concept is fantastic and solves both for structure as well as ambiguity.

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Cristian
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Content Creator
replied on Jan 15, 2024
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

Hi Jack!

That's a great question. 

The short answer is that you should explain both your thought process AND substantiate it with examples from your past when you exhibited that skill. 

The best way to convince the interviewer is actually to show them rather than tell them, and that requires that you evoke a particular episode that is relevant to that story and show your behaviour. 

To prepare for this, the best way is to prepare a set of 6-8 stories (the McKinsey PEI framework is a good starting point regardless of which firm you're preparing for) and then use these as a Swiss-knife regardless of the question that you're presented with. 

Best,
Cristian

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Florian
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replied on Jan 15, 2024
Highest-rated McKinsey coach (ratings, offers, sessions) | 500+ offers | Author of The 1% & Consulting Career Secrets

Hi there,

Whenever going into a personal fit, it's always a good idea to use concrete examples to support your points.

In this case, it would only be an addendum to your main answer, e.g., “Actually I experienced a similar situation once when XYZ happened. I also reacted doing A, B, C, and the outcome was CDE."

Not mentioning that is definitely not a major mistake!

Fingers crossed for a positive outcome.

Cheers,

Florian

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Nikita
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replied on Jan 14, 2024
MBB & Tier2 preparation | 85+ offers | 7 years coaching | 2000+ sessions | PDF reviews attached

Hey,

Agree with Francesco here. A real-life example would have augmented your answer but is not a must.

Good luck!
Nick

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