When I was in the thick of interviewing, I remember going through behavioral interview after interview, and it was always an exhausting process. I noticed a pattern in these interviews. Not only did nearly every question start with “Tell me about a time when…” but it felt like every interviewer was reading from the same script and wanted to hear the same type of story over and over.
They really want to know these things:
- How do you handle conflict
- How do you handle failure
- How do you handle working with others (especially in times of conflict and failure)
After a few rounds of feeling like I was coming up with examples from scratch, I decided to systematize. And behold, the Behavioral Interview Matrix was born. Create your own version using Google Sheets!
Click here >> Behavioral Matrix Template
Across the top, list all the typical questions, filling in the blank: “Tell me about a time when _____”
How to Complete the Matrix
Along the side, take the major items from your resume and list them out vertically. Work experience, great projects, etc.
And voila! Fill in the intersecting spaces with examples from your experience to answer the different scenarios. You might not have a story for each, but this will help you build out your repertoire of answers, so you can prepare to recount the examples of your amazingness.
If you want to take it a step further, Matrix 2.0 STAR Stories is there for you.
Along the side, pick out some stories you identified before. Maybe they’re your favorite ones to retell or you’re certain they’re likely to be asked in your interview. Maybe they’re your least favorite and therefore need a bit more practice.
Across the top, we have “Situation”, “Task”, “Action”, “Result”, and, if you’d like “Alternate Action”, “Different Result”. This method comes from story-telling techniques. Read more here.
For your stories, think through and write down the situation or relevant context, the task at hand, the action you took, and the result it had. In the case of any of the “Tell me about a time you made a mistake” or “Tell me about a time you had a conflict” stories, be sure to include what you would’ve done differently if you could go back as the alternate action, and finally how that would’ve resulted in a different outcome.
Once you’ve put in the work to think through these stories and their structure, you’re ready to rock your interview! Review them before the big meeting, but don’t stress about memorizing. They are your stories, tell them from the heart!
And when the inevitable small talk pops up, remember this crucial idea about what people are actually asking about!