Behavioral interview question problems

arguewithatree's picture
Rank: Gorilla | 530

I'm having trouble 'differentiating' myself at interviews, specifically the superday stage. I honestly never know how to answer most behavioral questions without seeming like complete transparent bullshit. So of you guys could please give me some insight regarding the following three questions, I would really appreciate it, thanks!

1) teamwork questions - I can get past the 'tell me about a time part', but I never know how to answer the questions regarding conflicts with team members/how I solved them. I always say something stupid like 'oh I talked to him/her and we mapped out the team's priorities as well as their individual role in the group'. But that makes me sound parental and overall it's not a compelling answer. Any ideas?

2) the 'what do you see yourself doing in 10 years' question. I know for banking it's ok to say you don't know, possibly pe/hf but definetly something in finance..but for other groups, what do I say? I had an interview for a credit risk position..do I say I want to do risk my whole life? Can I say I'm interesting in banking in the future? This is particularly difficult for me because I'm a soph and I don't want to risk them thinking I'd be using this position to better leverage myself for banking next summer..which is exactly what I'm doing. But then again, who is going to believe that doing risk is my lifetime goal?

3) any advice in general regarding behavioral question?. I'm either bluntly honest and shock my interviewer with my answer (I once answered a class project/conflict question by saying I would do all the work myself and turn in the project without their names on it..my interviewer was like wtf is wrong with you), or I give some transparent and non-compelling 'right' answer.

Comments (58)

Dec 29, 2011

For team work questions, they want to know how you work in a team because in IB you will be working in deal teams (depending on the group could be anywhere from 3-4 to more). You want to first talk about a time where you were working on a project doing something analytical or something with a time crunch. Ex: I was working with a team in my portfolio management class where we were assigned to do.....and had ....to finish it. They want to hear about how you approached conflict because in the 23rd hour of working on a pitch with a team...they need people who are going to keep their cool and be able to handle problems. You want to think of a legitimate time you were in a group and had an issue...and then talk through it, keeping in mind what they want to learn about you in the process. It is never ok to lie, but its ok if you pump up the volume of the answer.

For the see yourself in 10 years question....you are a sophomore, I wouldn't think too much into it. They understand you are young and not sure exactly what you want to do. For something not IB I would say that you are interested in a career in finance but you aren't sure whether you are interested in commercial banking, investment banking, or possibly PE/HF but that right now you think a position in _____ at____ would help you get a great foundation for a career in finance. You always want to think of these type of behavioral questions as ways to pump up your interviewers ego...it all should lead to why you think they are a great place for you to start.

My best advice to you for overall behavioral questions would be to look at some interview guides.

Hope this helps, PM me if you have any other questions

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Dec 29, 2011

talk about struggle/conflict and resolution. focus on resolution. tried to end run this once, didn't work. you gotta talk about conflict.

Dec 29, 2011

for team work question, don't just talk about the conflict/resolution, but walk them through your role in leading the team through the process. "It was a 2-week project [explain], the deadline was in two days, everyone was frustrated [explain], and we were not going anywhere. So I made a decision to .... then presented it to the whole team... and had individual conversations with team members about what they needed to do..." Something along those lines. Put yourself in their shoes - what do they want to hear? You're a a) team player; b) can work under pressure; and c) you are not afraid to work autonomously / on your own / as a leader when circumstances call for it. In IB, you'll work in teams, but most of the time, you'll work on your own piece of the project, so your answer should strike a balance between being able to do things on your own while working as part of a larger team.

10-year question: One answer is to say that with this position, you'd like to build a long-term career in finance, but you don't know in what role you'll ultimately like to end up. Basically, you want to let them know that you're focused on building a solid finance foundation and are flexible in what will happen longer-term....

Jan 2, 2012

thanks for all the help guys. How about questions where they ask how you handle pressure? Do you give an example/tell a story or just just broadly answer the questions with some basic things you do (i.e., prioritize, schedule, etc) Is it always better to tell a story?

Jan 2, 2012

The thing about behavioral questions is that they are open ended. You can take your answer literally anywhere you want. You include the details that you want to include and leave out others you think are irrelevant. I've found what works best is framing your answer with a timeline as demonstrated above (had 2 weeks), differentiating yourself from the rest of the team (other members of the team in our class project weren't really interested, had to step up), present a conflict (kid in group wouldn't do his work / couldn't do it / sucked at life), and how you demonstrated leadership and solid teamwork skills in resolving it (worked with him personally to accomplish task at hand / etc.).

For long term career, I think it's best to leave that one open as well. You're speaking with bankers, so lead off with something like "While I haven't worked in this industry yet, I think I could possibly see myself long term in investment banking based on interactions with so and so blah blah" and throw in something like "however I know the skills that I will acquire from the analyst program leave me with the ability to thrive almost anywhere in financial services." Better to lean more towards banking. You're interviewing for banking, not PE/HF/VC/Corporate dev.

Just don't come off as a tool and make sure to throw some personality into your answers (emotion, inflection in your voice, stupid jokes, etc.). You could have led the team that assassinated Osama Bin Laden; not gonna matter if you can't sell it.

Jan 2, 2012

thanks so much, all of this has been extremely helpful. i'm not sure why i'm so terrible at these questions. Unless I really connect with the person, I'm usually a terrible story teller. Do you think rehearsing answers beforehand is helpful? My biggest fear is sounding robotic and/or fake, so I usually try to just wing it instead.

Jan 2, 2012
arguewithatree:

My biggest fear is sounding robotic and/or fake, so I usually try to just wing it instead.

I would say a mix of both. You memorize the main points and make sure they are communicated. Then you bridge the gaps between these points with where ever the interview takes you. This way it doesn't sound like you're reading from a script and you won't get that vacant look in your eyes like you're trying to remember your lines.

Did you fly over my helmet?

Jan 2, 2012

.

Jan 2, 2012

Dont be afraid to sound stupid, just be yourself and say how it really was. I found that for me this was the best strategy.

Also, you can read some of the behavioral question guides, but those cost money

Jan 2, 2012

My advice:

BE SHORT, SWEET, AND TO THE POINT.

The behavioral questions are basic. If you ramble and go on & on, that's when it sounds like bullshit.

Good luck

Jan 2, 2012

Yeah these questions are really tough because it's hard to not give an wanky answer, when they are clearly looking for a bullshit answer. As you have said, you can't be completely honest because this will be too blunt and too truthful.

I think you need to at least have prepared a number of different situations/extra curriculas you have been involved in which you can use for all the typical behavioural questions (communication skills, teamwork, conflict resolution, leadership etc.).

I think to avoid sounding like you have rote answers, you need to alter your tone and speaking style. Don't make it sound like a Presidential speech - it has to sound like a casual conversation.

As for specifically some of your questions, the 'where do you see yourself in...'. I think the 'normal' answer would be someone who has a plan, but it is not set in concrete (unrealistic). So don't say I plan to MD and I don't want to to anything else. Perhaps say that a long term career in banking is something you're considering, while other options such as PE/funds also seem interesting for X,Y,Z reasons. So you are quite open and wouldn't like to make your mind up until you have first sampled professional life etc.

Jan 2, 2012

I highly recommend the WSO Behavioral Interviewing guide. It costs a bit but was worth it for me. I THOUGHT I was good at interviews, but after a number of 2nd rounds and not being able to seal the deal, I decided to get over myself and get some help.

Jan 3, 2012

I didn't memorize any answers personally, but if you are going that route make sure to practice them out loud and in front of a mirror . It will do wonders for your delivery.

Jan 3, 2012

My delivery isn't the problem, I did completive speaking all throughout high school. My problem is my answers are either inappropriately blunt or such bullshit that not even I could be convinced to believe them. I haven't yet found a happy medium. I own all the guides, and I've read through them multiple times. They're helpful in terms of really highlighting the points that need to be emphasized during an interview, but I think a lot of the answers still sound like total bullshit.

I guess I just have trouble understanding why they ask interview questions if there are "right/wrong" answers. Do I tell them what they want to hear? Or do I be myself? I could easily learn the guides and regurgitate them but I have trouble believing that's the winning strategy. But then again, I do fantastic until super days, and then I don't get offers. So clearly I'm doing something wrong.

Jan 3, 2012

the 10yr question is a real tough one because it depends on the nature of the job opening. If you are interviewing for an analyst program or something where there is a set path where most people move on after two or three years then quite frankly I dont know the best answer, however if you are interviewing for an a job that is open-ended, not a part of a "program", and requires you to really work hard at something that isnt glamorous you can really hurt yourself by saying something that is too strident/ambitious.

For example, I work at a hedge fund and often ask some variant of this question to incoming junior analysts or trading assistants using a shorter time horizon like five years and it is disconcerting when they say something like "I want to be doing your job". That is not a realistic answer and the job I do has very little in common with the job they are applying for...we are looking for someone to do a job for us we arent running a training program for some other job. The right answer conveys information along the lines of "i might one day want to have your job but I am very excited to do this job I am interviewing for and could see myself doing it for five years and doing it very well". My interviewing skills really accelerated when I learned to do this...it falls under the category of "showing the interviewer you understand and are excited about the job being offered".

Just my $.02 and as I said I am not sure if it applies for jobs in analyst programs.

Jan 3, 2012
arguewithatree:

I once answered a class project/conflict question by saying I would do all the work myself and turn in the project without their names on it..my interviewer was like wtf is wrong with you

This is a really shitty answer dude. Why would anyone want to work with someone who would just completely dick them over without calling them out first. I would IMMEDIATELY ding you if you gave me that answer in an interview. It shows that you do not understand how to resolve conflict and in fact avoid it and would prefer to go over people's heads in some sort of self-righteous indignation. Most people aren't overtly aware they are slacking off and causing conflict. Even if they are aware you still need to raise it with them first for YOUR OWN sake. If you just immediately go over their head without dealing with the problem first, you are going to piss off your supervisor and that person with whom you have conflict.

At the end of the day, there is no great way to "differentiate yourself" on these types of questions. People who ask these questions are usually lazy and following a standard interview road map. If they wanted to get to the heart of whether you will work well in their team dynamic they would ask you "hypothetical" questions based on situations that have arisen in their group. Just answer these questions in a reasonable manner and you will be fine.

Jan 3, 2012

I worked for an associate with serious anger issues. I was thinking of "accidentally" spilling piping hot gravy into the lap of an applicant at lunch to see how he handles getting his balls scorched off. Play it off cool? Or get flustered?

Jan 4, 2012

yeah i know it was a shitty answer but it was also interview 5 of a ridiculous day filled with dumb questions like that. i was getting all these bullshit questions that were just prying at teamwork this one example. i had already gone the standard "i'd talk to my team about it/discuss what's going right and wrong" route and the interviewer just kept prying at the same example. it was ridiculous.

but thanks everyone for all the help. i think I'm going to think up some good stories in advance and make sure i touch on 'resolving conflict' or whatnot.

when you guys get asked what role you take on a team, do you just say you're comfortable doing both? Or is it okay to say something like, i usually take a leadership role in class projects but i'm equally comfortable doing something or passive..and then maybe giving an example?

Jan 4, 2012

That's kind of the point of behavioral interviews....

You can't kill the guys you trade with

Jan 4, 2012

Practice and be honest.

Get all the guides, write down the answers to the questions, answer them in the mirror, have people mock-interview you, sign up for a WSO mock interview (just a suggestion - haven't heard much), practice some more. Write down all of the things that they might ask, and spend time thinking about things like "what you did the time you were a leader in a group situation and one of the group members didn't pull their weight."

Basically, do what you did to study for the technical interviews: study (write down answers), quiz yourself (practice/mock interview), and nail the interview.

Obviously, this is huge. If you can't get through these then you have a serious problem. A lot of the time, it's how you respond to the questions they ask. It's crucial that you become comfortable with who you are and how you answer people when they ask you ... about you.

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Jan 4, 2012

Just think of it as technicals. Behavioral questions can only vary so much. Brainstorm your answers, focus on the key points you want to deliver, and practice on your delivery.

So to answer the question you mentioned, "Tell me about a time when you had to face a challenging situation in a team", start by thinking about what interviewers expect to hear. Obviously you want to start off by telling a team work environment you were in, choose a challenging situation something like disagreement of opinion, then explain how you approached to the problem to resolve the situation. End you answer by telling what your takeaways were, and this should make you sound smart enough.

Think about what the perfect answer to the question might be and modify your story to fit it in.

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Jan 4, 2012

My latest article gives a few tips on how to answer behavioral questions, you might want to take a look.

Check it out here

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Jan 4, 2012

Thanks everyone, and Goldf1nger - I have a multi-national background as well. If I am asked to tell my story, then I will definitely talk about it.

Jan 4, 2012

I mean... you haven't told us WHY you are bad at behavioral interviews. Do you get nervous? Have you had a relatively uninteresting life? Is it hard for you to properly articulate yourself?

If you'd like help, send me a PM. Behavioral interviews are where I shine and I could give some advice. Good luck regardless.

Jan 4, 2012

Sent you a PM.

Jan 4, 2012

Is it me or the solution painfully obvious (assuming it's not anxiety or something)? It's exactly the same as technical questions in terms of preparation. Just get the WSO guide, there are more than enough questions to prepare you for anything behavioral-related. Then create/write down the answers to the questions provided using similar form/structure (i.e. using the STAR technique) and then learn the answers (no need to memorize these of course). Just by thinking about the answers you will be ahead of 80% of the competition in this aspect of interviewing.

Jan 4, 2012

How you should answer these questions shouldn't be as hard as you make it look like. When you are already in the recruiting process, you will have some decent experience in working in teams, working under pressure, etc. (at least I hope so). What you can do best is reading the guides about the behavorial interview. By doing this, you will get to know what the common asked questions are. You have to prepare an answer you would give to every question you read in this guide. So not only think about what u would answer, but really write it down. This helps you prepare in a very good, efficient way.

During the interview, the questions asked will be familiar to you. Moreover, you have already prepared answers to most of them! This is the situation you want to be into. Good luck and if you have any questions, you can always send me a PM :)

Jan 4, 2012

The timing of this is amazing.

In short the best way to improve behavioral skills is by improving overall social skills.

Ie: you have to practice selling that you're a fun person to work with and reliable at the same time

1. Convince people who are more successful than you to hang out with you during their free time. How does this help? It implies you're fun to be around because that is how you network. If you're able to convince someone who has nothing to gain by hanging out with you, the value add you bring is your personality! Ie: work on being amicable

2. Realize the difference between the interviewer being serious or relaxed. While many are uptight, type A personality types, if the guy you are interviewing with looks like he had a bender last night, you can usually get them into a more casual conversation at the end of the interview. Ie: talking about sports hobbies etc. This is where you can get him to like you as a person. Many interviewers ignore this step. If you have 3 candidates with 4.0 GPAs and perfect SATs... The difference is who do I "like".

3. Work on interests! This is overlooked. If you have similar interests as your interviewer... He is going to like you more. This is human nature my man. So you should have basic working knowledge of common "interests". Golf, tennis and traveling come to mind. The chances are essentially zero percent that your interviewer's *dream job* is being an investment banking Vice President.

Hope that helps. Those three steps alone will get you a large gain in your behavioral interview skills.

Remember people like other shat remind them of themselves. So the more people you can relate to (ie: interests/personality) the better you will do.

Most people on Wall Street are narcissists at heart. They love seeing someone that reminds them of themselves.

Jan 4, 2012

my best advice is think of five stories of achievements where you can qualify, then quantify the success. keep these stories very universal and general, so when they ask a question you can tweak the story for a response

Jan 4, 2012

I am struggling with this also. Be careful to not sound arrogant. I receive this feedback recently.

Jan 4, 2012

Same problem. I come across as arrogant sometimes.

Best Response
Jan 4, 2012

Whenever I get ready for the behavioral questions, I always start at my resume, sometimes a lot of questions can come from or be answered from there. If you've listed courses you've taken in college, make sure you have a few favorites and remember why you liked them. Remember why you chose your college (a reason other than you wanted to make $$).

I guess I like to look back through college experiences and just remember what I've done to answer the questions. It works for me, but maybe not for everyone. Think about it though: I'm sure in one of your classes, you had a group assignment/project where you had to shine in some sort of way- that can help with the team question.

The advice I have to would be to have answers ready in your head for "what's the hardest thing you've ever had to do?" "When was a time you failed/made a mistake, etc. and how did you recover?" "What sets you apart from the other candidates?" and (as you've already mentioned) "how do you work in a team environment?" All of these questions are much more easily answered if you have a real-life past situation/experience you can talk to the interviewer about as part of your answer. In reference to the team question, saying "I thrive in most team environments, one example that comes to mind is..." is much better/less awkward than looking the interviewer in the eye and saying "Oh I'm great in a team...I uh, swear," and then wondering if they're questioning you the whole time. Even things like attending a big school can be spun to show you aren't afraid to reach out to others and have no problems interacting socially.

Remember: not everything has to be "this one time in my finance class..." so don't try too hard to make it that way, give real answers that really happened. No matter how nervous you are, you'll look genuine to them. Spend some time just thinking/reviewing the last few years of your life- I know it sounds dumb, but I bet you'll come across some situations you totally forgot about that will help you. Even if you get a total curveball, I'm sure there is something you've done in the past few years that can serve as a good example.

I know this whole post sounds (and is) wayy simple, especially compared to the answers others may give. It's just for me, keeping things simple and kind of winging it on these questions is really the best way to go. Just remember that you are there because they saw something in you, otherwise the person in front of you would not have taken a half hour out of their workday to speak with you and get to know you (even if it is a Monday and they seem pissed off). You deserve to be there, so have confidence in yourself and act like it.

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Jan 4, 2012

Use the SAR method
Situation - what was happening?
Action - what did you do because of the situation?
Result - what happened, and what did you learn?

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Jan 4, 2012

Practice! Ask your friends to shoot random questions at you, as if they are taking your interview. Ask random questions like that to yourself and then try to give an instant reply. If you'll keep doing things, I am sure that it'll bring enough improvement and you'll be able to overcome the behavioral interview. Though, this is something that you really cannot prepare through guides and stuff. Have confidence on yourself and just tell them what is on your mind.

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Jan 4, 2012

come up with key phrases and talk to yourself

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Jan 4, 2012

You want to have the best, most relevant vignettes (short stories with a "moral") memorized. Most of them should come from your most relevant experiences. So if you've had F500 experience as an intern, focus on stories related to that.

You want your stories to highlight that you have all the qualities they are looking for, without just telling them. "I am passionate" is nowhere near as good as "I wanted that newspaper to be the best edition because it was the last of the school year, so I stayed up all night, motivated the rest of the team to do the same, red-eye scanned the paper for errors and details despite not having slept for 24 hours, and hand-delivered the papers with my crew when the trucks broke down because it was snowing, all while dodging Neo-Nazi sniper fire".

Not very profound advice, but make sure you have a good story for the major questions and you should be fine. I very much doubt GE Capital, et al, will throw a side-winder at you. Know your stories, keep them short and sweet, and let them speak for themselves about what you bring to the table.

Jan 4, 2012

Recently, I have a had the chance to be on the other side of the interviewers desk. it is absolutly miserable to ask the same questions over and over again:
-tell me about a time you worked with a team
-tell me about a time you stayed up all night to work on a project
its a bunch of BS, everyone has the same answers

all an interviewer really wants is to have a normal conversation with you. prove that your a somewhat intelligent person who can carry on a conversation, maybe has a sense of humor, and has self confidence.

if you can engage the interviewer and make him/her relax, then you pretty much have a 2nd round...

good luck,

Jan 4, 2012

thanks for the advice

Jan 4, 2012

Please dont repeat posts across forums.

We actually just revised and released a new and improved Behavioral Interview guide (announcement was coming tonight). It has even more questions and sample answers.

http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/guide/wso-behaviora...
Best of luck,
Patrick

Jan 4, 2012

I'd check out some behavioral interview resources like consulting interview Coach or PrepLounge. You can practice live or at least get a better idea of some of the standard questions and solid answers.

In both cases though, the best policy is to use a true story that you've practiced aloud to ensure that A) you answer the question B) you demonstrate that the difficulties weren't your fault and C) you managed it in a fair, friendly way that demonstrates your interpersonal / team skills. In particular with the difficult manager question, consulting firms will prefer that you "manage-up" and have the confidence to address the issue head-on with the manager.

Jan 4, 2012

1. Ask your senior banker
2. Due diligence in Bloomberg, CapitalIQ or other databases.

Jan 4, 2012

Do all ib interviews use behavioral questions? 2 out of 3 big 4 accounting firms i've interviewed with used them too. It really is the worst. Studying for like a million things right now so I can't give your question any thought. Sorry bud

Jan 4, 2012

There are threads on this. But standard interview prep is to have 2-3 group projects that you can always point to where you say you showed leadership, resolved conflict, confronted laziness, broke down a huge project into manageable pieces, etc.

Jan 4, 2012

PM me if you want to work on your specific answer

Jan 4, 2012

The first point I'd make is not to take the questions so literally. Understand what they're really asking about, which in the first question about leadership, is about how you have handled failure in the past. How did you respond when there was something meaningful you wanted and were unsuccessful. If you don't have a specific example about a leadership position that you wanted and didn't get, tell them that but then say that you do have other examples of times when you were unsuccessful in something important you were trying to accomplish. The other way to spin this question is to interpret it along the lines of the second behavioral question example. Are you the type of person who can be led, particularly if you think of yourself as a leader.

For these questions and any other in an interview, the key is to understand what they are really trying to find out about you. You can never predict with certainty which questions you'll get asked in an interview, but you can predict with great accuracy what skills or traits they are looking for in the job. That's what you should prepare ahead of time. What stories about your work experience, extra-curricular activities, classes can you tell that illustrate the skills & traits they are looking for. If you take that approach, you can answer any question they ask because all they're trying to do is tease that information out of you so they can assess whether you're a good candidate for the job or not.

Interviewers walk into an interview with the objective of getting these 3 questions answered. Prepare for these and you can feel comfortable that you're putting your best foot forward in the interview:
The 3 Most Important Interview Questions - http://bit.ly/RkosD
That said, for the 2 specific questions they asked, they really do expect you to have examples. Hopefully you have leadership experience and have just never "lost" a contest to get it, because if you've never tried to be a leader in any context you're not going to be a good candidate for Wall Street positions. And if you've never disagreed (publicly or not) with a manager you aren't showing yourself to be an independent thinker.

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Jan 4, 2012

I always aim to talk 3x more than the HR rep. If you are willing to talk they are willing to listen, but if you just give quick responses they will assume they aren't going to get any info out of you so they will rush the interview to end it and most likely ding you.

You should look over your resume ahead of time to get some stories going in your head, then speak them out-loud to find tune them and add the BS to make it sound impressive. Other than that just speak with some confidence and charisma and you should do fine.

Oct 13, 2018

You definitely want to do the opposite of that

Jan 4, 2012

Good comments. Ya, i've been in those interviews before and had questions like, "Tell me about a time a co-worker was not performing up to task and how you dealt with it." OR, "Tell me about a time you were in a group and you had a member who you couldn't get along with" And I think to myself, A) I probably haven't had that experience-or if I did I've forgotten. B) If I did, I would probably just think, fuck that person, I'll do the work myself.

But the HR flack wants to hear some elaborate, step by step answer, so I figure it's best to spend some time thinking up anwers and practicing them in front of the mirror

Jan 4, 2012
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