Behavioral Interview Answers: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

interview tips Dec 24, 2021

What are the key differences between a good behavioral answer and a bad response? Understanding the difference between the two will be critical to your success when preparing for an interview. In this blog post, I will provide two sample responses to a typical behavioral interview question.  

The Question

For the purposes of this article, let's imagine I am asked the following question by the interviewer:

Tell me about when a project you were managing was falling seriously behind schedule. What did you do about it?

In this fake scenario, I am presenting an example from my time as a Supply Chain Manager at Apple. The project was to distribute iPhones to a major vendor: Best Buy. In both examples below, let’s assume I stated my role in the company and the details of the project in question. These answers will focus on how I present the challenges I faced, the actions I took and the results I achieved.

Answer #1

During the initial phases of the project we were working on, we had a good plan in place. We had some really good historical data to derive from previous campaigns. Our numbers had grown each year, and this has led to a good, repeatable process from the logistics and delivery planning perspectives.

Our stakeholders were on board. The key milestones and risks had been outlined. For the first month, we focused on the planning component. In the second month, we had fantastic success in the execution phase. We had about a 99% success rate. In month three, we were scrambling. This is when Covid hit and we were really worried about the supply chain.

We didn’t know what to do about it and found ourselves in a bit of a panic mode. We discussed options, but weren’t really getting anywhere. I went back to the drawing board in search of new solutions. I discussed my ideas with the critical stakeholders. One idea stood out to the group as something we could move forward with, which was to partner with Best Buy to have their Geek Squad deliver our phones. We looked at the overall planning, delivery and logistics. We reached out to leadership at Best Buy to see if this idea was achievable.

They were on board with our proposal. We worked out all the details and then rolled out our plan. We tested first in California. Once testing proved successful, we launched the program nationwide. We still finished two weeks behind our original plan, but the result was still very good given all the challenges we faced. In the end, Apple gave me a performance award for my efforts on this project.

Answer #2

We got seriously behind schedule when Covid hit. By the end of April, we were already a month and a half behind. Let me tell you about the actions I took over the next three months. The first step I took was to stop and research some alternative solutions. I performed both a situational analysis and a gap analysis, focused on our main challenge of getting our products to a critical vendor. 

I came up with the idea to utilize Best Buy’s Geek Squad as a delivery and logistics solution. I created a short, three-slide presentation and shared it with a few critical stakeholders. Specifically, this meeting included my lead, the skip lead and an expert in the delivery and logistics space. Everyone agreed this approach was valid, but it needed some additional sign-off before pitching to Best Buy. I took part in a number of additional meetings and I worked in partnership with the legal department.

Once we agreed on the final idea to pitch, I reached out to the critical stakeholders at Best Buy to present the solution. I presented with high-level stakeholders on my side. After some back and forth, along with some expedited contracts to cover the legal aspects of the deal, we were able to get an agreement in place.

The next tricky part was execution. We needed to test if this solution would work, so we piloted programs in California’s three biggest cities. Before piloting, we worked with our research team to prepare strong surveys that would help us gauge feedback and results instantly. After two weeks of testing, the results were clear. This program was working with high customer satisfaction. We then had a plan to roll it out nationwide over the following two weeks.

In September, I had the opportunity to present all my findings and results to a leadership team, as well as some new creative ideas to improve the delivery and logistics process when dealing with third-party vendors like Best Buy. I also documented all this information and shared it internally with the critical stakeholders at Apple.

The results were that our program got back on track. We did have two weeks of delays. All things considered with Covid, it was a very successful project. We ended up saving about $6 million in shipping costs by utilizing the Geek Squad. We fostered a stronger partnership with Best Buy and also helped them get more employees working during the toughest parts of the pandemic.

I was fortunate enough to win a performance award from Apple. This award is only given to three people in the United States each year. Lastly, we found that this new model was repeatable with other products and vendors. 

Comparison

Once you read the second answer, I hope it’s fairly clear which one is the better example. The second response provides much more details and will engage the interviewer with a stronger setup, execution and results.

To hear my full answers and a complete breakdown of the behavioral response comparisons, please watch the YouTube video below:

If you would like more resources and information for practice interview training, follow my YouTube channel or sign up on Practice Interviews.


Jeff H. Sipe

Jeff has interviewed over 1000 people in his career and previously spent five years working at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley. You likely found Jeff through YouTube and you will find the same level of dedication in his one on one practice interview sessions.

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