Behavioral Questions: What Employers Really Want to Hear

By: Lynn Gibson, Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) mentor and DePaul University marketing graduate

Have you ever wondered what the hiring manager is really looking for in your answers? In this article, Lynn Gibson, DePaul alumna and mentor, decodes the underlying meanings of job interview questions and shares what hiring managers are really listening for. 


During interviews, the hiring manager has one primary goal: Choose the candidate with the highest success potential for the role. While the necessary skills are certainly a part of that, candidates who don’t have the skills usually do not get an interview. So, the decision comes down to behavior. Since it is believed that past behavior predicts future behavior, most interviews are heavily weighted toward discovering your behavioral strengths.

Now, let’s discuss how to frame your strengths in response to behavioral questions to make sure you highlight your success potential.

As a hiring manager, here are a few things I’m listening for when I ask behavioral questions:

  • Do you take responsibility for your actions in a challenging situation, or do you project the problems onto others?
  • Can you accurately and concisely identify the real problem or challenge, explain your actions, and describe the result of your actions? (CAR)
  • Does frustration/irritation show in your answers, or does a can-do attitude shine through?
  • Do you show empathy for and understanding of others in situations, or do you project a my way or victim attitude?
  • What did you REALLY do on that team project? Can you relate the situation/assignment, tasks you were assigned, actions you took, and results that you measured? (STAR)
  • How do you assess or explain your successes? Are they all “just about you,” or do you appropriately share credit?
  • Are you enthusiastic when you talk about helping others or going above and beyond on something, or do your answers show more obligation than eagerness?

Here are a few more things I’m listening for:

When I ask about failures/weaknesses/disappointments, etc., I really want to know if you “own” your behavior, know how to break down and solve problems, view obstacles as stumbling blocks or opportunities, have the motivation to push through and finally succeed, and grow from the experience.

When I ask about successes/achievements, I want to know how and what you actually contributed, how humble you are in terms of assessing your success, and whether you can clearly and concisely tell me about the process you used to gain the success. In other words, is your success repeatable because it is process driven or did you get lucky?

When I ask questions about your goals, I am looking to gain insight into your values and how you measure success or progress. Can you articulate why something is important and can you chart a reasonable course to try to achieve it? This also provides insight into your “core” motivation, which is what will drive you to reach your success potential.

When I ask about the types of environments that have brought out the best in you, it helps me to know whether you prefer a hands-on or hands-off approach, and if you are a self-starter or need someone to provide motivation.

Hopefully, after reading this, you will understand that the interviewer is using behavioral questions to try to gauge how you will react and respond to daily situations in their firm. They are listening for more than the “answers.” They are attempting to discern the traits/strengths behind those answers and measure your success potential based on how their other successful employees behave – or react/respond. And, that is a very good thing! A really great interviewer will never offer a job to someone who can’t be happy and successful in the role. As much as you think you want a particular job, always hope that the interviewer is very capable and will spare you much disappointment if it really isn’t a great fit for you.

With that said, you are responsible to make certain that you are responding in a way that best captures your success potential. Now that you have a little more insight into the real questions behind the questions, it may be time to give a little more thought to your answers.


The Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) network connects DePaul students and graduates with alumni to explore college and professional transitions, life challenges, and university and career questions. To connect with Lynn and other ASK mentors like her, visit Handshake. Questions? Contact ASK at ask@depaul.edu.

Interview Musts for Job & Internship Seekers

By: Alejandra Ruiz, DePaul University honors marketing major ‘16

The common mistake made by many of us is to think that because we have successfully mastered our resume, cover letter, and job applications that we don’t have to worry too much about the interview. Regrettably, that’s far from the truth. Even though you did a great job explaining your experiences and qualifications in your resume, cover letter and job applications – so much that you got noticed – you still need to cross that finish line. To do just that, you need to connect and impress the recruiters during your interview.

Here are 8 important tips that will help you wow hiring managers and be a successful interviewee:

  1. Conduct Research: It is fundamental for you to be prepared when you get to the interview. For everything to run smoothly, you should have a solid foundation of knowledge about the hiring manager, the company and the position you applied for. The more background information you have, the more confident you will be in answering the interview questions.
  2. Practice Ahead of Time: Before the interview, anticipate what types of questions they’ll ask and what detailed, concise responses you may give. The best way to practice is to think of your responses in forms of a story. This will ensure that you don’t sound like you’re regurgitating an already set response.
  3. Dress for Success: Make sure to plan your wardrobe ahead of time. Always dress professionally and according to the culture of the organization.
  4. Show up Early: For a less stressful interview, make sure you pack your portfolio and extra copies of your resume the night before. The day of the interview, show up 15 minutes early to ensure promptness and in case you get lost, have to fill out paperwork, or just want to give yourself a few minutes to relax and get a feel of your surroundings.
  5. Mind Your Manners: Say hello and goodbye to everyone, from the secretaries to hiring managers; you never know who is watching and when. During the interview greet with a firm handshake, smile, maintain eye contact and sit up straight! A positive attitude throughout the interview will express how enthusiastic and likeable you are.
  6. Be Authentic: To be successful in your interview, remember the quality and delivery of your responses matter. When responding, be truthfully and don’t be afraid to show your personality. Tell them a story; make them excited to hear what you’re saying. Show that your skills are not the only factors that make you amazing; but your authenticity is irresistible.
  7. Ask Insightful Questions: Show you are interested by asking questions. Show the hiring manager that you researched the company and that you have been listening. This simple yet always forgotten piece can set you apart from the rest.
  8. Be Thankful: Dedicate an extra minute to writing a follow-up email or letter thanking the interviewer for his/her time. This small gesture will go a long way and may influence the hiring manager’s decision.

Job and internship seeking is an exhausting and stressful process, but if done correctly, it can result in very positive outcomes. Remember, creating a perfect resume or cover letter and applying for the job is only a small portion of the process. Preparing for the interview and succeeding at it takes dedication and some practice. Consider these tips, and good luck on your next interview!


If you have any questions about these tips or are seeking advice before an interview, please visit the Career Center where wonderful advisors can guide you through the process.

Handshake Hacks: Strengthening Your Search

For students seeking job and internship opportunities, Handshake is a terrific starting point. The Career Center team works with a number of employers who want to hire from DePaul, and they also reach out to employers that students express interest in. Our employers will use Handshake as a means of getting the word out about career opportunities to our students and alumni.

There are a number of different ways to search for these opportunities on Handshake, though, and it’s important to think about what strategy will be most beneficial given your interests, experiences, and goals. Whether you’re searching for a job or internship opportunity, one of the three categories below may be the best starting point when utilizing Handshake to find employment.

Job Function

If you are seeking a job or internship that will allow you to carry out specific skills and tasks, the “Job Function” category is a great way to focus your search around a particular area. Searching by a particular job function, such as “Accounting” or “Design/Art,” will generate opportunities in which that particular function is utilized on a fairly consistent basis. (A closer look at the job description will often indicate if that job function is a major or minor component of the role).

The other benefit of searching by job function is that your results will include positions across all industries, which will widen your search yet still keep the focus on a particular set of duties. For example, if you select “Marketing” under “Job Function,” you will find a number of opportunities with marketing agencies, as well as discover a slew of other marketing roles within the financial industry or with a non-profit organization, for example.

Employer Industry

On the other hand, some people may know what field they want to work in, but not necessarily the type of work they want to do within that field. This is where searching by “Employer Industry” may prove helpful, as selecting an industry such as “Food & Beverage,” “Internet & Software,” or “Non-Profit” will produce opportunities within those industries while highlighting a variety of different roles.

If you’re new to a particular industry, this is also a great way to research both the types of opportunities within that field as well as generate ideas for networking opportunities through LinkedIn or DePaul’s ASK network. If you see a particular job title consistently popping up within a desired field, it could indicate a high-need area. And, reviewing the verbiage of these listings could give you some direction as to how to market yourself and what skills or experience you will need.

Labels

In Handshake, “Labels” are essentially hashtags that sort jobs and internships into college-specific categories. For example, #dpucdmjobs pulls together full and part-time opportunities that pertain specifically to our College of Computing and Digital Media student population, while #dpulasjobs does the same for Liberal Arts and Social Sciences majors. (If you’re looking specifically for internships, those would be categorized as #dpucdminternships and #dpulasinternships, respectively).

The “Labels” category is curated by the Career Center, meaning we identify positions that may be a great fit for students based on their college.

Next Steps

Stop by the Career Center to meet with your career advisor! We can help you develop a search plan based on your interests and experiences, and recommend one of the strategies above (or a combination) that can help you take full advantage of what Handshake has to offer.

Tips For Interview Success

Plain and simple: interviews aren’t easy. They are undoubtedly high-stake interactions that can make or break an opportunity for you. You obviously want to make a positive impression with the potential employer, but, more than likely, you’re also battling nervousness. The fact is that interviewing is a skill, and like other skills, you can build your competency through preparation and practice.

Last month, I offered advice for tackling the “What’s your greatest weakness?” question that inevitably finds its way into most interviews. That post took a deep dive into proven strategies for addressing that specific question. This month, I’m excited to share an article I recently wrote for Eye on Psi Chi, a publication for members of the international honor society for psychology students. The piece takes a broader look at interviews in hopes of giving you a more comprehensive guide to preparing for success.

Check out the article online to learn about:

  • What you can expect in each of the four most common types of interviews
  • Actions you should take prior to your interview, including conducting research and developing a clear sense of the skills and characteristics you wish to convey to your interviewers
  • Strategies for answering three commonly asked questions. In this section, I dissect why employers often choose these questions and how you might wish to craft your responses
  • How the STAR method can help you ace behavioral questions
  • And finally, additional pointers on body language and self-presentation that will help you achieve the impression you are aiming to make

As a DePaul student seeking career advice or interview help, you have full access to the university’s Career Center. Schedule an appointment with your advisor today!

To the Nines: Aesthetics of Resume Writing

By: Gina Anselmo, former career advisor for the DePaul University College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

After many years of reviewing resumes, I can easily spot the ones that are in need of a makeover. Sometimes there might be a knee-jerk reaction when drafting a resume to add everything but the kitchen sink in terms of design elements, including bolded, italicized or underlined words, fancy borders, brand icons, columns and more.

The golden rule I tend to share with students? Less is more when creating a resume. Practicing this rule will allow your resume to exude a strong sense of aesthetics, which in turn will hook the employer and entice them to continue reading.

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Greedy Margins: Margins that are less than .8 tend to make a resume look too dense with content. I recommend that you stay between .8 and 1.0-inch margins.

Itty Bitty Font Size: Back away from font sizes 8 or 9. Small fonts make it harder for employers to read your credentials, and may distract them. Rather, try to keep fonts between 10-12 to ensure clarity and ease for the reader.

Triple Threat – Bolding, Underlining, and Italicizing: Choose one of these accents to highlight titles or organizations, but not all three. Using a mixture of all three will compete with the content.

Borders Blasts: Avoid adding extra lines and boxes if you’re going to include a border. Keep in mind that borders tend to mash the text like a portrait in the center of the page. Always consider if a border or box will complement the text or compete with it.

Bullets for Days: Remember to make thoughtful editing choices; you do not need several bulleted accomplishment statements, only a few that you are proud of and that will impress or intrigue an employer. Try not to use other icons as bullets, including an asterisk.

Icons and Images: Consider adding any branding or imagery within a portfolio rather than a resume. You have much more creative license for a portfolio to share imagery and other artifacts.

Dreaded Paragraphs: Remember the under 30-second rule! Readers are spending little time on an initial review, and heavy paragraphs might slow down the process; sticking with a concise yet comprehensive bulleted format looks cleaner and is more digestible.

Typically, readers take an initial glance at resumes for 10-30 seconds. If the aesthetic is a bit of a fashion faux pas then the reader is less likely to review the content. Aesthetic is the first point of contact for the reader. If you want to make a good first impression, you need to be intentional about design editing choices.

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There are many design elements a student can consider when crafting a resume. However, it’s important to choose elements that will best complement and highlight the content. Below is a mini checklist to help you choose the design elements for certain sections of a resume:

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.35.57 AM Contact Information

  • Pay attention to font type and size! Consider a larger font that isn’t distracting
  • Classic black is fine, but you might consider an accent color to give some content a lift
  • Use fewer lines for your contact information to create a clean look and to save space

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.35.57 AM Categories

  • Make sure the format is consistent throughout; Each section should be organized, and spacing and alignment should be consistent
  • Remember to avoid being wordy with long category titles; titles should be concrete and clear

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.35.57 AM Experience

  • Remember, density weighs on aesthetics; shoot for 4-5 bullets (more or less) depending on the weight of experience and relevancy
  • Having multiple sentences in a single bulleted statement could look dense. Try to keep most bulleted statements to one line, and avoid paragraphs

My advice to you when sprucing up your resume?

A little perfume goes along way. Resume development is certainly an art, not a science. What might seem pleasing to one reader might be a little different to another. However, when trying to stand out from the crowd, it’s important to keep in mind that less is more. Always ask yourself if your document is easy to read, highlights what should stand out, and is professional looking. Remember, you want to stand out in a good way and ensure that the reader takes a deeper dive to find out how strong you really are as a candidate!


Need help with your resume? The Career Center offers many resources including walk-in resume critiques and online resources. Visit the Career Center website to learn more.

Job Hunting? Here’s Something That Will Help

By: Alejandra Ruiz, DePaul University honors marketing major ‘16

Are you a recent graduate, an alumni or a student who is still looking for a full-time job or internship? Are you feeling anxious about your future? Please don’t! The Just in Time Fair is here to help you. This job fair is designed exclusively for the DePaul community. At the fair, you will find recruiters from a wide range of industries who are seeking qualified candidates of all majors and experience levels to fill job, internship, and volunteer opportunities.

For your convenience, the fair is deliberately following commencement weekend, in the hopes of connecting DePaul candidates to immediate opportunities!

When it comes to attending a job fair, my one piece of advice is to prepare. Being prepared will better your chances of walking out with a new connection, an interview, or even a job offer.

Follow these simple steps to get job fair ready:

Revise Your Resume: Go and see your career advisor or a peer advisor at the Career Center to review your resume and provide feedback.

Do Your Research: Research the companies that interest you and have specific questions ready for each. This will help you engage the representatives at the fair and express your knowledge of their companies.

Keep Calm & Practice: Before entering the fair, stop by the ASK Oasis table to…

  1. Relax and prepare for the fair
  2. Practice your introduction and pitch
  3. Get a final resume review

The Just in Time Fair is a great opportunity to interact with recruiters from exciting companies who are hiring right now. To learn more about the fair, please visit Handshake.