The interview is the most neglected and yet most important part of the job search. Behavioral-based interviewing is a style of interviewing that more and more companies and organizations are using in their hiring process. The basic premise behind behavioral-based interviewing is this: The most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in a similar situation. It provides a more objective set of facts to make employment decisions than other more typical interviewing methods. Traditional interview techniques ask you general questions such as: “Tell me about yourself.”, “Why should I hire you?” or “What is your greatest strength?”. These are all good questions, but often the candidate can answer the question without giving the information the interviewer really wants to know. The behavioral-based interviewing process is much more probing, works very differently and is often more effective in collecting the right information to make the best decision about a candidate.
How to Best Prepare
Employers predetermine the skills that are necessary for the job opening and then ask very pointed questions to determine if the candidate possesses those skills. The company may be looking for some of the following core competencies: leadership, presentation, communication, decision-making, organization, analytical, teamwork, problem-solving, and negotiation. To determine which skills an employer is seeking read the company literature, conduct a Google search and speak with others in your inner circle and network that might have some inside information.
In the interview, it is important that your responses be specific, detailed and polished. Tell them about a particular situation that relates to the question, not a general one. Briefly describe the circumstances, what you did specifically, and the positive result or outcome. In other words, you should frame your answers in a three step process: 1. the situation, 2. your role and responsibility/action, and finally, 3. the result.
The interview is designed for the interviewee to tell a story for a few minutes, and then the interviewer will pick apart the story to try to get at the specific behaviors. The interviewer can probe further for more depth and detail such as: “What was your thought process at that point?”, “Tell me more about your meeting with that person.” or “Lead me through your decision-making process.” Unfortunately in traditional interviews, candidate answers are too general and superficial. Behavioral-based interviewing really goes much deeper and provides richer data for the interviewer.
Always listen carefully to each question. Take a minute to pause and think about a specific story that would address the underlying issue the interviewer is getting at. You can ask for clarification if necessary and make sure you answer the question completely.
Your interview preparation should include identifying examples of situations in which you have demonstrated the behaviors you have determined are important to a given employer. Your resume will serve as a good guide when answering interview questions, but do not read from your resume in the interview. Instead, commit your resume to memory ahead of time. Demonstration of the desired behaviors may be proven in many ways. I encourage you to use examples from past employment, activities, community service, professional associations or other experiences that give the interviewer a better sense of your strengths. In addition, you may want to use some examples of which you may be especially proud such as running a marathon, exhibiting paintings for an art show, organizing a fundraiser, climbing all the high peaks in the Adirondacks or biking across the country.
I recommend preparing carefully because these are often difficult questions to answer on the fly. Think of writing down specific examples, stories or situations in your past that you would use to answer these sample questions. The three rules of behavioral-based interviewing are: preparation, preparation, preparation. Setting up a Mock Interview, a video-taped practice interview with a career counselor, is an excellent way to improve your delivery. By answering the following questions your will have a better sense of what to expect in a behavioral-based interview:
1. Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
2. Describe an instance when you had to think on your feet to extricate yourself from a difficult situation.
3. By providing examples, convince me that you can adapt to a wide variety of people, situations and environments.
4. Describe a time on any job that you held in which you were faced with problems or stresses that tested your coping skills.
5. Give an example of a time in which you had to be relatively quick in coming to a decision.
6. Tell me about a time in which you had to use your written communication skills in order to get an important point across.
7. Describe for me a time when you had to serve as the leader in order to accomplish a goal.
8. By providing examples, persuade me that you have strong analytical skills.
9. Give me a specific occasion in which you conformed to a policy with which you did not agree.
10. Tell me about a specific project where you had to use your teamwork skills.
11. Give me an example of an important goal which you had set in the past and tell me about your success in reaching it.
12. Describe the most significant or creative presentation which you have had to complete.
13. By providing examples, tell me about a situation where you had to use your ability to negotiate.
14. Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get the job done.
15. Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully communicate with another person even when the individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).