Behavioral Interviews: A Great Showcase for You, But You Must Prepare Now

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by Joe Turner

Job-seeker behavioral interviewing prep should include developing stories that wow hiring managers and interviewers by showcasing your job skills.

When you go into an interview, you need to leave your nerves at the door. The best way to prepare is to develop beforehand, your own story (or stories). This technique is especially great for the behavioral or competency-based interviews being used today.

A behavioral interviewer will spend about half the interview on your job skills, and about half on your behavioral competencies. He or she will look for evidence of how you have acted in real situations in the past. So having your stories ready to go plays very well for this type of interview.

What is Behavioral Interviewing?

Also known as “competency-based” interviews, these interviews go further than the traditional skills-based interview. You can expect additional questions about your character and personal attributes that can determine whether you fit the employer’s corporate culture. These are called “behavioral competencies.”

Specifically, this interviewing technique is used to determine whether you are a good fit for the job by asking questions about your past behavior. Your answers are then used as an indicator of your future success. For example, if you’ve done it in the past, you probably will do it again.

How is this type of query different from other questions you might encounter?

A behavioral question will be very specific. For instance when an employer asks a question such as: “Tell me about a time when you overcame a crisis, solved a problem, dealt with failure,” the focus is on a specific “time” in your past when you exhibited the behavior about which you are being asked. Here your answer must elucidate a particular action that you took at some point in your past.

A situational-interview question, on the other hand, would be “what if” type questions. For example, “What would you do if such and such a situation were to occur?” The difference here is you may have no past experiences to call upon. You merely put yourself in the situation and use your imagination for the answer. The interviewer looks for your thought process and how you might think through a problem.

How do you prepare for behavioral interviews?

The best way to prepare is to take the initiative and develop several 30- to 90-second stories that you can tell.

You may want to start by developing your stories around these areas:

  1. A crisis in your life or job and how you responded or recovered from it.
  2. A time where you functioned as part of a team and what your contribution was.
  3. A time in your career or job where you had to overcome stress.
  4. A time in your job where you provided successful leadership or a sense of direction.
  5. A failure that occurred in your job and how did you overcome it.

Preparation is important for every interview, but it is essential to succeed in the behavioral interview. A word of warning — you must have stories to back up anything you claim on your resume.

All stories have three parts and yours should be no different. They should include:

  1. A beginning (set the stage by describing the situation, the time)
  2. A middle or process (how you took the action that solved the problem)
  3. A resolution (how you solved or overcame the problem)

A good story should be interesting and full of action. Give employers something to remember about you, something that makes you stand out. Since the stories are your own, they shouldn’t be hard to develop. Let your personality and your core character shine through. Make sure you let them hear the steps you took to solve the problem. The more details and skills you can add, the better.

Final Thoughts on Behavioral Interview Prep

Spend some time well before your first interview to craft and polish several “short stories” about your past using some of the above examples. Take the best examples you can and hone them to a fine edge. Practice them out loud, practice them in front of a mirror, and practice them often. These are your successes. Told well, they’ll give your interviewer a clear picture of who you are let him or her easily determine whether you’re the right person for the job.

Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.

Joe Turner As a recruiter, Joe Turner has spent the past 15 years finding and placing top candidates in some of the best jobs of their career. He makes it easy for anyone to find and land the job they really want all on their own in the shortest time possible. Discover more insider job-search secrets.

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