Prepare for behavioral interviews
April 12, 2012 3 Comments
One workshop I designed almost four years ago was on behavioral interviewing. At that time most of my customers told me they’d never heard of behavioral-based interviews. Even now many are in the dark about these interviews.
Those who have experienced behavioral interviews admit they’ve had difficulty answering questions that begin with, “Tell me about a time when….” Which is not hard for me to believe given the fact that this type of interview is new to many of them (many haven’t interviewed in 10 or more years).
On the other side of the desk, many interviewers are not trained to ask behavioral questions. Instead they fall back on traditional questions that lack creativity and can be answered with rehearsed replies. “Tell me about yourself?” or “What are your two greatest weaknesses?” or “Why should I hire you?” are all predictable questions. Traditional interviews are easy for applicant to prepare for.
In addition, traditional questions are theoretical—in other words, the interviewee might not have performed, or failed to perform, the desired competencies. The candidate can essentially tell the interviewer whatever he/she wants to hear. This is not to say all traditional questions don’t have value. They are necessary in determining the applicant’s technical abilities, and some questions, such as, “Why did you leave your last company?” are necessary to ask. But to get to the heart of the candidate, behavioral questions are the best way to accomplish this.
How do you prepare for behavioral interviews? Is it possible?
Preparing for a behavioral interview is possible, albeit more difficult than preparing for a traditional interview. In order to prepare for a behavioral interview, it requires acute knowledge of the position’s requirements.
If you are able to identify eight or more competencies required for the position, you can predict, within reason, the types of questions that will be asked. For example, if the job ad calls for someone who is organized, demonstrates excellent verbal and written communications, is dead-line driven, is a leader, etc., you can expect questions such as:
“Tell us about a time when your organization skills resulted in a smooth delivery of services.”
“Give me an example of when your verbal communications skills made it possible for you to solve a conflict between colleagues.”
“Tell me about a time when your leadership faltered and resulted in a conflict between a subordinate and you. What did you learn from your error?”
Questions like these will require you to tell a compelling story for each of these skills. How you tell your stories is important. They will consist of a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning is the situation and task, the middle is the action taken to meet the situation, and the end is the positive, or negative, result. STAR is the acronym you’ll want to keep in mind.
What I tell my customers to keep in mind is that not all questions will call for a positive result; some will ask about a time when you failed to deliver a product or perform a task successfully, for example. Obviously you don’t want to elaborate on these situations. Can you prepare for behavioral questions? Sure.