What is a behavioral interview? The primary focus of behavioral interviewing is not on whether you can do this or that task in the future, that is, with this organization, but have you done this or that task in the past and given your experience how effectively you can communicate what you have done to the interviewer. You are expected to give specific examples. As a result, you need to describe a particular event or project or experience describing how you dealt with the situation and what the result of outcome of that experience was.
The Response Model. As the candidate, your response to questions need to be specific and detailed. Listen to the question. Clarify any points that are unclear to you then frame your responses in a structured way. For example,
- Briefly, identify a particular situation that relates to the question;
- Identify what you did specifically in that situation; and
- Identify what the result or outcome was (hopefully, there was a positive result). You can layer your responses. Think of an onion. The outer layers provide the other person with the big picture or the bottom line of your proposal. Each subsequent layer reveals more and more detail.
The Art Part. The interviewer asks you a question. You respond. If the interview process is “canned,” the interviewer will go on to the next question. If the interviewer is focused on how you responded, (s)he could pick up on one or two points in your response to get more detail. For example, the interviewer may ask you, “What was going through your mind at that point?” Or, “Tell me more about how you handled that person.” Or, “Walk me through your decision making process.” Or, “Why did you decide to do what you did?” Or, “How did your customer/team/direct reports react when you did that?” If you are asked a hypothetical question, such as “What if…” or “What would you do if…” acknowledge this as a hypothetical question and respond accordingly.
It is not necessary to build a watch when responding. Respond to the question as succinctly and directly as you can. It is not necessary to fill the air with your voice. When interviewers want more detail, they will ask you another question that gets at that detail.
Some interviewers want to create stress. They want to see how you handle that stress. Interviewers can create a little fun for themselves by asking you multiple questions at the same time. There may be two interviewers in the room. Each could ask you a question at the same time. Do not panic. Listen to each question. Select one (the easier of the two) to answer first. Then ask the other interviewer to repeat his or her other question. If the questions were designed to cause you stress, the interviewer may dismiss the question and move on or ask you an entirely different question. If the questions were not designed to cause you stress, chances are the interviewer will repeat the question and allow you to answer it.
Preparation before you Talk. Traditional interviews include items such as “Tell me about yourself.” “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” “Why do you want to work for us?” “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Often, the person doing the interviewing does more talking than the person being interviewed. You may think this is a good idea, but be careful. You are one of perhaps dozens of people applying for this position. You need to create a clear picture of your strengths for this interviewer. Typically the interviewer has a set of questions for specific competency areas, such as communication, decision making, planning, team building, managing others, and so on. As a starting point, prepare specific responses for these types questions.
- Give me an example of when you had to make a quick decision.
- Describe an example of an important goal you had to set and how you reached that goal.
- Describe a situation where you had to deal with a very complex set of issues and how you resolved them.
- How do you establish performance expectations with an employee (if this a managerial position)?
- How have you confronted an employee who did not perform up to your expectations?
- What are your basic values and beliefs when you delegate something to someone?
- Tell me about an experience where you had to present an opposing viewpoint. How did you get your point across? What was the outcome?
- Tell me about a time when a client (internal or external) requested that you take an approach or implement a solution that you did not agree with. What was the situation? Why didn’t you agree with it? How did you handle it? What was the outcome?
- What in your experience makes you believe that you would be a good fit for this position, department?
Make certain you are honest with yourself. What are your weaknesses? Why are they weaknesses? And how would you respond if someone asked you if you had any of these problems or traits?
- Tardiness or Family related issues
- Problems working with people who are different than you
- Preference for working alone (or working in a group)
- Difficulties dealing with authority figures
- Difficulties dealing with poor performers
- Difficulties dealing with conflict
- Your self-image and self-esteem
You could say that you have no weaknesses, or at least not those weaknesses. If you choose that route, be prepared to identify at least one thing that is not high on your strength list. We all have weaknesses and by identifying one you are in a better position to control this part of the interview. And do not forget to have your own set of questions to ask the interviewer. Consider these sample questions to ask the interviewer as you move through the interview.
- Can you tell me something about the manager of this department, e.g., his or her style of leadership, what (s)he expects from people?
- What is the turnover of personnel in this department?
- Why is there an opening in this department at this time?
- How would you describe someone from that department who is very successful?
- What is the most stressful or difficult or demanding part of this job?
Prepare. Plan. Practice. Perform.