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Succeeding at a Behavioral Interview

If you’ve been on a job search for a while, you’ve probably noticed there are several different types of interviews you may encounter. A type called the behavioral interview is used by many different types of employers. It consists of fielding a series of questions that focus on what you’ve successfully accomplished in the past that relates to similar situations you’ll face in your desired position. Companies use this type of interview technique to discover what you’re capable of managing.

During a behavioral interview, you may encounter questions that are hypothetical in natures like, “What’s your typical reaction to feeling a lot of pressure? Or they may put you in a situation like, “Tell me about a time when you had to make a big decision and how did you make that important choice?” If you think you’re headed into a behavioral interview, here are a few things you can do to prepare.

1. Scour the job description.

By carefully reading what they describe they want from a candidate, you’ll be able to set up some stories that help sell your experiences. For example, problem-solving may be on their list. If so, think through all of your professional positions and look for times you were called upon to find solutions to issues that were going on. You can even use some situations when you volunteered if there are good examples there.

2. Use the STAR method.

STAR is a tool you can use to describe your accomplishments. It stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. You use this method by setting the scene of your example (like a time at work your team was over budget—this is the Situation). Then, you list out what your responsibilities were in this example (keeping track of the spreadsheets—Tasks). Next, you explain what steps you needed to take to address the Situation (looked for misuse of funds—Actions). Finally, you share what were the outcomes (cut out unneeded line items in the budget—Results).

3. Come up with several examples.

Using methods like STAR, you’ll want to provide several examples of your past accomplishments for a behavioral interview. If you find yourself lacking any confidence going into the interview, it’s even more important to prepare and practice these stories so they are ready to go. Since you won’t know exactly what questions you’ll encounter, you’ll be in better shape adapting what stories you do have ready when you have prepared several ahead of time.

4. Focus on adaptability, collaboration, and teamwork.

When you are presented with scenarios and how you would handle them during a behavioral interview, it gives you a good opportunity to show how adaptable you are. Every employer will appreciate knowing you are flexible and can get the job done. If the opposite is true and they sense you will be high maintenance, this will work against you. Also, if you are able to work well in a team atmosphere, this is an advantage. So, when you are working on setting up your stories, think about times you contributed to a team or showed flexibility at work.

To sum up, for a behavioral interview, you want to study what they’ve provided for you in terms of a job description. Then, think about the stories you can tell around the tasks they want you to perform. Make sure you are honest in the stories you tell because you never know who your interviewer knows and any falsehoods could come back to haunt you. Finally, work on your stories so they are all under about two minutes when you practice them out loud.


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