With spring in the air and the job market in bloom, I thought I would focus this article on an often-forgotten part of the job search-prepping for job interviews. Most of you are familiar with traditional interview questions, such as “Tell me about yourself,” or “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” What I have discovered in my work with clients is they are often ill- prepared for behavioral-type interviews, which is a more recent type of interviewing.
Behavioral interviewing focuses on storytelling as a way in which you convince the employers that your past successes will be an indicator of your ability to add value and do a great job for them. Behavioral interviewing requires preparation, practice, and adherence to a methodology. I am hoping this article will provide you with some insights that you can use in upcoming interviews.
Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.
Behavioral Interviewing: Telling Your Story
by Angela Epshtein
Your stellar resume got you in the door, and now it’s time to reveal your strengths through personal stories. While you may not know specifically how you’ll be interviewed, you can follow a few simple steps to bolster your interviewing skills and help you achieve your career goals.
In past interviews you may have been asked, “What would you do if…?” or “Tell me about yourself.” These types of questions don’t necessarily give you, the job candidate, the best chance to shine. The pat answers that sound good may not necessarily reflect your true strengths. These days, it’s much more common to experience behavioral-based interviewing. This interview style recognizes that past behaviors are generally strong predictors of future behaviors.
Managers and human resource professionals trained in behavioral-based interviewing techniques start off by asking a question that prompts a story. For example, the interviewer may ask something like, “Can you tell me about a situation where things didn’t go quite the way you expected them to go?” Your answer will prompt more specific questions about the way you handled the situation, such as, “Can you tell me more about the way you communicated with your supervisor regarding…?”
The interviewer listens for skills and competencies that he or she considers important for job success. The most common competencies include: leadership, communication (oral and written), strategic thinking, creativity, and teamwork.
For example, if the interviewer has identified teamwork and flexibility to be two key competencies of the successful candidate, he or she will listen for those qualities in your stories. Based on your stories, the interviewer can develop a picture of who you are and how you might behave in specific situations.
Preparing for the Interview
The Internet has made it much easier for job seekers to research potential employers. Most companies post their missions and values on their Web sites, providing you with clues to the skills and characteristics necessary to thrive in each organization. Additionally, many organizations post their job descriptions on the Web. Use the job description to get clues as to the competencies on which the organization is focusing.
In addition to doing your homework about potential employers, you will need to prepare six to eight stories about yourself that are based on the competencies you’ve identified. These stories can be a mix of successes and challenges that you’ve faced in your life. Each story should define a situation, describe your action, and end with a result.
Tips for Successful Behavioral Interviews
1) Know your stories-Practice your stories until you can tell them with confidence. Choose stories that help you stay positive about your job search and boost your self-esteem.
2) Be positive, but real-Given that half of your stories will be about challenges you’ve faced, be sure to emphasize the positive steps you took to reach the outcome. The goal of the stories is to highlight your skills and perseverance in the face of a “surprise” or less-than-ideal ending.
3) Variety is the spice of life-Make sure that your stories are drawn from different aspects of your life including paid professional employment, volunteer activities, and even college or graduate school activities (if you’re a recent graduate). This will make your interview memorable and fun for the interviewer.
4) Timing is everything-Try to tell stories that are fairly recent (less than two years old). This will help the interviewer get to know you as you are now, not as you were ten years ago.
5) Tell a juicy story-Good stories always have a beginning, middle, and end. Make sure your stories begin with a situation, highlight an action that you’ve taken, and end with a result that is either positive or the best it can be, given the circumstances (Situation, Action, Result (SAR).
Preparing for these interviews takes a little more work, but it’s bound to help you rediscover your strengths. You got your foot in the door; now it’s time to land the job.
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Aspirations! is written and compiled by Randi Bussin, a career counselor and entrepreneurial consultant with 25 years of experience of corporate, nonprofit, and entrepreneurial expertise. She leverages her extensive background to help mid-career professionals and entrepreneurs clarify their aspirations, develop the “big-picture,” and set realistic goals in designing a career that reflects their personal values and passions. Through focused coaching, she helps clients make steady progress and achieve their career goals.
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