In recent years, many employers have turned to the behavioral model for their interview method of choice. This means that, rather than asking for general skill descriptions, interviewers will question you about specific examples in your past that demonstrate the skills that make you a good candidate for the prospective position. The theory behind behavioral interviewing is that your past performance is the best indicator of your future performance.
Behavioral interview preparation is important if you want to get hired. It can also be more difficult than preparing for a traditional interview. The crux of a behavioral interview consists of questions about specific facts, not general descriptions or theoretical situations.
Selecting Your Examples
The first step in preparing for your behavioral interview is to research the company and the position you are applying for. Careful research will give you a fairly accurate idea of what characteristics would be considered assets to the position. There are also general characteristics which are typically sought for across the board, such as willingness to learn, enthusiasm, ability to get along well with others, and conflict resolution skills.
Once you have a list of important skills and personal traits, think of an episode in your past that showcases your possession of a particular ability. Be sure that you recall events correctly. Organize your narrative well so that you do not appear to be contradicting yourself or unsure about what happened.
Keep in mind that your chosen example should not just illustrate your qualities, but should also have a positive outcome. Do not tell a story of how you employed tact, ingenuity and knowledge but to no ultimate avail.
Be honest. Your story is ultimately verifiable, and you should not tell it if you are aware that your version will not be supported by your previous employer.
Tell Your Story Effectively
Practice telling your stories so that they flow smoothly while not sounding overly rehearsed. Make sure that the sequence of events is clear and that your narrative does its job of effectively highlighting desirable qualities and experience that you will bring to your desired position.
The best way to organize your example is to begin with a brief but clear description of the circumstances, and the nature of the issue you had to address. Then continue to describe the actions that you took to reach an optimum resolution, and conclude with the result of your actions. Stay focused on your narrative and avoid rambling. Be ready to provide background information if asked.
Be Ready for Challenges
Once you have your story set out and organized, be prepared for the interviewer to disrupt and challenge your flow of narration. At any time, you may be interrupted and asked to provide further details or additional information. Your interviewer may stop you to ask about the reasons for your actions, whether you considered any alternatives, or more detail about a certain part of your story. Prepare to answer any such questions in advance.
Challenges can also take a more aggressive turn, with the interviewer using a combative tone and loaded language to question your judgment. You need to remember that the interviewer is testing you here and wants to see how you respond. Remain calm and continue to give full and informative answers.
Some interviewers also ask questions in a way that seems to invite you to give negative judgments about bosses, co-workers or customers. For example, they may ask you to tell them who you think is most at fault in a problematic situation. Do not take that bait. Interviewers want to see that you are able to resolve conflicts without pointing fingers or otherwise being negative, even if the other party may be unreasonable. Prepare to describe the situation using neutral terms and diplomatic language. Rather than saying that your co-worker made a stupid decision, you can say that you had a difference of opinion as to the best course of action.
Behavioral interview preparation is important to your success. Unlike a traditional interview, there is very little that can fudged or made up on the fly. Avoid blanking on a question or getting confused by preparing in advance to choose the best examples to highlight your abilities. Proper organization is also key to presenting your examples effectively. With extensive preparation, you will be able to impress your interviewer by staying focused and positive throughout the interview.