Tactics for Handling the Behavioral Interview

Published: Oct 17, 2013

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October 17, 2013

Be prepared for any type of an interview when you walk into that office. Here are some tips to tackle and prep for one of more popular interview styles.

By Angela Rose for BioSpace.com

What is a behavioral interview question? It’s a doorway leading to opportunity; the chance to illustrate for a potential employer – in great detail – how awesome you already are at doing the job. Unlike those questions that ask you to hypothesize about the future (e.g. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”), behavioral interview questions allow you to explain how you’ve acted in very specific situations. These questions are popular with experienced interviewers, as past behavior is often indicative of future performance.

If you find yourself in a behavioral interview, you can expect questions that are more direct and more specific in nature than traditional interview questions tend to be.

Examples include:

1. Tell me about a time when you had to solve a serious problem.
2. When was the last time you went above and beyond at the office? Why did you do it?
3. Tell me about a time when you made a decision that others disagreed with. How did it turn out?
4. Have you ever had issues with a coworker? How did you handle it?
5. Tell me about a time when you had to juggle multiple priorities.
6. Have you ever been interrupted while focused on an important task? How did you handle it?

Of course, you won’t know what type of interview you’re in for until those first few questions are asked. The best line of defense is to prepare for both traditional and behavioral queries. Begin by reviewing the actual job description if it is available. If not, comb through the job posting. Both provide clues about the behavioral characteristics the employer values. You may find phrases such as “performs well under pressure,” “self motivated,” “success oriented,” “problem solver,” and “team player.”

Consider your past employment experiences as well as situations you’ve encountered doing volunteer work, during internships, even in school. Identify a few that will provide your interviewer with favorable insight into your behavior. While there are no right or wrong answers, don’t choose situations in which you come off looking less than perfect unless you are prepared to own your mistakes and can also show that you learned from them.

Once you’ve gathered your tales – situations in which you solved a problem successfully, thought “outside the box,” calmed a difficult customer, triumphed over disaster, learned from a mistake, or went above and beyond, for example– practice telling them. It is recommended that you first describe the situation, then detail your behavior and, finally, outline the outcome of your actions as well as what you learned from the experience.

Behavioral interview questions are not to be feared. On the contrary, they should be warmly embraced. Walk through their doorway of opportunity with gusto. Telling the interviewer exactly how you’ve succeeded in the past is the best way to show how you will succeed in this job. Take the time to prepare and the job could be yours.

About the Author

Angela Rose researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for BioSpace.com.

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