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Behavior Interviewing: It's Not What You Know, It's What You Did

Behavioral interviewing has become a common practice used by many organizations. Studies show that it can increase the chances of hiring the right employee by nearly 60 percent. Here’s how some basic preparation can help you ace your next behavioral interview.

What is behavioral interviewing?

This interview technique is used by employers to evaluate a candidate's experiences and behaviors in order to determine their potential for success.  Typically, open-ended questions are asked to objectively collect, assess and evaluate candidates’ knowledge and skills.

What to expect from behavioral interviews
The interviewer identifies job-related experiences, behaviors, knowledge, skills and abilities that the company has decided are desirable in a particular position.

The focus of the interview is less about what you can or could do, and more about what you have done in specific situations in the past.  It is based on the assumption that past performance (in previous roles) is an excellent predicator of future performance.

How should you prepare for a behavioral interview?
The difficult part of the behavioral interview is in the preparation. First, you must determine what competencies the employer is looking for.  Then you must analyze your past work experience and background to highlight those that match the employer’s needs. Don’t forget competencies that you have developed outside of the work environment (e.g., leadership or organizational skills through not-for-profit activities, etc.)

Now identify specific examples or situations that demonstrate those abilities. You need to be able to explain an entire situation – tell a story to show how you actually used a particular skill. It pays to illustrate the level of involvement you had in resolving a situation, and to quantify the results.

Try the SAR approach in answering questions:

  • State the situation you faced.

  • Outline the action you took to address the situation or resolve the problem.

  • Explain the results you achieved.

Sample behavioral-based interview questions:

  • Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.

  • Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.

  • Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.

  • Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.

Responding well to behavioral interviewing questions:

  • Provide concrete, specific examples of where you have demonstrated the proficiencies employers are seeking. Avoid general or vague comments.

  • Do not describe how you would behave but rather how you did behave in the situation.

  • Focus on what you learned from the experience.

Don’t fear behavioral interviews.  Use these simple tips and be equipped to sail through your next interview.