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Acing a Behavioral Interview
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How to prepare for behavior-based interview questions.
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Behavioral interviewing is a trend among all types of employers. Job candidates should prepare for interview questions that seek to identify behaviors used in prior positions.
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How to prepare for behavior-based interview questions
By Rebecca Mayer Knutsen
In recent years, the standard job interview has morphed into a new style aimed at better predicting future workplace behavior. Interviewers use the technique, known as behavioral interviewing, to gather information about how a person behaved in particular scenarios at a previous job.
Behavioral interviews have emerged as an objective measure of weeding out job candidates. People in the hunt for a new position should become familiar with this interview approach and learn how to put their best foot forward.
"Nowadays all candidates should go into interviews expecting them to be behavioral interviews," said Laura Mueller, vice president of human resources for RSA Medical. "Even if the company recruitment strategy does not include behavioral interviews or the hiring manager is not educated in them, people naturally tend to ask those types of questions."
To better prepare, Mueller recommends that candidates take a close look at their resumes to determine what specific questions each area might spark. "They should specifically review the line items where they have listed achievements, and prepare to answer questions about how they achieved the result," she said. "You should be prepared to explain whether you ran into any resistance in achieving the result and how you handled it."
According to Mueller, the most common behavioral interview questions begin with "Tell me about a time when..." When asked this question, she said, the candidate should point to a specific achievement on his or her resume that is in line with the question asked. "This method positively reinforces the achievement and highlights that portion of the resume," she said.
To anticipate possible interview questions, candidates should research the company thoroughly beforehand. If the company recently went through a reorganization, for example, candidates should consider at what type of behavioral questions could come as a result.
Another avenue for determining in advance what types of behaviors a company is seeking is to scan all of the employer's job listings. Certain characteristics and behaviors will begin to pop up repeatedly, revealing a pattern. Job seekers also might speak to people currently employed by the company for inside information, if possible.
Most of all, being familiar with your own skillset and past experiences will prepare you for most questions. Have at the ready a few scenarios that began on a negative note but ended positively, to illustrate your behavior in various areas of your life. "The company might ask, for example, 'tell me about a time that you managed a difficult integration of x or y programs and how you handled others not supporting the initiative,'" she explained.
Mueller suggests that candidates arrive prepared with scenarios they could point to as good examples of the behavior a potential employer is seeking. "They should also highlight knowledge or an achievement at the same time," she said. "Then they will have easier and well executed questions resulting in a more positive interview."
Rebecca Mayer Knutsen is a freelance writer.