Monday, January 28, 2013

Behavioral Interview Basics

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Behavioral interviewing is a relatively new interviewing method. It is designed to predict how you will behave in the future based on how you have handled situations in the past. The questions are not traditional interview questions that directly ask about your knowledge and experience. Traditional questions may be mixed with behavioral questions, but you must be prepared for behavioral questions with examples of how you have used your skills in the past and how organizations for which you have worked benefitted from your expertise.
An example of a behavioral interview question is, "Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your supervisor and how you dealt with that." Interviewers are not looking for hypothetical answers such as, "If I were to disagree with my supervisor, I would…" They want actual examples from your previous employment, educational experiences, or if necessary personal life experiences. Do not use examples that resulted in negative outcomes for your company. It is acceptable to use an example that is totally unrelated to the position responsibilities you are seeking, particularly if you cannot come up with anything relevant to the position that had a positive outcome. You may also use an example from your general personal life if you have no relevant work or educational experience.
In response to behavioral questions, you need to do three things:
  1. Set up the situation
  2. Tell what action you took
  3. Tell what the (positive) results of your actions were. 
For example, in response to the above question about disagreeing with a supervisor, an example would be,
  1. The situation: "My supervisor implemented a policy disallowing employee fraternization outside of the workplace. I disagreed because I felt that voluntary employee get-togethers boosted morale and group cohesiveness."
  2. Your action: "I discussed this with my supervisor privately, stating why I disagreed."
  3. The result: "My supervisor agreed that such outside events increased morale in some employees but felt that employees who did not participate felt left out and as outsiders in the group. I suggested the idea of periodic special events within the workplace, and my supervisor decided to think about it and other ways to boost employee morale." 

Behavioral questions are focused around several competencies that employers are evaluating, which may include:
  • Leadership
  • Analytic or Critical Thinking
  • Communication
  • Problem Solving
  • Goal Achievement
  • Organizational Skills
  • Teamwork
  • Conflict
  • Special Job-Related Competencies 
The example question above falls mainly into the Communication and Conflict skills categories and also possibly the Problem Solving category. Your interview may not have questions that cover all of these areas. Yours may only cover areas most relevant to the responsibilities of the position. How does one prepare for a behavioral interview when you don't know what will be asked? Think about the above competency areas that are most relevant to the position for which you are interviewing. Prepare situations from the past that fall into each of those areas and that will present you in a positive light. Examples of other behavioral interview questions covering other areas are:
  • Tell me about a time when you set a goal and how you were able to achieve it. (Goal Achievement)
  • How have you used organizational skills to prioritize a lot of tasks that must be completed in a short period of time? (Organizational)
  • How have you handled stress in the workplace? (Problem Solving/Conflict)
  • How have you adapted to organizational change or a change in your responsibilities? (Teamwork/Organizational Skills)
  • What type of management style have you found to be most effective and why? (Leadership)
  • Describe a tough problem with which you have had to deal? (Problem Solving)
  • Tell me about a project for which you have been responsible and how you organized the necessary paperwork, tasks, goals, etc. (Analytical/Critical Thinking)
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