Behavioural-Based Interviewing

. While many people know how job interviews have evolved over the years, there are still even more people who apparently don’t. I suspect the reason for this is actually for two reasons; 1) those who don’t like or do well at interviews don’t want to take the time to learn and practice, and 2) there are always young people coming along who haven’t been introduced to behavioural-based interviews.

Okay so here’s what I’m going to suggest. If you know someone who is out of work or about to enter the employment market put this piece in front of them and have them read it. You will have done them a great service, and while that doesn’t mean they will necessarily believe the advice here, at least they will have exposure to the most prevalent and successful way to get past an interview to the point of getting a job offer.

Behavioural-based interviewing works on the idea that the best way to predict your future behaviour is to look back at your past behaviour. In other words, how you handled situations in past jobs, volunteer positions and your personal experiences is likely similar to how you will handle similar situations when they come up again in your future. It follows then that employment interviewers have a number of questions that are designed to have you answer questions relating to your past behaviours. Such questions will ask you to describe a past situation, a time when you did such-and-such or to provide an example of how you handled some incident. As you describe your response or actions, the interviewer is noting this and the results you brought about as a way of predicting how you would perform for their company should they hire you.

Concrete examples from your past are what they are looking for, and you want to look back for such examples that relate closest to the questions they ask and that show you in a positive light. Gone are the days where you would be asked hypothetical questions such as, “What would you do if…” Anyone can rattle off what they would do knowing what the interviewer wants to hear, but not everyone has demonstrated desired behaviours in the past, and so these are usually more reliable in predicting future behaviour.

Pull out a job description – any job description will do, but if you have one for a job you are interested in that would be best. See all those key words, qualifications and desired skills? It’s likely you’ll be asked questions asking you to give specific examples from your past that demonstrate for the interviewer those same skills and qualifications. So in other words, if problem-solving skills are in the job posting, count on a question asking you to give the interviewer an example from your past where you were faced with a problem and what steps you took to solve it. A couple of things to remember here; the example you use has to have a positive end result and you have to be the one in the example bringing forth the resolution.

The most secure way to know you are answering the question fully is to use a structured format for all your answers, so you know when you’ve fully answered the question. The STAR interview format does this nicely. ‘S’ is for situation; you provide a mental image of the situation you found yourself in. Name the employer, painting a picture for the interviewer so they can visualize the setting. ‘T’ is for task; what had to be accomplished or overcome to reach a goal? ‘A’ is for action; what did you do yourself to remove a barrier to the goal, bring people onside or resolve a problem. Finally, ‘R’ stands for result; what positive outcome was realized because of your actions?

The important thing to remember is be specific in your answers and avoid generalizing and making broad sweeping statements. Stop saying things like, “I generally get along with everybody and don’t really have conflict” if you are asked to describe a time when you overcame conflict with a co-worker. Instead, tell the interviewer(s) about that time when you worked for APlus Haircutters and a customer wanted a colour and perm but didn’t have an appointment. You know, where your co-worker didn’t want to take the customer because it would interfere with their plans to leave in 30 minutes. You decided it was in the customers and stores best interests to take the client so you swapped out your two quick trims for the much longer perm and colour job and received a big tip in the process. Although your fellow hairstylist was seething at the big tip and you having taken her when she said no to the customer, she later agreed she had put her own plans ahead of the business and the customer and apologized

See how the example describes the situation, the task, your actions and a positive result? You come across as believable and credible, and the likelihood of you performing the same way in the future is greater. So go on then; highlight qualifications and desired traits in your job postings. Now come up with examples from your past that prove or demonstrate you have those same skills. Use the STAR interview format to structure your answers and prove you have the skills. Now, thank your friend for showing you this post.

2 thoughts on “Behavioural-Based Interviewing

  1. Thank you for the article. My problem is where I really have not faced the situation they are asking about. I have not had a conflict with a coworker, for example. My jobs involved working beside other people but separately. There was little or no teamwork. I have never led a team and I have always gotten along with my supervisors. These are the standard situations asked about. About the only situation I do have experience with is dealing with a difficult customer.


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