Over the years, interviewers have deployed all sorts of methods to “weed” out candidates in an effort to determine who is best qualified for a job. A lot has changed from the days when the interviewer could ask anything s/he wanted to. With changes in laws regarding discrimination, etc, new methods were developed to pass judgment on candidates. One of those methods is called “Behavioral Style” interviewing and the reality is you may not even know you are in this type of interview.
You may be asking yourself, “What exactly is behavioral interviewing and why do I care?.” Behavioral style interviewing is a standard method of eliciting information from a candidate about his or her relevant past behavior and performance. The key word is “relevant”, meaning, how you performed in job situations in the past where these same situations might be in the job you are applying for. The thought process is that your past behaviors are the best indicator of future behavior. A good job interviewer will have assembled all the necessary skills required for the job and prepared a list of behavioral style questions surrounding those traits. For example, for each question, you may be asked about a situation, what you did and what the outcome was.
As an example, you may be asked “Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.” Compare to “Tell me how you would prioritize your tasks if you had too much to do.” Do you see the difference?. In one situation you are asked very specifically what you did in a certain situation where as the other question merely asked you to describe what you might do. We all have the best intentions, so what you say you might do is not necessarily what you might actually do.
Now that we know what this style is, how do we prepare for this type of interview?.Like for any interview, you must prepare. You still need to go through the normal preparation such as understanding the company, financial information, products, culture, etc. You can get most of this from the company’s web site or 10-k filings. Since you now have the name of the hiring manger, do an internet search on him/her. Has this person been in any business/trade journals?. Sometimes you can learn a lot about the person you will be interviewing with. By the way, the hiring manager can do the same thing on you. You may want to do a search on yourself. If your name is John Smith, you probably do not have anything to worry about. But if you have a very unique name, it is very easy to find out information about you.
Moving right along, the things mentioned above you must do no matter the style of interview. Now, for the behavioral style, you need to think hard. You need to come up with solid examples of your experience and how they relate to the job you are about to interview for. Think again of the three items I mentioned above, the situation, what you did and outcome. Most behavioral style questions are the same questions that have been used for years but with the wording slightly modified to elicit very specific responses from you of actual past behavioral. Go to any search engine and type in interview questions and you have your list to practice from. Remember, the interviewer is thinking that past behavioral is an indicator of future behavioral. When answering questions, do not ramble on. Be specific and to the point. There is a fine line though between being to brief and not giving enough detail to being full of hot air.