THE DREADED BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEWEveryone loves to be offered a job, but I don’t know anyone that says, “I just love to interview for a job!” Why don’t people like to interview? Because you never know what a potential employer is going to ask you. (One time, I was given the questions in the lobby right before the interview. Not much help, except that I could read the question again to buy a little time before I answered.)

So, over the years, I have developed the strategy of flipping the behavioral approach to my advantage. I pretend that I am going to experience a behavioral interview and I prepare and practice.

But, what is a behavioral question, you may ask? It is a question probing for specifics about how you performed or reacted in a past employment related scenario. Your answers are clues to who you are and what you have to offer a potential employer, based on the assumption that past performance or past behavior is a predictor of how you will respond in the future.

Examples of Behavioral Questions:

  1. Tell me about a time you had difficulty with a co-worker. What was the outcome? (This is much different than asking, “Have you ever had a problem with a co-worker?)
  2. Give me an example of a last minute project you were assigned. How did you handle it? (Much different than asking, “Can you handle special projects outside the scope of your job description?)
  3. Tell us about a specific time when you had to handle a difficult problem which involved ethical issues. (Not, “Are you an ethical person?”)

As you can see, some questions are pretty straight forward and others trickier.

Here is the formula for answering a behavioral question – S.T.A.R. I use this formula in resume writing and for interview preparation:

S – Situation – Tell the interviewer the situation at a past employer – OR –
T – Task – What was the task(s) you were assigned?
A – Action – Explain the action you took to resolve the problem, or the action you took to complete the task.
R – Result – Share the outcome of your action or strategy. Were you successful or did you learn a better way to approach it next time?

Now, it is time to practice. Check out this great site that has a list of behavioral questions, pick a few questions you might be asked at that interview and write out your answers using the S.T.A.R. method.

Blog for next week… I will dissect a job description for potential behavioral questions and share how I would answer them based on my past job experience. (If a reader is inclined, feel free to email me with a few behavioral interview questions you selected from the website above and I will use them instead.)

– Heather McBride, SPHR
Oregon Resume Writer, Career Counselor and Human Resources Professional