Have you ever experienced an interview that made your head spin? Did you feel like you were “on the spot” during the entire interview? Chances are it was a behavioral interview, the latest trend in interviewing.
I will tell you everything you need to know about behavioral interviews and four secrets to doing well in this setting.
What is a Behavioral Interview?
A behavioral interview is designed to test and evaluate a candidate on behaviors they have demonstrated in a previous job. In contrast to the old, “What’s your greatest weakness?” question, a behavioral question might sound like, “Tell me about a time when you had to work with a very difficult co-worker. What did you do to resolve the conflict and create a win for your organization?” If this question just made your pulse jump, read on. There’s a solution.
Hiring managers are increasingly being trained to do behavioral interviews, and many candidates are getting unnecessarily eliminated in the process.
The process starts with a manager listing behaviors that they need for a particular position. The list might look like:
- Working with difficult people (because the client is a tough customer)
- Teamwork across departments
- Complex problem solving
- Computer self-sufficiency
- Analytical reasoning
Next, the manager creates a set of 2-3 interview questions for each behavior that would require the candidates to give specific and recent examples of when they’ve demonstrated those behaviors.
The specific examples part of a behavioral interview is key. When the candidate tries to give a vague answer, the interviewer will continue to look for a specific example.
Here’s an example. (The manager might be asking this question because the company doesn’t have a deep IT department):
Hiring Manager: Can you give me an example from your recent past where you had a significant problem with your workplace computer, and you solved the problem yourself.
Candidate: Well, I’ve always been good at technology and figuring things out.
Manager: That’s not what I asked: Can you give me a specific example from your current job when this happened?
Candidate: Well, last month I had this problem where Microsoft Explorer disappeared from my computer’s desktop. In that case I went to the Microsoft Website and found a knowledgebase article on how to download a new copy of Explorer.
As you can see, in this setting it would have been very difficult for the candidate to “BS” their way through this question.
Four Keys to a Successful Behavioral Interview
- Providing examples is key:Do not fall back on old, vague standby responses (you and the interviewer will be out of synch if you do this). Instead provide clear concise examples.
- Take a moment to think before every answer:A good behavioral interviewer expects this, as the whole exercise is meant to have you reflect on your past. It isn’t bad for you to come back to a question once you’ve had a few minutes to think about it.
- Prepare by generating your “guess list” of desirable behaviors:For many jobs, you can probably guess the desired behaviors. Start thinking of your examples to these guesses before you show up to the interview.
- This interviewing style tends to run throughout companies:Meaning, if they have trained one manager they have probably trained them all on this technique. If you encounter a behavioral interview on your first interview, you can almost expect it on subsequent interviews.
As a final point, don’t be surprised if you are completely drained after a few hours of behavioral interviewing at a company. It is truly a high-demand exercise which will have you feeling wrung out by the end.Top 4 Ways to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview (and What You Need to Know About Behavioral Interviews) by Harrison Barnes