Preparing For Behavioral-Based Interviews

One of the most frequently asked questions recruiters get before interviews is "how do I prepare?" and "what sorts of questions should I anticipate?"

There are a couple of ways you can prepare for almost any interview. One of the VERY BASIC things you can do is understand: EVERYTHING ON YOUR RESUME IS FAIR GAME for detailed questions in an interview. If you have skills or experience on your resume that are not relevant or *you don’t remember the details* (for example, how a computer program works, specific procedures you used, or the details of a project including the outcome, team size, or the problem you were solving) then TAKE IT OFF or be prepared to defend and explain why it is still on there. Employers are looking for current skills and experience.

The other step you can take relates to behavioral-based interviewing, which is the style most companies use currently (also very similar to the STAR method). The premise is that how you have behaved and handled situations in the past will indicate future behavior *including learning from mistakes*.

So, how does one prepare for this? It is actually easier than you would think, because you will draw from experiences directly in your own life (and this includes school for new grads.)

You want to develop and really drill down (ie practice) responses for questions to general competencies almost every company looks for.

-Conflict management/resolution (with another person/group)

-Time management (how you manage your own schedule)

-Prioritization (this is different than time management-this is more project/example and deadline specific)

-Learning from mistakes (think of an example where you failed at something, and what you learned from it; if you can give an example of how you implemented that change in a similar situation, that is golden)

-Communication skills (how have you learned to collaborate with people that have a different communication style than you? Examples would be someone that prefers email vs. instant messaging, or likes to engage in small talk that impacts your ability to get your work done on a regular basis, or someone that saves all their communication for the end of the day vs. as it hits their desk – how do you work with them to resolve this, especially if it impacts your work)

Think through your work/school project history and select concrete examples of times when you have dealt with each of these sorts of situations, and how you manage them. Obviously, the questions involving other people are more difficult.

Most interviewers are looking for proactive actions, collaborative solutions, taking responsibility and learning from past mistakes, and understanding that you need to be flexible to meet changing deadlines/priorities. Ask former colleagues, classmates, or managers for examples they think of if you cannot figure any out. (I recommend NOT asking your family…they tend to have very strong biases and family dynamics are often magnified significantly over professional examples.)

Once you have your examples, practice talking them through with someone. Keep your answers succinct – 5-7 minutes or less for each of these examples. Any more than that and interviewers will think you are rambling and don’t understand prioritization. Put a timer on while you are practicing with your stand-in interviewer. Most interviews are 30-50 minutes with 5-10 minutes for you to ask questions, so keep this in mind. As you progress in your career, make sure you have at least a few updated examples to draw from.

Good luck!

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