Interview questions and structured interviewing
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Preparing for the Behavioral Interview

Dawn Rosenberg McKay

The difficult part of the behavioral interview is preparing for it. First you must determine what competencies the employer is looking for. Read through the job description. If you're working with a recruiter talk to him or her. Research the company to learn more about it. Here are some of the competencies the employer may be seeking:

  • Enthusiasm Decision Making
  • Knowledge/Skills Leadership
  • Personal Attributes Team Building
  • Flexibility Communication
  • Personal Attributes Team Building

Next you need to come up with examples of how you've demonstrated those competencies. You can start by listing questions an interviewer might ask you. Here are some articles to help you get started. They all contain sample questions and some of them even categorize the questions according to the competency they demonstrate:

  • Behavioral Based Interview Questions, from University of Nebraska - Lincoln.
  • Behavioral Interview Sample, from Jean Kelley Companies.
  • Sample Behavioral Questions, from Mount Vernon Nazarene College.

Next, looking back at your past jobs, try to answer the questions related to the competencies the job requires. Your time in school is also a good place to look. Like many new graduates, you may not have much experience in the paid work-force when you begin your job search. However, your group projects provide excellent opportunities to demonstrate skills that employers are seeking.”

Write down your stories. Be as specific as you can. In talking about the event, talk about who was involved, what problem occurred, and what you did to help resolve it. Also discuss the outcome. Think not only of examples with positive outcomes, but those with negative outcomes as well. Interviewers will ask you about situations that you could not resolve favorably and what you learned from those experiences.

Next...You may not be facing a behavioral interview right now, but you may have one in the future. How can you start preparing now? You'll also find some resources to help you learn more about this method.

For the Future
While we're currently employed most of us don't think about interviewing for our next jobs. And students generally don't put much thought into interviews they may go on in the future. You should. When you do something at work, or in school, that will demonstrate a competency to a prospective employer, now's the time to write it down. Time has a funny way of clouding our memories. If you write down the details of an event right after it happens you'll be able to be more specific. You might even consider keeping a journal.