© Written By Jimmy Sweeney
President of CareerJimmy and Author of the new,
"Job Interview Secrets"
A behavioral job interview is one based on the premise that your future job performance is best predicted by your past job performance. Consequently, the purpose of the interview is to discover how you reacted in situations the employer expects you to encounter in the new job. In practice, this type of interview is marked by questions that ask you to recall specific incidents and events where you behaved in such a way as to produce positive and forward-moving results for the company. For instance, a common behavioral interview question is something along the lines of "Can you tell me about a time that you had to make a tough deadline?" or "How about a situation in which you were required to take leadership. What steps did you take?"
When such questions come up in a behavioral job interview, the questioner is looking for a synopsis of a specific situation or event. So an answer that generalizes or turns into a philosophical stance is not going to be effective. For instance, the interviewer does not want to hear you say "I make meeting deadlines a priority" and hear your opinion of deadlines. Neither does the interviewer want to hear about how you believe you have the makings of a leader. What the interviewer is hoping to hear from you is a description of a single, specific event in which you demonstrated the quality in question. One way that you know that you are on the right track is if you begin your response with the phrase "Last year, during a financial crisis, I stepped in and . . ."
Another key element to an effective behavioral job interview response is structuring your answer in a logical and convincing manner. The best way to do this is through the situation, achievement, and result format. When you are asked a question, and have chosen your specific situation to speak about, begin by describing it. When it becomes clear what challenges you faced, talk about your behavior and the actions you took. And finally, list the results you achieved. These are the elements the interviewer is listening for, so be sure to present them in as convincing a manner as possible and maintain eye contact while doing so.
If you are approaching a behavioral job interview, your responses will be more effective if you are able to predict and prepare for the specific behaviors the company is interested in learning about. Luckily, this information easy to acquire. Look at the job advertisement and description, if you can get it. This will give you the official set of job requirements. Speak to someone who has worked in that position or field at some time in his or her career. That should provide some background on the unofficial and day-to-day requirements of the job. Using these resources, you should get an idea of what challenges the new employee will face and the type of people who tend to succeed in this work environment. That should give you a good basis for guessing what kinds of skills and attributes the behavioral questions will seek to uncover.
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