The Challenge of Job Interview: Behavior-Based Interview

“Our mistrust of the future makes it hard to give up the past.” ― Chuck Palahniuk

As an INTJ, I do not love behavior based interviews.  Simply talking about myself is a challenge enough. During this type of an interview the candidate is asked a number of questions that are specifically targeted to reveal how she demonstrated or applied a certain skill in the past. The interviewer is looking for specific examples and real life stories.

Another reason I do not love behavior-based interviews is because they assume that your past behavior is the best predictor of future performance. Personally, I believe that people should be hired based on potential.  Granted, potential is much harder to assess than what has – in fact – already happened.  However, rational people do learn from their mistakes and change their behaviors accordingly.  Thus, what you have done before does not represent the way you will act if faced with a similar situation in the future.

With personality being my biggest challenge in the case of behavior-based interview, it is important to anticipate the questions and structure your answers ahead of time.  Otherwise, you risk the chance of rambling on, deferring attention from the main point and not painting yourself and your skills in the best possible light. One way to predict the topics is to read the job description that you are interviewing for very carefully, look for the key words and prepare to tell stories about yourself that demonstrate those skills. Hint: A single story can be tailored to illustrate several different competencies.

Another hint: Practice your stories out loud. Better yet, find a friend or a mentor who would be willing to mock interview you.  Trust me, the stories, the flow, the descriptions get better and more engaging each time you tell them.

There are many resources online that provide guidelines and sample questions to help you prepare. My organization even provides them on our intranet for all employees. Most often I encounter questions from the following categories.

  • Conflict resolution (a situation when you pointed out a mistake to your co-worker)
  • Process improvement (an example of a process that you have initiated)
  • Communication skills (a situation when you helped someone understand a point; the most complex report that you have compiled)
  • Initiative (a situation when you took initiative even though it was not your direct responsibility)
  • Leadership (a situation when you had to gain trust or motivate others through a challenge)

Good luck on your interview.  Although extremely stressful, I promise – you will survive. Even if you do not get the job, it will be a valuable learning experience.

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