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How to Master the Dreaded Behavior Based Interview

Behavior or competency-based interviewing of job seekers is arguably one of the most challenging forms for candidates to navigate.

Behavioral interview techniques were developed by psychologists and are based on the concept that previous behavior and performances in comparable job situations are a reliable predictor of future job performances.

In a behaviorally based interview situation, the interviewer will thus ask you about specific situations of your past career and how you have handled them.

For example, “Tell me about a time when you had to juggle multiple projects under tight deadlines and how you handled the situation.” Or, “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with company leadership and what you did about it.”

1. Preparation is Key

As you can see from the examples above, answering behavior-based questions on the fly can be quite challenging, as you need to remember specific events and talk about what exactly you did.
And that is what makes behavior-based interviews so tricky.

As opposed to more traditional open or situational interview questions, you won’t get away with “making-up” what you believe you can do in your future role.

Hence, proper preparation is the only way to shine in a behavioral interview. So, start by going back to your resume and go through your achievement bullets.

Looking at your resume, do you feel ready to elaborate on those bullets if the interviewer “digs deeper” and asks about your specific behavior in those situations?

If not, refresh your memory and make sure that you can further explain the “underlying story” behind each achievement bullet of your resume. Once you remember and unearth the underlying stories, you need to make sure that you can present those stories in a ‘digestible’ form to the interviewer. Quite a few candidates tend to ramble when presenting their stories.

2. Prepare Your Behavioral Career Stories

To stop yourself from rambling it helps to structure your stories in the Challenge-Action-Results (“CAR”) format in which you first describe the specific challenge of the situation, followed by your actions, and subsequently the results your actions yielded.

Ideally, you have already covered and structured the “hard facts” in your resume in the CAR format, so you focus on elaborating your soft skills and specific motivations and thoughts you applied in each situation.

After you have structured your stories, practice presenting them and double check that your stories are not too long as you want to make sure that your interviewer stays active and engaged. You don’t want the interviewer to switch off!

3. The Takeaway

Behavioral interviews typically weed out candidates that just try to wing it or who consider themselves “natural interviewees” who feel that they can skip the preparation step. Without the proper preparation, it will be very hard to impress the interviewer.

The good news: once you have invested adequate time to prepare your career stories, the behavioral interview can’t catch you off guard anymore.

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