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Articles > Interviewing & Resignation - Behavioral Interview
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Interviewing & Resignation - Behavioral Interview

"10 FAQ's to Help You Get the RIGHT Job!"

By James Del Monte, CPC, JDA Professional Services, Inc.

One of the most difficult challenges regarding jobs is getting and choosing the RIGHT one.  Often times you may find yourself going on an interview in which you know you are PERFECT for the position, but somehow you can’t seem to convey your worth to the interviewer.  Behavioral interviews are an excellent way to ensure you and the hiring company can both discover whether or not you are the best fit for the position.  Below is a list of some of the most frequently asked questions regarding behavioral interviews, and it includes ways to best prepare yourself to answer behavioral-based questions.  As many companies have started utilizing this highly effective style in recent years, you will likely come across it during future interviews.  In the case that you go into an interview that is not behavioral-based, you can utilize this style to better prove your worth and increase your chances of getting and choosing not just any job, but the RIGHT job.

#1 What is a behavioral interview?
A behavioral interview is based on the idea that a candidate’s past performance is the best predictor of future job success.  As a job seeker in a behavioral interview, it is most appropriate to answer all questions with a PAR story.

#2 What is a PAR story?
A PAR story is one which describes a career-based PROBLEM, the ACTION you took to overcome that problem, and the quantifiable RESULT of that action.  It is a good idea, when possible, to include an explanation of the long-term strategic impact your actions had on the company such as increases in revenue, decreases in expenses, or increases in efficiency or effectiveness, in addition to the immediate results.

#3 What is the advantage of telling a PAR story vs. giving a traditional interview answer?
As a job seeker, you want all prospective employers to have no doubts about what you can do for their organization.  A PAR story allows you to give actual examples of what you can do rather than providing a vague answer such as stating you are 'personable,' 'very detail-oriented,' or 'a great problem solver.'  You must keep in mind that all candidates will focus on their positive attributes.  If you not only focus on the attributes, but also give detailed examples, you will be sure to stand out amongst the group.

#4 What is a good example of a PAR story in response to a behavioral interview question?
Question: Tell me about a time when you were faced with a difficult situation at work.
Answer: Once, when I was working for ABC Company, my team was asked by several different departments to complete 3 projects simultaneously.  Since we were only staffed to work one project at a time, this task became a bit of a challenge.  As the Team Lead, I thought about what each of my team member’s technical strengths were, and I assigned them each to a project based on those strengths.  Because we divided up the workload and each team member was working on a project with which they were highly skilled and efficient, we were able to complete all 3 projects within the allotted time.

#5 What if the interviewer does not conduct a behavioral interview and instead asks traditional questions?
In this case you, as a candidate, have an even greater advantage because the interviewer will be expecting traditional, vague answers in response to their questions rather than PAR stories.  Definitely use this opportunity to your advantage by asking the interviewer if you may provide examples to further explain your answers.  Using this strategy is likely to make your interview more credible and memorable to the interviewer.

#6 What is a good example of a PAR story in response to a traditional interview question?
Question: What is your greatest strength?
Answer: My greatest strength is my determination and my willingness to do whatever is necessary to get the job done.  Let me give you an example of a time when my strengths helped in getting my team through a challenging situation.  At my last job, my team was assigned the XYZ project.  No one on our team had any experience using the software that was necessary to complete the project.  I volunteered to attend a couple of online tutoring sessions and coach the rest of the team on how to use the applications necessary to do our project.  Within a couple of days, our entire team was technically up to speed, and we were able to meet our deadline with a day or so to spare.

#7 How can a PAR story help in answering the always dreaded “greatest weakness” question?
Anytime you are asked about a weakness or a failure, there are several key points you must remember.  First, NEVER share something that is a character flaw that cannot be changed, a core competency to the position for which you are applying, or a contradiction to one of your key strengths.  In addition, you should NEVER badmouth employers, organizations, coworkers, or anyone else from your past even if you think they are to blame for your failure.  Following this rule will always get you further in the long run.  Finally, using a PAR story can help turn your weaknesses or failures into an example of a positive learning experience from your past.  For example, you may use a PAR story to explain a PROBLEM from your past in which you failed to meet expectations, the ACTION you took to learn from your mistakes, and the RESULTS which were achieved from this lesson.

#8 What is an example of using a PAR story in response to a question regarding your greatest weakness or failure?
Question: Tell me about a recent project that was unsuccessful.
Answer: When I first started my last position, I was asked to complete a project with which I had no prior experience.  Unfortunately, I underestimated the time it would take to complete the project, and while I did complete my assignment, I missed my deadline by a couple of days.  The positive side of this story is that I learned a very powerful lesson early on in my career, and I have not made the same mistake since.  The lesson I learned is that any time a project comes up wherein I have little or no experience, I always seek advice from those with experience before making any assumptions in regard to the project such as completion time, skill requirements, manpower requirements, equipment needs, etc.    

#9 How can I prepare in advance for a behavioral interview?
Before each interview, consider the position for which you are applying and define the key points from your resume you wish to highlight, such as major accomplishments, years of experience, training and education, etc., in order to establish the value you will bring to the company and the specific position.  In addition, make a list of your core competencies, such as detail-oriented, great leader, effective multi-tasker, etc., which make you a great fit for the job.  You will want to prepare and practice at least 4 to 6 PAR stories for each key point and each core competency.  If you are well prepared, your PAR stories can be easily adjusted to create the best responses to the interviewer’s questions.  REMEMBER: In an interview your goal, rather than to simply list your qualifications, is to illustrate your value and benefit to the company and ultimately earn yourself an offer for the position.

#10 What is the best way to deal with an unskilled or unprepared interviewer?
In preparing your PAR stories, you should have made a list of the key points and core competencies from your resume that you wish to convey in the interview.  If you get into the interview and it seems as though the interviewer is not asking the right questions to help convey your worth or is not asking many questions at all, then perhaps you will want to take the initiative yourself.  Ask the interviewer if you can share a few pertinent examples of how you would be beneficial to the company and this position.  Another option is, at the end of the interview, to ask to provide a recap of what you feel the interviewer is looking for in a candidate and use several PAR stories to explain how you have exhibited those qualities in the past.

BONUS TIP: When interviewing, you should not only work to highlight your assets to the company, but you should also remember to listen carefully to what the interviewer says about the company and the position.  Try to be very observant of the environment, the other employees, and the overall culture of the organization.

In summation, utilizing the behavioral interview style can be a very effective way to convey your worth to a potential employer whether or not they ask behavioral-based questions.  Before going on any interview, be sure to study your resume carefully, define your assets for a particular company and position, create and study a variety of PAR stories which highlight each of these assets, and be prepared to be observant of all verbal and nonverbal communication during your visit to the company.  The ultimate goal of an interview is not only to convince a company that you are right for the job, but it is also your chance to decide if the company and the position are a good fit for you and your future career goals.  Be as true to yourself as possible in making this decision, and you will be much happier in the long run.



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