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Preparing for a Behavioral Interview

December 19th, 2009

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A behavioral interview is based on the idea that past behavior will predict future behavior. Interviewers want to know how you have previously behaved in challenging situations to determine your ability to handle future ones. The interviewer already knows what abilities they need in an employee and wants to determine if you possess them. While different jobs require different abilities, common ones include problem solving, leadership, planning, communication, critical thinking, decision making, and persuasive skills.

The interviewer determines your abilities not by directly asking you about them, but by asking you to describe previous situations in which you may have used those abilities. In other words, an interviewer is not interested in answers about what you would do, but what you have done in a past. You will be asked behavior-oriented questions, which may require that you give specific examples about how, when, or why you did something. You may also be asked about how you have dealt with difficult circumstances, or how you were able to accomplish something significant. The employer wants to see that you have demonstrated skills or qualities that are relevant to the job requirements and nature of work. For example, you may be asked to describe a time that you used reasoning to solve a problem, or explain how you have been able to reach an important goal in your life.

If you want to do well in a behavioral interview, you need to be prepared for it. Think about the abilities that are required of the position, the abilities that you have, and how they relate to one another. Write a list of specific examples in which you displayed these abilities, and make notes about the situation you were face with, the action you were required to take, and the outcome or result of it. Commit these examples to memory, so that you can quickly recall them and are able to clearly explain them to the interviewer. While in a behavioral interview, it is important not to get caught up in providing the correct answer, but focus on giving an honest account of a relevant experience. Be sure to listen carefully to each question and then assess which example would be the best one to describe to the interviewer. It is important that you are detailed in your examples using specific names, dates, locations, and outcomes, as well as take the opportunity to highlight your abilities and emphasize your achievements.

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