You’ve done it. You’ve made it through the resume jungle. And you’ve finally secured an interview with a real live person. Knowing you only have 60 minutes, if you’re lucky, how do you create an impression in the hiring manager’s mind that you’re the right person for the job? How do you answer questions truthfully to represent the real you? And how do you do all this when the hiring manager is asking really lame questions? It easy-if you know how to “behave.”
“Behave” is a reference to the interviewing technique called behavioral interviewing. For years, behavioral interviewing techniques have helped hiring authorities discover the best candidates for their jobs. Now, using the knowledge of behavior interviewing, you can put your best foot forward during the job interview process. But first, a little background on behavioral interviewing.
Behavioral interviewing is based on the premise that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Managers ask questions based on the needs of the job and try to elicit specific examples of previous similar experience in order to project how the interviewee will perform in their position. Questions typically begin with phrases such as, “Tell me about a time when you…” or “Give me an example of how you…”
While the behavioral interviewing technique is extremely valuable, not all hiring managers know of or use the technique. But the good news is, whether you’re interviewing with a manager using behavioral interviewing techniques or a manager who is using less productive interview questions, you will be well advised to follow the points below.
These points are not about getting the job at any cost. That would be a disservice to you and to the employer. You absolutely need to be your authentic self when you interview. But, there is a way to paint a picture of yourself using past behaviors that will more faithfully portray who you are and how you work and create an image in the hiring managers mind about what it would look like to have you on their team.
Tip #1 – Use specific examples
Whether you’re asked a behavioral interviewing question or asked a non-behavioral interviewing, answer the question using specific examples.
o Give example of the projects you completed. If the project had a name, tell the interviewer the name of the project and give further explanation if the project name doesn’t adequately explain what the project was about.
o Provide details about what you actually did, especially if the project was a group assignment. Avoid using the word “we” so often that the hiring manager wonders if “you” actually did anything yourself on the project or merely coasted along on the coat tails of the other group members.
o Talk about what happened on the project-the good, the bad and the ugly. When things go well, life is great for all of us. But the reality is, life doesn’t always work out as we want and employers need to know how you handle circumstances when things go wrong. They want to know how you’ve resolved problems in the past so that they can ascertain if your style will work for them in the future.
o Describe the results. Successful managers are results oriented managers. They want to hear about the end results and what you learned. When you use examples, even if you’re not asked for them, you illustrate in concrete terms what you’ve done and how you’ve done it. The image you create helps that hiring manager envision you in the role he or she is trying to fill. That hiring manager is going to feel better about you as a candidate because you’ve given specific examples. They may not be able to put their finger on why, but they are going to like you better than another candidate who only gave general, generic answers.
Tip # 2 – Be honest
Simple advice? Yes. You will never go wrong being honest. Don’t answer the way you think the hiring manager wants you to answer. Answer with your experience and factors that are important to you. If how you solve problems and how you handle issues when things go wrong doesn’t work in the hiring manager’s company culture, you’re both better off knowing that up front and not taking that job. Trust me, there will be another company that is a good cultural fit for you. You want to hold out for finding that right fit. The right fit with the right company will lead to a better, more productive work experience for you and your employer.
Tip #3 – Prepare
Go through your career and make a list of your work history and the successes you’ve had. Rack your brain and come up with various examples. Remember the problems you had and how you overcame those obstacles. Look for examples of what you did well, of what you were proud of. Look specifically for examples that will appeal to the hiring manager in the industry that you are applying for. Invest time in remembering what you did and how you did it. The time invested will be well worth the effort when you present yourself competently and professional to that hiring manager.
Tip # 4 – Practice, practice, practice
Interviewing is a skill like any other skill. The more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be in your own skin. Practice with people in your network. If you are attending support groups for job seekers, practice with someone else who is looking for a job. (Be sure to give them a copy of this article before you start.) Practice with friend or colleague. Ask a family member to help. Find a family friend who hires people and ask them to practice with you. Imagining what you will say is very different from actually saying it out loud. You need to hear questions asked and practice answering them aloud. Better to stumble over your words in a practice scenario and rethink how you want to say them than to stammer through the experience in front of the hiring manager.