Past behavior is the most accurate predictor of future performance. This is the premise of the behavior job interview. If you are a mid level manager or higher you’ve been subject to a behavior interview. It has been around since the 1970s, but surprisingly few managers are able to successfully maneuver this part of the job interview. They are still stuck on memorizing the ‘job interview questions’ and trying to guess what the best ‘opinion’ is.
While a regular job interview is ambiguous, the behavior interview is very specific. The boss may not say ‘why do you want to work at this company.’ Instead, they may say give one example where you exhibited the skills asked for in the job posting.
First, you want to list your strengths and weaknesses. You want to also list your strong behaviors and toxic or self-sabotaging behaviors. Making lists enables you to clearly see and sort what you want to talk about, and what you want to ‘carefully’ leave out of the conversation. The behavior job interview wants to know how you solve problems. If you focus on your strengths then you will do well.
Read the job posting carefully. If you are familiar with a behavior job interview then you already have a collection of stories with specific details. Keeping a journal is the best way to remember all the pertinent information. Of course you won’t use it all. You will only stress the points of the task which a) supports the skills and experience needed for the job and b) has an easy to describe/define positive/profitable conclusion.
Put 5 – 6 of your best stories into bullet form and try to memorize them. Of course, you do not know what questions you will be asked so it is important that you do not get too specific. It is almost guaranteed that the job interview panel will not say ‘tell us the story that puts you in the best light.’
As you are memorizing these it is important to make sure that you remember, these must sound like stories. Not lists of chronological tasks.
Remember that you want to narrow the story down to include only what you did, the tasks you were responsible for, and your responsibilities. Even if you were one of a team of 10 professionals. The main thing that you need to do is focus on your tasks.
What did your efforts give the company? Did it save money? Increase revenue? Reduce waste or employee turnover? Maybe your project didn’t produce a tangible, measurable benefit? Unless it was something amazing with long term benefits to the company, then you may want to change the focus, or choose another story.
Another thing that you want to include is dates, times, and first names. It is very difficult to believe that your story is true if it is very vague.
Write out a few versions of your stories. Put them away for 2 days and then take them out and edit them. Do this 2x. Ask an editor to check your grammar and vernacular. You also want a career coach, recruiter, or another manager to look for anything that is negative, toxic, or accusatory. Remove these and remember them so they don’t accidentally slip back into the story when you are stressed.
Organize your stories from most recent to most distant. Only include distant ones if the gains to the company were great. This can be very difficult as most of us want to brag up our greatest successes. However, if you completely revamped the hiring and human resources department, reduced employee turn over by 2%, and cut time wasted by 6%, but didn’t really improve the company financially then this may not be the best story to tell. That is, unless the question specifically asks, ‘Have you ever revamped a company’s entire HR department?’
Even if something happened 5 years ago and it was major, keep updating your information with tweaks and improvements to get the date as recent as possible. Yes, the redesign project may have been completed three years ago. However, if you moved the tables around last summer to make more room for wait-staff to move between the kitchen and the booths then this is something you must include – even if it wasn’t part of the original project.
When you are in the job interview listen carefully to the question. Use some active listening, coaching techniques, and repeat the question back to the interviewer. “What I heard that you need to know is….”
These questions are often designed to catch you, or trip you up. There is usually something in the question that tells you exactly what the interviewer wants to hear, but the way the question starts sends you off in a wrong direction.
If you need a second to formulate your thoughts then take it.
Prepare to be stressed. In fact, assume that they will try everything they can to get you to slip up. Even if it is in a casual, ‘we like you’ chat at the end of the interview. Practice your answers with a friend. Videotape yourself. What message is your body language saying. Do you appear confident?
One of the best ways to appear confident is to stick to the facts. An experienced interviewer will catch those places where you exaggerated, and in a quick succession of questions at the end will ask a question in 2 or 3 different ways, trying to catch your exaggeration or lie.
Step #9 Understand the difference
Traditional Interview: Questions have straightforward answers like “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” In many cases the answers focus more on your opinions. After all, you may actually be fairly weak in skills that you think are your strongest. The answers are in present tense.
Behavioral Interview: Specific skills are needed, and the employer wants to know who has those skills, who can use them effectively, and who already has the education/experience needed. The employer doesn’t want to pay to train you. They want a trained, experienced management Candidate. The answers are in past tense.
Breath. Take deep breaths. Focus on your breathing. You cannot think straight if you are taking shallow breaths or breathing fast. And, good luck.