In our last installment, Tell Me About Yourself, the focus was on a quick overview of YOU: what makes you want to get out of bed and be on the job, what is that about this job or this company that resonates with you. Think of it as a synopsis of the story of you, so far, that sets the tone for the interview.
Now, we’re moving on to the questions (for this installment, question format) in the interview. Having rehearsed hundreds of people to prepare for their interviews in my own career as a Career Coach, I know the days are gone for the majority of employers when the two-dimensional question and answer was the format for the interviews. Prospective employers for the most part no longer only want to know where you want to be in five years. They want to know who you are and how you perform. Your accomplishments are most likely on your resume or social media profile. What isn’t there is the complex, multi-dimensional picture of how you work, how you respond, how you behave.
Welcome to the Behavior Interview. The ‘canned’ answer to where do you want to be in x-years, or what is your strength/weakness won’t cut it alone any longer. Go ahead and prepare for these answers (LinkedIn and other professional sites have great answers for these). But don’t invest a lot of your time on this. Spend your time telling stories—your stories.
I coach many people from all levels of the work force. Most of them I tell of the power of people like Steve Jobs, a master storyteller, who could captivate an audience with an opening story leading into the subject of his presentations. It’s brilliant how he did this. Others who I’m able to call friends are very good at this. (Example: Marc Dalmulder, remember the story in 2001 of the flight you took where you used that story to segue into setting customer expectations?) We remember the story which allows us to remember the message or the point being conveyed. And 20 years later, I remember the story my friend told us as well as the point he was making about setting customer expectations.
Your job in the behavior interview is the same. The subject is YOU. And you have accumulated the stories to tell.
It seems like a lot to take in and organize for an interview or to prepare for an interview especially for people who have been in the workforce a long time. If you leave this post with nothing else, get this one simple concept: No matter what questions you’re asked, no matter what the lead-in to the question is (e.g., tell me about a time when, or tell me how you had to deal with, etc.), you are the only person in the world, right now and always, who has the answer to any question asked of you in your interview. So, think about that, own it--because you do.
Do you remember any time in school or college, preparing for a test or an exam, and you wished you had the answers to the questions? In a behavior interview format, you have all the answers. You are the only person in the world to have that set of answers. This is true because you are the only person who has been with you your entire life! No one else has been there for every moment and instant and inside your head with every thought and emotion. Once again, YOU HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS. Living your life, having your experiences has created these answers. What you may not have up front are the questions. This is where there are all kinds of online sources, organizations, Career Coaches who can still help you rehearse and prepare you for behavior questions about your experiences.
The formats for these questions include examples above. One format is the STAR format and others that are a variation on the behavior theme:
It goes like this:
Give me an example of how/tell me about a time when you handled multiple priorities.
In a nano-second, you recall a SITUATION from your experiences. Tell the story about how that came to be. Provide the relevant information (who assigned the priority, what were the priorities, why were they the same priority, why they couldn’t fail to be completed, what was the impact if they weren’t completed).
Next, describe the TASKS relevant to completion of the assignment. What had to be done, what had to be done first, second, third, and so on.
Continue to tell the story about how you decided what ACTION/S you took; why did you approach it that way?
Finally, state the RESULT and the reason it was a good result. Was it just you? Was it teamwork? Was it negotiating? Was it collaborating/completing two things at once by using strategy?
For those of you who are interested in exploring these types of questions as well as what I’ve referred to as the two-dimensional questions and some of the proposed answers, some are located here on LinkedIn[i]. You can use search engines as well. And as always, I (and Career Coaches everywhere in the world) are here and ready to help you prepare for interviews. For a list of people who have made use of services I’ve provided and generously provided a recommendation, they can be found at Linda Cameron/Cameron Associates: Career Coach Thumbtack Reviews.
Note: If you’re unable to access any of the questions on LinkedIn, contact me for assistance; it could be a membership level that may be restrictive.
[i] LinkedIn. Interview-Prep/Assessments, as at February 1, 2021, <https://www.linkedin.com/interview-prep/assessments/urn:li:fs_assessment:(1,a)/question/urn:li:fs_assessmentQuestion:(10011,aq11)/>