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Are You Ready for a Behavioral Interview?

“Tell me about a time when you were on a team, and one of the members wasn’t carrying his or her weight.” If this is one of the leading questions in your interview, you could be in for a behavioral interview. Based on the premise that the best way to predict future behavior is by past behavior, this style of interviewing is common.

How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

Review the job description for which you are interviewing, and take note of the skills/qualifications required. It’s likely that the interviewer will ask you questions based on those “competencies.” For example: leadership, problem solving, or teamwork. Think about examples of situations where you have demonstrated those “competencies” and be prepared to discuss them in detail. Utilize the P.A.R. Approach (Chapter 3) to prepare short stories for each situation; be ready to provide additional details if asked.

  • Be specific. Don’t generalize about several situations; give a detailed description of one situation. Prepare examples of situations involving skill communities such as leadership, teamwork, decision-making, problem solving, customer service, coping with stress, and organization/planning.
  • Be sure that the outcome reflects positively on you (even if the result itself was not favorable).
  • Be honest. Don’t embellish or omit any part of the story. The interviewer will find out if your story is built on a weak foundation.

Behavioral Interview Sample Question/Response

To the question of “Tell me about a time when you were on a team and a member wasn’t pulling his or her weight.”

“I was assigned to a team to build a canoe out of concrete. One of our team members wasn’t showing up for our lab sessions or doing his assignments. I finally met with him in private, explained the frustration of the rest of the team, and asked if there was anything I could do to help. He told me he was preoccupied with another class that he wasn’t passing, so I found someone to help him. Not only was he able to spend more time on our project, but he was grateful to me for helping him. We finished our project on time and got a ‘B+.’”

The interviewer might follow-up with: “How did you feel when you confronted this person?”; “What was your role?”; “At what point did you take it upon yourself to confront him?” You can see it is important that you do not make up or “shade” information and why you should have a clear memory of the event.

Dining Etiquette

As part of the interview process, some employers may invite you to dinner. This is more than a free meal, however. Employers need to trust you can represent them in social settings with clients and colleagues. Some tips include:

  • It is not about the food: The focus is on the interview and how you interact and communicate. You can’t communicate with food in your mouth, so take small bites that you can finish quickly and spend more time conversing than eating. Avoid ordering messy foods.
  • Manners matter: In addition to “please” and “thank you,” there are numerous etiquette rules that may be challenging to remember. The golden rule is to follow the lead of your host when it comes to choosing what to order and when to start and stop eating.
  • Plan in advance: Call the restaurant to ask about appropriate attire. Also, map out directions to ensure prompt arrival. Lastly, plan topics of conversation about yourself, the company, current events, and other business-related casual topics. Avoid politics and religion.
  • Thank your host for the meal in person and with a follow-up “Thank You” note.