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Interview Preparation

By Bruce Dwyer

Preparation Tips for a Behavioral Interview

Preparing for a behavior based interview can be daunting. Here are some tips to get started:

  • Be familiar with the job for which you're being interviewed. Read the advertisement or job description to identify which personal attributes and behaviors are likely to be key success factors for the role. For Client interviews it is advised that you research the company's website and any external information about them from business directories etc.

    Make a note of two or three examples for each personal attribute that will best illustrate your suitability - you may want to bring these into the interview with you as prompts. Remember that different companies and industries may require different personal attributes, even for the same position. For example, 'self-managing' can mean very different things to different companies.

  • Be able to draw from a variety of experiences that demonstrate your skills and abilities. A good story can also combine work experience with a non-work experience (shows you can use the skill in a variety of settings). Examples may be from your work experience, your personal life or some social or other situation. Of course a unique work situation story (unless otherwise specifically requested) should take priority. Be as open, expressive and succinct as possible about each experience.

  • Let others help you out - use examples of quotes from bosses or customers, i.e., "My boss gave me a good performance review, they liked the way I stepped in to get the job done without being told to." This demonstrates your willingness to accept contribution, your flexibility and teamwork skills.

  • Think 'STAR' - Situation or Task, Action and Result. There are several variations of this acronym in the recruiting industry, but all of them are intended to provide structure and focus to your answers. When asked about a type of situation, the interviewer is looking at how you responded to it by via a specific example. Using the STAR model you would break your answer into the three segments of; description of the task, then the action you took, and the final measurable result.

    This makes it easier for the interviewer to visualize and record your specific behavioral responses to specific events and so gain the best impression of your potential future performance. Prepare at least one STAR response for each personal attribute you may be questioned on. Make sure you don't use the same example for all the attributes.

  • Use recent examples. As you will be probed for detail around the situation, it is better to use events in the last 12-18 months as the detail will be clearer in your mind. Be specific as possible about your contribution and the quantitative results achieved. Specific absolute or relative (%) gains in areas such as cost or time savings will give you the interviewer a clearer picture of your abilities. If specific measurable results don't apply to your example, you might explain how it streamlined processes, empowered others or resolved communication or productivity issues.

  • Practice telling your stories until they are vivid and concise, one to three minutes long. An interview can be likened to a marketing activity, where you are the brand. You will only get an interview because your resume and past roles suggest that you have the appropriate technical skills set (your attributes). Often what separates you from the other candidates at the interview stage is the interviewer's belief in how you will fit into the company's culture and specific IT team (your personal benefits).

    Remember, you are selling your technical AND personal skills. Being able to communicate your adaptability and relatedness at an interview is essential to becoming the leading candidate. This 'story telling practice' is an important preparation tool to assist you in creating a natural flow to your stories so that the interviewer can focus on your potential benefit to the client.

  • Ask to come back to the question. If you are stuck for an answer to a particular question, it is reasonable to ask the interviewer if you may move on to the next one and you'll come back it.
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