Does your past performance predict future performance? According to behavioral interviewing, it most certainly does. Behavioral interviewing is a fairly new, but widely used approach to job interviewing. The behavioral interview technique is used by employers to evaluate a candidate’s experiences and behaviors in order to determine their potential for success. The idea behind behavioral interviewing is that how a candidate acted in the past will predict how that person will behave in the future.
In a traditional interview, the candidate is asked a series of questions that usually have straightforward answers. In a behavioral interview, the interviewer identifies desired skills and behaviors, and then structures open-ended questions and statements to prompt detailed responses. Companies expect candidates to be able to relate past experiences – from past jobs, undergraduate school, volunteer work, etc. – to the job for which he or she is interviewing. Instead of asking how candidates would behave in a given situation, the interviewer asks how they did behave.
In a behavioral interview it is much more difficult to give responses that are untrue to your character. When you start to tell a behavioral story, the interviewer will typically pick it apart to try to get at specific behaviors. How someone handles situations in the interview is usually a good indicator of how they’ll perform on the job. Some of the most common behavioral questions evaluate attributes such as integrity, leadership, initiative, communication skills, and problem solving skills. Many companies also design exercises to assess the fit between the candidate and the company’s culture. These exercises can be anything from brainteasers to problem-solving challenges.
How can you prepare for a behavioral interview? Since you won’t know what type of interview will take place until you are speaking with the interviewer, it’s best to prepare answers to traditional interview questions. Consider some special situations you have dealt with or projects you have worked on. Having stories on hand that illustrate times when you have successfully solved problems or performed memorably will help you respond honestly. Lastly, review the job description or the job posting. You may be able to get a better sense of what skills and characteristics the employer is seeking.
Remember that there are no right or wrong answers. Instead, the interviewer is trying to understand how you behaved in a given situation. Listen carefully, be detailed and comprehensible when you respond, and most importantly, be honest.