Is “Behavioral Interviewing” a New Technique?

Written By: Carole Martin


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No, behavioral interviewing has been around since the 70’s when industrial psychologists developed a way of “accurately” predicting whether a person would succeed in a job. They concluded that if candidates were asked questions that requested examples of past behavior it would be an indicator of their future behavior.

So, employers began using this interviewing technique to determine whether you were a good fit for the job. The technique is of growing interest to companies who would like to choose the “right” candidate, especially in today’s market with so many candidates for them to choose from.

The types of questions that are asked using this technique are used to find out how and what you did in the past and the skill sets you used in the process - if you did it before you can do it again!

The difference between a behavioral question and other questions is what the question asks for. A behavioral question will be very specific. For example when asked, “Tell me about a time when you solved a problem,” the key words are “a time.” This answer calls for a “specific” example of a “specific” incident.

When traditional questions are asked they usually include the word “if.” When “What would you do if…” questions are asked you can use your imagination to come up with an answer. For example, “What would you do if you had a problem to solve?” The word, “if,” is the clue word that indicates the interviewer wants to hear your thought process - how you think through a problem. This question does not require a past experience example.

While preparation is important for every interview, it is essential to prepare for the behavioral interview. You must have examples or stories for anything you have claimed on your resume or that you say in an interview.

One example would be, if you claimed you were very organized on your resume. A natural question for the interviewer would be: “Tell me about a time when you organized a project.” It is now your task to let the interviewer know that you have had success when organizing a project or event. In other words, prove what you said you did by providing an example.

There are several methods and acronyms suggested for formatting your stories but the main point to remember is that any story has three key elements:

  • A beginning – “There was a time….”
  • A middle – “The action steps I took were…”
  • An Ending – “The end result was…”
Stories should be interesting and full of action. Give the interviewer something to remember about you. A savvy interviewer will be able to hear skills from the stories and judge your behavior from your past actions. The more details and skills you can work into your story, the more convincing your story will be.

Preparing your stories before the interview will take the mystique out of behavioral interviewing and allow you to tell the success stories you want your interviewer to hear. Through your examples the interviewer will begin to get a clear picture of you and be able to decide whether you are the right person for the job based on your past experience and successes.

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Carole Martin is a thoroughbred interview coach. Celebrated author, trainer, and mentor, Carole can give you interviewing tips like no one else can.  Her workbook, "Interview Fitness Training - A Workout With the Interview Coach," has sold thousands of copies world-wide. "Boost Your Interview IQ" has been awarded one of the 10 best career books for 2004. Her most recent book, "Perfect Phrases for the Perfect Interview" and the others mentioned are all available at www.interviewfitnesstraining.com and www.interviewcoach.com

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