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The Behavioral Interview

Behavioral questions can be expected in an interview. These are questions in which you are asked to describe specific situations when you have demonstrated a skill critical for success in the position you are seeking. For example, instead of asking, “Do you have communication skills?” an interviewer might ask, “Describe a time when you persuaded someone to accept your recommendations to make a policy change.”

The interviewer asks behavioral questions to gather important details about your work style. Honesty and preparation are crucial. You cannot invent answers on the spot when these probing questions require you to relate details. If you think that you need to prepare carefully for a behavioral interview, you are right! 

How Can I Prepare for a Behavioral Interview?

Analyze the type of positions for which you're applying. Try to get an actual job description. What skills are required?

Analyze your own background. What skills do you have that relate to your job objective?

Identify at least 6 examples from your past experience where you demonstrated those skills. How can you "tell a story" about your use of particular skills or knowledge? Concentrate on developing complete answers and remember that a good story has a beginning, middle and end. (See "The PAR Method," below.)

Wherever possible, quantify your results. Numbers illustrate your level of authority and responsibility.

Be prepared to provide examples of when results didn't turn out as you planned. What did you do then?

Before starting the interview process, identify 2 to 3 of your top selling points and determine how you will convey these points (with demonstrated PAR stories) during the interview.

Once employed, keep a personal achievement diary to help document demonstrated performance (PAR stories). 

The PAR Method

P - First, describe the problem. Use a specific example. Rather than answering questions about what you would do in a hypothetical situation, you are asked how you handled a situation in the past. The employer is interested in learning about one specific instance, not several different situations. What were the tasks at hand? What challenges did you face in this situation?

A - Tell what action you took as a result of the situation or problem. Remember to focus on the role you played in the solution, and do not discuss what others did in too much detail.

R - Finally, talk about the outcome or result of your action. If possible, back up your result with quantifiable information, such as statistics and examples.

Example:

  • Problem (P) -- Advertising revenue was falling off for the Daily News and large numbers of long-term advertisers were not renewing contracts.
  • Action (A) -- I designed a new promotional packet to go with the rate sheet and compared the benefits of DN circulation with other ad media in the area. I also set-up a special training session for the account executives with a College of Business professor who discussed competitive selling strategies.
  • Result (R) -- We signed contracts with fifteen former advertisers for daily ads and five for special supplements. We increased our new advertisers by twenty percent (quantities are always good) over the same period last year.

When answering behavioral based questions, make sure that you answer using PAR. 

The rule of thumb is that you should spend no more than 50% of your answer on the P and A and at least 50% on the R! Employers are most concerned with what you learned, not all the details of what happened!

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