Strategies For Behavioral Interviews

The main objective of this type of interview is to evaluate your behavior in the past to predict your future reactions. That’s why you are going to be telling stories about the time when you did something. Let’s address some practical aspects that you can train beforehand and feel more prepared for this type of interview. 

Identify The Required Skills 

If you're going to a job interview, it's either because there is an open job position or you might be considered to fill in a position in the future. There's a role there to be filled and it is important to identify what would be the needed skills for that particular position. 

Read the job post very thoroughly, line by line, because it's explicit there everything the company wants the candidate to have. Start identifying the skills bullet by bullet. I suggest you open a Word document and create a table by writing down every skill you extract in the job description.

Another relevant exercise is to put yourself into the hiring manager’s shoes. Try to guess what the hiring manager would like to hear about your experiences in terms of which skills he/she is looking for and which of your stories would fit for those skills.

PACE skills (Problem-solvers who are Adaptive, Creative, and Entrepreneurial) are a big hit in recruiting processes. These 4 soft skills - or power skills, behavioral skills, transferable skills - are the ones the companies are looking for right now in 2020.

The STAR Model

Let me give you a personal example of problem-solving from my previous life in Finance. I used to work in multinationals as a Financial, Business, or Project Controller. When I was participating in hiring processes, it was implicit that I should solve problems as it was part of the job of a Financial Controller. The question I’d get from the recruiter would be: “Could you tell me about a time when you had to solve a very difficult problem?”. This type of question is common in a behavioral interview. The best way to respond to this question is by telling a story using the STAR frame.

S - Situation;

T - Tasks;

A - Action;

R - Result. 

This is the frame you must start practicing from now on every interview you have ahead. Going back to my example, this is how I’d frame my story to answer the recruiter:

SITUATION - Once I was hired to reconcile some assets accounts that hadn’t been reconciled at all in 7 years.

TASKS - To solve the issue and reconcile the accounts, I decided to continue the rationale the former controller was doing. First, understand it, then analyze it and give my personal touch. After that, I deployed some processes and used spreadsheets to test if it was going to work. 

ACTION - I followed exactly that plan and I failed. Then I figured out that if I was going to do the same as my former colleague was doing, I wouldn’t go anywhere just like he didn’t. I completely changed the method and overcame the problem.

RESULT -  I reconciled accounts that were considered “mission impossible” and delivered a massive transformation in the Project Accounting area of that firm.

In addition to the STAR frame, I’d also add the lessons learned from that situation. In my example, I’ve learned that if I kept repeating what others have been doing, I’d not get into different results. It was only after I thought of the problem from a different perspective that I completely solved it. 

How You’re Going To Be Evaluated

Human Resources personnel are trained to evaluate people, they do that every day with a lot of candidates, so they are experienced and know what to evaluate in you. Here are the basic aspects any recruiter or HR professional would be looking for in your speech and also in your body language. 

  • Personality traits - HR is looking for your values adherence to the company culture. The way you behave in the interview can influence their perception about your values;
  • Listening abilities - Every time you're in a job interview you should listen carefully and if you haven't understood the question you should repeat what you understood just to check if it's correct and if you're going to elaborate a good answer.  
  • The tone of your voice - Shaking voices and too low toned voices won’t help you. Be careful with that, especially those who are seniors or managers. You’ve got to have a good posture and to establish eye contact, which is part of the fourth aspect that will be evaluated.
  • Body language - Make eye contact! This is super important because it establishes trust and certainty and that is exactly what they are looking for, someone that is certain.  It’s not about confidence, it’s about certainty! They are pretty different from each other and you should learn the difference.

Cornell University made a study with cereal boxes and found out that eye contact elevates the audience’s attention by 16%. “Eye contact with cereal spokes-characters increased feelings of trust and connection to the brand, as well as the ultimate choice of the brand over competitors,” as stated by the researchers. When it comes to interviews we’re talking about selling yourself, you are the brand!  

 In conclusion, firstly, take a big picture of the environment you're going to be in when you’re interviewed, meaning to understand line by line the job description, and the position. Secondly, always emphasize your strengths. In my example using the STAR model, I told you my first idea failed but after that, I was an analytical thinker and used my creativity to find a better solution and overcome the problem - those are my strengths. And lastly, always remember to use your behavioral skills

The greatest point about preparing your stories and training beforehand is that you won’t hesitate when you receive the questions from the interviewer, you’ll just give a fast and assertive answer.


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