Intimidating interviews can crush any excitement you have about entering the workforce, especially when the questions focus on how you leveraged your skills in past jobs. Try not to view limited work experience as a major disadvantage. Unlike traditional interviews, behavioral models give you more opportunities to showcase the practical soft skills you gained from real-world scenarios. Learn to use storytelling to promote your skills, so you can compete with candidates who have stronger qualifications on paper.
What Are Behavioral Interviews?
In traditional interviews, hiring managers generally ask opinion-based questions. They may ask about your career goals and weaknesses or the steps you take to solve a problem. You can easily respond with biased or hypothetical answers that present you in a positive light without confirming your ability to perform well on the job.
Behavioral interviews challenge you to provide in-depth examples of how you approached a problem or task and made smart choices to achieve beneficial results. Behavioral "questions" are often statements that invite you to share a story. The following are examples.
1. Describe a time when you had difficulty convincing a group to work together.
2. Tell me about a time when you dealt with a change of deadline on short notice.
3. Give an example of how your leadership and judgement had a positive impact.
Hiring managers use these questions to evaluate your communication skills, decision-making process and ability to navigate complex relationships in a workplace. Employers view behavioral questions as more accurate indicators of future performance, as they require you to demonstrate a pattern of constructive behavior.
Standing Out With a Short Work History
As a recent graduate or novice professional, you can use alternative experiences to convince employers that you have potential and are prepared to take responsibility. Instead of trying to inflate your qualifications, shape your professional story around the ideal candidate each company desires.
Make a list of the most important soft skills in the job posting, and research the values and culture of the company. For example, in the Job Outlook 2016 report, 80.1 percent of the surveyed employers identified leadership as the top skill they look for in new grads. Roughly 70.2 percent of employers prioritize written communication skills and problem-solving skills, 65.8 are most attracted to initiative, and 62.7 percent highly value analytical/quantitative skills.
Think about your accomplishments in school, teams and clubs, part-time jobs, internships, and volunteering activities. Study common behavioral questions, and make a list of five to 10 scenarios in which you demonstrated qualities that fit the company's ideal candidate. For example, if you organized a technology fundraiser in high school and won new computers by writing grant letters, use that experience to demonstrate your initiative, leadership and written communication skills.
Preparing for Behavioral Interviews
Your ability to convey your value to hiring managers is just as important as your skills. In fact, 68.9 percent of the surveyed employers view verbal communication skills as the most important attribute for new grads. Create a structured example by identifying the problem, action and outcome. Make sure the outcome explains how your actions improved the situation, and include statistical data whenever possible. Write out each story, and practice speaking it aloud so that you feel comfortable presenting the information in an interview. Consider this example.
Question: Describe a time when you made an unpopular decision, and explain how you resolved it.
Problem: As president of my school's newspaper, I chose a new student to be a feature columnist, and several members believed the appointment was unfair.
Action: The classmates who complained were frequently late with their current workloads, while the new student was an enthusiastic contributor who presented fresh story ideas and often stayed late to help the editors finish up. I wanted my classmates to feel valued, and I wanted everyone to have an equal opportunity. I organized a special Saturday competition. The students did research in advance and had two hours to submit a short feature story.
Outcome: The faculty adviser handed out anonymous copies of the submissions. The club voted, and the new student had the winning story. The other students felt the competition was fair and were motivated to improve their participation in the future.
Treat behavioral interviews as opportunities to overcome weaknesses in your employment history. Avoid sounding wooden and rehearsed, but speak confidently about yourself and your ability to adapt your skills to a new work environment. Don't rush through your stories. Emphasize your decision-making process to show employers that you have the maturity and emotional intelligence to tackle any challenge.
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