At some level every job-seeker dreads interviews. Simply getting to an interview can be challenging, with multiple phone-screens the norm. Clearing those hurdles means facing the in-person interview, typically with several interviewers. It’s hard, when you’re looking for a job, to envision a scenario in which you will hit it off with every person who you meet in the hiring process.
In this difficult job market, the dread may ratchet up even further if you find yourself the object of a behavioral interview. Trained to ferret out how you will respond to specific situations or challenges based on your past experiences, the behavioral interview begins with the attitude that past is prologue – what you have done in prior jobs determines how you will handle yourself in the future. The interviewer trained in this technique can unsettle even the most qualified applicant with just a few questions.
We’ve talked before about the benefits of establishing a personal brand. For the candidate about to participate in a behavioral interview, a well-conceived personal brand is essential. You’ll be prepared to answer questions designed to see if you possess specific behavioral attributes with direct, clear examples of instances in which you’ve demonstrated the behaviors the interviewer seeks.
First, a quick review of what I mean by personal brand in this context:
- A personal brand is a word, short list or statement of attributes that differentiates you as a person and an employee. It should include your areas of interest, skill and accomplishment.
Take Jane, an accountant working in an executive function for a Big Four consulting firm who came to us for strategic career coaching. Focused, driven and detail-oriented, Jane had her sights set on a partnership. Jane knew her firm used behavioral interviewing and wanted to prepare herself for the series of interviews ahead. We discussed the importance of developing a creative personal brand that would enable Jane to position her skills and strengths as the behavioral attributes the hiring manager was looking for, using specific examples drawn from her experiences.
Jane knew the behaviors her manager sought:
- Willingness to work on cross-functional teams
- Ability and patience to problem-solve
- Strongly analytical
- Consultative manner
In our discussions, Jane was able to describe her personal brand:
A skilled accountant with the ability to listen to client needs and find solutions, the flexibility to work with people of many and varied temperaments, a pragmatic perfectionist who seeks creative answers to complex problems.
We ran a set of mock interviews in which I asked Jane several questions about each behavior she anticipated the interviewer to cover. Jane was able to relate specific examples that showed how she had behaved in prior roles, with successful outcomes for clients and her firm. She mined her personal brand, her past experiences, and her knowledge of the firm to position herself as the ideal candidate for the job.
As you work on your authentic personal brand, think about how you would respond to a behavioral interview. Don’t fall into the standard trap of describing your accomplishments as a bullet list of tasks completed: connect your accomplishments to the benefits that accrued to your employer and focus on the value of your actions. Think of specific examples that illustrate your ability to do the job you want. Look outward, not inward in this case – looking from another direction can really help to gain another perspective and perhaps some further clarity.
What are the toughest questions you’ve faced in a behavioral interview?
Guest Blogger: Meghan M. Biro, founder of TalentCulture, is a globally-recognized expert in talent acquisition, creative personal and corporate branding and new media strategies that accelerate talent acquisition.
Read Meghan’s last post “Hiring For Personality And Culture Fit”
Photo Credit, slushpup