In preparing for an in-person job interview it is important to acknowledge that you have two forms of potential questions. The traditional interview process is one where the interviewer asks you straight-forward questions like “What are your major strengths and weaknesses?” or “What do you enjoy best in your job?” A behavioral interview however is a different kind of animal and certainly can be more stressful because there are no right or wrong answers but certainly can make you work overtime to determine what you want and need to reveal. The logic to such questions is that past behavior will predict what you will do in the future.
Behavioral job interview questions can be very pointed and are much more specific than traditional interview questions. You must be prepared for such questions and the best approach is to rehearse ahead of time so that you can provide as much insight into your decision-making and your personality as possible. Your answers and your comfort level in how you discuss the questions can be instrumental in the selection committee’s decision on your future employment.
The following are just a few of the many possible questions that can be asked of you in this form of interview:
1) Did you ever postpone firing someone? Why and what rationale did you use to determine the person’s fait?
2) How have you interacted with a difficult staff member? How have you worked with a difficult Board Member?
3) How do you motivate staff members to achieve success – especially when you have a limited budget?
4) Did you ever make a risky decision and regret it later? What did you learn from this experience?
5) Are you a good listener? Provide an example of when you did or didn’t listen very well.
6) Provide an example of how you dealt with a difficult member/customer? How did you solve their issues?
7) Has there been a time when you were not able to meet a certain time frame on a project? How did you deal with that?
8) Have you ever made a difficult decision that was unpopular amongst your staff? How did you deal with that?
9) Have you ever had to defend your actions to your Board of Directors? What was involved in that case and how did it get resolved?
10) Describe a stressful situation at work and how you dealt with it.
It is easier said than done to prepare for an interview. Obviously you need to key in on all the obvious traditional questions. Make sure you emphasize your strengths and always highlight your successes and how you interact positively with all participants and stakeholders in your answers. You want to give the image of experience, professionalism and open-mindedness but don’t overdo it and come off as egotistical. No one really likes a know-it-all or a pseudo know-it-all!
Do look over the job description or the job posting for some insights on what is important and expected for the position. During the interview it is not uncommon for candidates to ask for clarification of the question but don’t do it too often because then you appear to be ill-prepared and not willing to fully disclose your experiences.
Just because there are no right or wrong answers to behavioral questions doesn’t mean that you can’t provide the interviewer with just the right ammunition to eliminate you from consideration for the position. Remember, you need to be very specific about a situation and how you behaved previously. You need to detail the task, the action that you took and the results that occurred. You must also remember that the answer can’t be excruciatingly long either. Two to three minutes max is preferable when you are detailing the situation. Allow the interviewer to follow-up if more details are needed but don’t posture your response ad nauseum and of course no one will appreciate a filibuster as well.
Your answers to these questions provide insight into your character and personality. This is not the time to be modest. The interviewer is asking these questions to determine the right fit for his/her association/company. Don’t talk about and their experiences – they want to learn about you and how you have responded to actual life-changing happenings. Never use such phrases as “I would do…” or “One should do…” because they aren’t interested in speculation but rather they are interested in what has happened in your life up to this point.
As in all interviews it is vital for you to highlight your career and your successes. It is also important to describe what you have learned from your failures and defeats. No matter what age, perspective can be provided from all aspects of your professional life. By being honest and revealing, one will be able to determine what kind of leader you will be for their organization in the future – and ultimately isn’t that what we are ultimately hoping to achieve?