Engineers…Get Prepared To Dominate Your Behavioral Style Interviews

Do you remember my young engineering friend in Chile who wanted to move his career back home to the U.S.? Well, he’s returned and is now immersed in a full blown job search.

Get Prepared

He and I had an extended lunch last week to catch up and to talk about his job search progress. We covered a lot of ground, but it was his followup email that told me what he appreciated the most. It was our conversation about behavioral style interviewing

This Surprises Me

I suppose I shouldn’t be, but I’m still surprised that so many people I talk with either haven’t heard of behavioral style interviewing or know very little about it. Even if they have heard about it, they rarely know how best to prepare for this type of interview.

This is such a shame because knowing what it is and preparing for it properly is a vital part of securing a job offer. These days, more and more companies, both big and small, are using behavioral style interviewing to help select their top candidates.

What Is Behavioral Style Interviewing?

The short story is this. Behavioral style interviewing is based on the idea that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. In other words, how successful you’ve been in overcoming problems in the past says a lot about how successful you might be in the future.

Give Them STARs

With this in mind, an interviewer using this style of questioning will ask you for examples of how you’ve handled past situations. Whether they reveal this to you or not, what they’re looking for are often referred to as STARs.

STAR is an acronym that’s made up of the following: S/T represents the Situation or Task that you faced, A stands for the Actions you took, and R represents the Results that your actions brought about.

Essentially, what the interviewer is looking for from you are authentic, honest stories that reveal how you brought about good results. Or at a minimum, how you handled the situation. Your stories don’t all have to be stories of outstanding success, but ideally they will reveal some valuable knowledge, strengths and/or attributes that you can bring to the company.

Expect To Do Well Only If You’re Prepared

I was fortunate to receive training on behavioral style interviewing during my time in the Corporate Staffing group at John Deere. We used it religiously to help eliminate the subjectiveness that often plagues traditional style interviews.

Personally, I liked it a lot and enjoyed hearing the stories that candidates shared. We found it served us well and allowed us to more objectively identify the best candidates.

Something I quickly learned about this interviewing style is that candidates who don’t prepare properly will be found out very quickly during the interview. Trust me, when this happens it’s uncomfortable for both the interviewer and the candidate.

This Is Very Common

From my experience as a recruiter, the most common failure mode during a behavioral interview is when the candidate gives you a blank stare after you Bearded man with bulging eyesfinish asking the question. In other words, they can’t come up with an answer that fits with what you just asked them.

It’s likely that they have a story lurking somewhere in their memory bank that would fit nicely, but they simply can’t recall it in the heat of the moment. This is the time when things get uncomfortable for both of you.

Dominate By Preparing Properly

The way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to spend time before the interview studying some of the most common behavioral style interview questions, and then identifying relevant stories that would best satisfy each question. The key is to invest a good amount of time tapping into your memory and writing your stories down.

One method I’ve found helpful for recalling stories is to walk your way through your entire resume, but especially through the most recent months and years. As you do this, make sure each story you capture contains all three elements of a complete STAR. Write down the Situation or Task, identify the Actions you took, and document the Results that you brought about.

Your Prep Will Set You Up For Success

By investing the time, and working through this process ahead of the interview, your stories will be ready and available on the tip of your tongue. You’ll be able to stay as cool as a cucumber and glide through the interview with ease.

Hopefully, soon after the interview ends you’ll get the recruiter’s call with an attractive offer for the job of your dreams.

Question: What past experiences have you had with behavioral style interviewing? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

ECL Readers: Here’s one of my favorite articles about behavioral style interviewing that you may find helpful too.