“How did you deal with XYZ situation in your last project” – if a question like this one puts you in a fix and you are unable to give a perfectly articulate response, you are losing out on significant points during interviews. While the primary requisite to a job is domain proficiency and experience, the secondary yet very important one is to be able to perform well in teams and deal with unexpected situations – stuff you’d typically associate with HR rounds.
The point is, even if you had performed remarkably well in the situation the interviewer is trying to gauge you on, not being able to demonstrate it in those precious few minutes can cost you dear. Behavioral interviews demand a good amount of mental preparation. It helps to think of important projects and unusual situations you encountered and handled well, in advance; and to pre-prepare good explanations to them.
Let’s look at a mini-guide on tackling behavioral interviews with finesse.
As explained above, a behavioral interview is part of the interviewing process where the interviewer tries to judge your suitability for the job on offer based on how you responded to a particular event in the past. Mostly the situations would be picked up from your past job, school project, and sometimes even from your personal life. For example, have you ever had to work in the same team with a person you personally disliked; how did you strike a chord with them?
A well-strategized behavioral interview is intended to test you on different metrics such as motivation level, leadership ability, decision-making, interpersonal skills, communication skills and problem solving skills.
When you are sitting through a behavioral interview, your intention is to demonstrate your ability to achieve positive results out of rather negative situations. The best technique to excel in the interview is to begin preparing for it well before it happens – that is, while you are still working on a project. Keep taking notes while you work, and be prepared to answer questions based on them.
Else, you must do some memory digging and make a list of different kinds of situation where you feel you excelled. Even a careful reading of your resume will serve to remind you of things that happened that would work as good interview chat material.
Your talk should be structured and detailed. Don’t go into very trivial details that will only distract you and your listener from the main idea, but don’t let your answer be too brief either. Using real names of people while you explain will add to your credibility. The key again, is to walk into the interview room with very thorough preparation. If you are making up answers on the spot, you might not be able to frame them in a very coherent structure and lose out on the interviewer’s favor.
Get into the recruiter’s shoes and make an intelligent estimate of what characteristics they would be looking for in the position they are trying to fill. Based on these characteristics that you just figured out, think of all your past projects and pick up instances where you were able to demonstrate the exact same qualities.
So if you happen to be applying for a client-facing role, prepare answers to questions like what you did to appease an unhappy customer. Or, if it’s a managerial or team leading position you are applying to and it’s your first attempt at taking on a leadership role, explain situations from your previous job where you were able to use your seniority and skills to achieve equilibrium among your team members and steer their collective efforts in the right direction.
Behavioral interviews have been around since the 1970s and off late they have gained immense popularity among recruiters, especially among those hiring for young and dynamic companies. As opposed to a traditional interview, it is next to impossible to get through these by parroting politically correct responses. These interviews are a sure shot way for companies to hire exactly the kind of person they are looking for and are also beneficial to employees in the long run by encouraging them to keep better track of their own work.
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