Most hiring managers and recruiters have little trouble-identifying candidates who are waiting for their first interviews. There they sit in the reception area, those impeccably dressed collegians in standard-issue interview suits – the dark trousers too new, the shoes too polished and a tie and shirt collar that’s too tight. The nervous thump-thump-thump of their heart is almost audible. They constantly rub their palms on their thighs in hopes of drying them before they have to shake the interview’s hand.

There are plenty of good reasons for you to be nervous. You are faced with the task of convincing a total stranger to invest company money and time in you. Indeed, selling yourself in a competitive market is a daunting task.

And you’re more likely to contend with a tougher interview than your slightly older friends because of the rapidly increasing sophistication of those doing the hiring for companies. Corporations are spending more money than ever on psychological test, honesty tests, drug tests, assessments, and computerized screening systems

They are sending recruiters and supervisors to courses on interviewing and candidates-evaluation procedures. They are subjecting candidates to more and longer interviews. And they are using new interviewing techniques, some of which would make 3rd degree police interrogation seem like an attractive alternative.

Although it would be unrealistic to expect any new hire to come with a guarantee, many employers are taking that extra step to make sure they do not even consider someone they will quickly wish had never darkened their doors. Simply put, employers can afford to be choosy, and they’ve found better ways to choose. They are seeking” self-managing” employees- young people who are versatile, confident, and not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get the job done.

But you can’t prove you’re exactly what they’re looking for without making it through the interview process.

If you haven’t taken a lot of time to uncover the “real you” beneath the grades and athletics and clubs, don’t worry – with the right preparation, you’ll be ready to lead a self-help seminar on” Getting in touch with your inner child.”

Improving your Personal Interview performance – Most job candidates misunderstand their role in the process. They think of the interview as an interrogation. And they see themselves as suspect, not as the key prospects they really are. Actually,  you are, to a very large degree , in charge of the interview. During an interview, you are there not only to sell the company on you, but to make sure that you are sold on the company.

An interview can ask you 3 types of questions

  • Questions about you
  • Questions to preempt issues( the company had with other employees)
  • Behavioral Questions

Questions about you – These are questions initiated by your resume. The most frequent one here is the normally the interview opener such as – Tell us about yourself/Introduce Yourself/ So what brings you here etc. This needs a 2 minutes escalator pitch where you introduce yourself in an interesting manner and set the direction of the interview, say by mentioning an interest or a passion. Mentioning a passion is a good way to lead the interviewer into your comfort zone. Any questions about interests or passions has an answer that only you know.

They can ask you about why you changed a school, why your grades dropped in a certain academic year or semester, etc. The key to such questions is to sit with your resume and think about any questions that someone can ask about your academic and career progression and then play the Devil’s Advocate to think out any uncomfortable questions that can be triggered by your resume. Now write down answers to all these questions, edited them a zillion times, speak them out in front of the mirror or your partner. Edit them to make them interesting, till the time your answers flow like an interesting story which will hook the whole interview panel.

Questions to preempt issues – Recruiters have a history of facing employees who give them a hard time and decline certain work as it may not be part of their KRAs or decline working at offsite locations or have apprehensions in relocating. So recruiters always prefer double checking on certain fronts, even if there is no need. Recruiters would definitely ask whether you have any problems in relocating. Be ready for this question as it may be a make or break question.

Behavioral Questions – Behavioral questions are asked to find out about the candidate’s general interpersonal skills, specifically conflict management and team management abilities. Here are a few examples of conflict-related behavioral questions:

  • Tell me about a team project when you had to work with someone difficult.
  • Tell me about a time you had a conflict at work.
  • Give an example of a time you had to respond to an unhappy manager/customer/colleague.
  • Tell me about a time that you disagreed with a rule, law or approach.

With behavioral questions, interviewers seek examples of how you’ve handled specific situations in the past. The idea is that past job performance will say a lot about how you would handle yourself if hired for the job at hand. Most jobs require you to get along with different types of people. Some of your coworkers, managers, and/or clients will turn out to be idiots, slackers, and/or weirdos. Disagreements are bound to arise.

To succeed at work, you must be able to deal with conflict professionally. This is particularly true in certain jobs (project management, customer service, cross-functional teams) and in certain company cultures. Your interviewer wants to get a sense of how you will respond to working in teams where your interpersonal skills will be challenged. Anyone can seem nice and pleasant in a job interview, but what will happen if you’re hired and somebody starts testing your nerves? Conflict questions are common because everybody wants to hire a good “team player.” (It is probably the most common behavioral question subject) Interviewers often ask about your team experiences and they like to ask specifically about one that involved a conflict or “difficult person.”

How to Answer the Behavioral Questions – A good answer should have three parts. Think of it as a “STAR” response.

  1. ST: Situation or Task. Describe the context in which the behavior or action took place.
  2. A: Action. Logically take the interviewer through the steps you took to handle the situation or resolve the problem. Keep your answer clear and concise.
  3. R: Results. Explain your results Even if you weren’t as successful as you’d hoped, it’s important to make it clear that you understand the implications of the outcome and why it happened.

Preparing for a Behavioral Interview

  1. Know your resume. This might seem obvious, but your resume is often the basis for many questions. Identify the competencies that your resume demonstrates.
  2. Be able to draw from a variety of experiences that demonstrate your skills and abilities. Volunteer activities, military experience, clubs and organizations, and school and educational endeavors are all fair game.
  3. Be familiar with the job for which you’re interviewing. Discern the competencies that are required for success in the job and think of the components of your experience that best exemplify your abilities in those competencies. Remember that different companies and industries may require different competencies, even for the same position. For example, “self-managing” can mean very different things to a dot com than to an old-line Fortune 500 firm.
  4. Develop a coherent and articulate STAR narrative for each competency that you think you will be questioned. You should prepare at least one STAR response for each bullet point on your resume.

Practice Question

Imagine that you have an interview at a dot com. One competency that Internet companies usually require is flexibility—as many have vaguely defined job descriptions, loosely structured reporting relationships, and rapidly changing business models.

In order to evaluate your flexibility, your interviewer might ask: “Describe a time when you had to function in an environment that was different from one you had functioned in before. How did you adapt?”

Use a STAR Response

  1. ST (Situation/Task): Describe the situation. If you are a student with little work experience, you might compare your high-school and college environments. For example: “I went to high school at a small private school in the Midwest. Everyone knew each other. But then I chose to go to college at a large public institution in the northeast. There, I was virtually anonymous.”

If you were promoted, you might think about how it affected your relationship with colleagues. For example: “As a sales rep., I had a friendly rapport with my peers. But when I was promoted to division manager, not only did I suddenly have to relate to them as their supervisor, but I also had to deal with my former manager as an equal.” If you changed firms, you might think about the cultural differences you faced. For example: “I first worked at a company with a formal office culture. We wore suits, made appointments to meet, and had rigidly set office hours. When I changed firms, every day was like casual Friday. We just stuck our heads into someone’s office if we wanted to talk about something and worked flexible hours.”

  1. A (Action): Explain what you did. “I soon realized I needed to adjust for my new conditions. I got a feel for who did what and how they did it. By talking to people and getting some on-the-spot experience, I discovered how things got done and modified my work habits. Then I set some personal and professional goals and determined how to best accomplish them in my new environment.”
  2. R (Result): Describe the results of your actions. “While I still find I work best when I do things a particular way, I now know that adapting to a new environment is one of the most important things if you want to make a significant contribution. I was able to build good and productive working habits and relationships in my new environment.”

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