Preparing for behavioral question style interview

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guitarguy
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Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by guitarguy » Tue Jan 21, 2014 3:27 pm

I'm preparing to go on an interview at MegaCorp and I know they use behavioral style interviewing. There are a million articles out there on this topic and I've read a lot about it, but just thought it might be a good topic to discuss here too.

I'm lucky to have a couple friends and colleagues that work for MegaCorp and I've got some info on what questions to expect and stuff. Very lucky to have this. Basically the gist I'm getting is I need to write up a bunch of "stories" and organize them so I can have an arsenal of examples to bring up in the interview about "a time I solved a really complicated problem," or "a time I had to make an important quick decision without adequate information," or "how I used new creative ideas to solve an old problem" or whatever. Basically I plan to have 1-2 examples to pull from for each of these questions my colleagues told me to expect, and I may scour the internet for some other typical behavioral questions and come up with good examples for those as well.

I plan on bringing some notes into the interview, certainly not fully written out full pages or anything, but maybe just some bullet points and stuff to pull from. That way I can have some notes to refer to in case I blank. I can only imagine the awkwardness that would follow if I was unable to come up with an example of something they wanted. Kinda scary! I was also advised to come up with a good 15 minute (!!) intro about myself...I was thinking of having my resume with me to pull highlights from so I don't leave anything major out. And for the end of the interview, I plan to have a good list of questions to ask them as well.

At least I usually interview well, so I have that on my side.

Any other tips or do's or don'ts for a behavioral style interview?

livesoft
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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by livesoft » Tue Jan 21, 2014 3:37 pm

One don't: Don't pull out a bunch of 3 by 5 note cards with answers to questions.

I remember interviewing a young gentleman who was so nervous that he did have his stash of cards. When I asked a question, he flipped through his cards to see if the answer was there using his profusely sweating hands. It was very sad.

I would read "What Color Is Your Parachute?" about interviews and just be myself. If they don't like me the way I am, I am not interested in them. Also, an interview is your chance to interview them, so I would be asking THEM the tough questions. Here is a sample question:

"Suppose you hire me and I am sitting in your chair in a couple years trying to hire the next person, what kind of training does MegaCorp give me to help me do interviews? How would MegaCorp help me hire the best fit for this position? You know, I don't want to screw it up and hire the wrong person."
Last edited by livesoft on Tue Jan 21, 2014 3:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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VictoriaF
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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by VictoriaF » Tue Jan 21, 2014 3:40 pm

Depending on the type of a company you will be interviewing for, check out William Poundstone's books
  • - "How Would You Move Mount Fuji?: Microsoft's Cult of the Puzzle -- How the World's Smartest Companies Select the Most Creative Thinkers"
    and
    - "Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?: Trick Questions, Zen-like Riddles, Insanely Difficult Puzzles, and Other Devious Interviewing Techniques You ... Know to Get a Job Anywhere in the New Economy."
Victoria
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guitarguy
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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by guitarguy » Tue Jan 21, 2014 3:45 pm

livesoft wrote:One don't: Don't pull out a bunch of 3 by 5 note cards with answers to questions.

I remember interviewing a young gentleman who was so nervous that he did have his stash of cards. When I asked a question, he flipped through his cards to see if the answer was there using his profusely sweating hands. It was very sad.
No...that doesn't sound like me! :D

As far as notes go...I've always brought a little skinny black binder to every interview I've been on. I usually have a couple copies of my resume and references, some blank paper for note taking, etc.

My thought on bringing notes was just to have maybe one page with a list of 10-15 bullet points or whatever that I could glance at to spring an appropriate example of a story to tell in case I draw a blank. I fully expect to be able to answer most of the questions by memory, especially if they coincide with the ones I've been given as a guide for preparation...

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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by Rodc » Tue Jan 21, 2014 4:41 pm

"Suppose you hire me and I am sitting in your chair in a couple years trying to hire the next person, what kind of training does MegaCorp give me to help me do interviews? How would MegaCorp help me hire the best fit for this position? You know, I don't want to screw it up and hire the wrong person."
Love it.

And agree, no notes for questions.

Don't do this:

Q: Why did you write a thesis developing a new way to do XYZ, since I can just pick up a book on XYZ? (waited for any easy answer like the standard approaches have ABC limitation I needed to overcome)

A: I don't know, you would have to ask my thesis adviser.

(Ok, maybe he should have had note cards)
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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by EternalOptimist » Tue Jan 21, 2014 4:53 pm

I've done a fair amount of hiring over the years, just relax and be yourself. Since you are being asked to come in, it is assumed you can do the job, the rest is do they see you fitting in (which you can't control). So relax, smile, be happy and do a lot of listening. Be sure not to be negative about any firm or anybody. Remember it is harder for the interviewer than the interviewee, so try to make them feel comfortable, if you can. It gets easier the more you do. Good luck :happy. PS, be sure to send a thank you note.
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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by WillyMcG » Tue Jan 21, 2014 6:46 pm

"Tell me about a time you failed"

Have some story ready about how you rose from the ashes, learned how to work with others better, engage your customers better, blah blah blah

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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by guitarguy » Wed Jan 22, 2014 11:36 am

Rodc wrote:And agree, no notes for questions.
Is this the general consensus? What would you think as a hiring manager of someone who had notes readily available for this type of interview?

A colleague who I worked with at my current company that now works at MegaCorp recommended to bring in notes...

Keep in mind, I'm not talking about writing full page summaries of my entire career history. I'm simply talking about a bullet point list of ideas for things to bring up to spark my memory ONLY if I draw a blank or something. It's not like I'm going to be bringing in a book and reading everything off of it. I'm hoping to not even look at the notes, really.

Would this really look bad or be a turnoff to the interviewer(s)?? :confused

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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by White Coat Investor » Wed Jan 22, 2014 11:50 am

It wouldn't be any more of a turnoff than a 15 minute speech introducing yourself. :)
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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by frugaltype » Wed Jan 22, 2014 12:00 pm

It's been a long time since I interviewed, but I would bring several copies of my resume. There's always someone who doesn't have one for some reason or other. I'd also bring a list of questions I wanted answered.

When I hadn't interviewed for several years, I'd always try to interview first at some place I thought I wasn't interested in. Kind of a dress rehearsal to get the bugs out.

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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by guitarguy » Wed Jan 22, 2014 12:08 pm

EmergDoc wrote:It wouldn't be any more of a turnoff than a 15 minute speech introducing yourself. :)
Holy crap...I know right!?

When my buddy told me that at first I thought he was crazy...and that my little opening intro about myself should be more like 2-3 minutes or something.

But then he said the interview will flow a lot like a discussion...so I'm assuming I'll start talking about my experience and stuff and they'll ask me questions and it'll end up being a 15 minute conversation rather than a 15 minute sales pitch.

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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by Andyrunner » Wed Jan 22, 2014 12:25 pm

My company does this.

My advice. Think of 3-4 stories of work challenges. You should be able to use these for any of the questions they throw at you. Answer it in this fashion:
1) Summarize the situation
2) state the challenges involved
3) explain your approach and what you did.
4) State the results
5) Explain the lessons learned and takeaways of the situation.

Challenge is not to ramble keep the answer between 2-3min max. I had my wife ask me general questions every night and I practiced on all of these examples. She was allowed to ask follow up questions and that helped as well. Do not pull out note cards...you dont want to sound like your reading off of a script. Some managers may not mind, some will. Dont risk it.

Examples are: tell us of a time you didn't get along with a co-worker, tell us of a time you didn't agree with your manager on an issue, sometimes you have to deal with personal information (or replace with compliance issue) how have you approached this?

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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by Rodc » Wed Jan 22, 2014 7:10 pm

guitarguy wrote:
Rodc wrote:And agree, no notes for questions.
Is this the general consensus? What would you think as a hiring manager of someone who had notes readily available for this type of interview?

A colleague who I worked with at my current company that now works at MegaCorp recommended to bring in notes...

Keep in mind, I'm not talking about writing full page summaries of my entire career history. I'm simply talking about a bullet point list of ideas for things to bring up to spark my memory ONLY if I draw a blank or something. It's not like I'm going to be bringing in a book and reading everything off of it. I'm hoping to not even look at the notes, really.

Would this really look bad or be a turnoff to the interviewer(s)?? :confused
It would depend on the position I suppose, but I tend to hire "high end" research engineers. May be fresh out of a good school with near 4.0 grade average or someone with years of experience. I expect such people to know what they did, why it was important, how it relates to other things and I expect them to be able to handle communication off the cuff on topic where they are supposed to be experts (that include technical topics as well as softer topics like give me an example of how you worked in a team). We take not only technical skills very seriously, but the ability to comfortably and smoothly talk on a subject, boiling it down to a concise 3 minute blurb or a detailed 90 minute lecture.

A page of bullet point notes is not a deal breaker, but after going through the work of writing up a one pager I would expect you would then have it memorized more or less just because once you did the work and typed it up that is what happens most of the time.

But in the end you should do what feel best to you. And best of luck, we're pulling for you!
We live a world with knowledge of the future markets has less than one significant figure. And people will still and always demand answers to three significant digits.

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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by Rodc » Wed Jan 22, 2014 7:21 pm

Andyrunner wrote:My company does this.

My advice. Think of 3-4 stories of work challenges. You should be able to use these for any of the questions they throw at you. Answer it in this fashion:
1) Summarize the situation
2) state the challenges involved
3) explain your approach and what you did.
4) State the results
5) Explain the lessons learned and takeaways of the situation.

Challenge is not to ramble keep the answer between 2-3min max. I had my wife ask me general questions every night and I practiced on all of these examples. She was allowed to ask follow up questions and that helped as well. Do not pull out note cards...you dont want to sound like your reading off of a script. Some managers may not mind, some will. Dont risk it.

Examples are: tell us of a time you didn't get along with a co-worker, tell us of a time you didn't agree with your manager on an issue, sometimes you have to deal with personal information (or replace with compliance issue) how have you approached this?
This is good.
We live a world with knowledge of the future markets has less than one significant figure. And people will still and always demand answers to three significant digits.

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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by Mintee » Wed Jan 22, 2014 8:10 pm

There are so many good replies here. I don't know your profession, but I've worked in HR for many years, taught behavioral interviewing, etc. so I can provide some general suggestions.

The company wants to know if you can do the job, if you will do the job and if you will fit. The last is usually the most important. Your friends have helped you with the latter, but you will want to be prepared for the "Why do you want to work HERE?" question. Understand what the company does, what markets the company is in, where they are going, etc. Most companies will appreciate your preparation.

I think taking a few notes/bullet points with you is fine. It's also fine to take notes as the interviewers speak.

If you find yourself unable to answer a question quickly, you can say, "I'd like to take a moment to think about your question so I can give you a thoughtful answer," or something similar. It's okay to pause. A good interviewer will encourage you to pause if needed--but not every interviewer is good. Keep in mind that interviewers expect you to be a little nervous, and some interviewers are nervous, too.

Your preparation will pay off--it will be noticed. Good luck!

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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by VictoriaF » Wed Jan 22, 2014 8:21 pm

Many years ago, when I was finishing my M.S. degree, I was interviewed by a major company. I flew in the night before and drove to the company's campus to get familiar with the route. And I had dinner at a near-by restaurant X.

The next day, after the interviews ended, several people from the company invited me to join them for lunch and asked me what type of food I preferred. I responded that restaurant X was quite good. They seemed quite impressed. Several days later, I received from the company a very generous offer. I suspect that my matter-of-factly knowledge of their local restaurant played a significant role in it. (I did not accept the offer because I decided to join Bell Labs.)

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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by cherijoh » Wed Jan 22, 2014 8:56 pm

When I separated from my former employer due to a facility relocation, I was offered outplacement assistance. This firm recommended developing SOAR stories
(Situation - Obstacle - Action - Results). Almost all of mine corresponded to a bullet on my resume. So most of the "stories" were basically a fleshing out of my accomplishments. Before an interview, I reviewed my list of stories and practiced them out loud. I also tried to figure which one I would use for various behavioral interview questions and the dreaded "tell me about yourself" question. It is also helpful to take the job description or any knowledge you have on company culture to pick 4 - 5 behaviors you want to illustrate - e.g., collaborative, innovative, analytical, persuasive communicator, etc. and then choose a story to back up your claim.

I used a copy of my resume in the interview as the mental prompt for the stories. No one seemed to think it was odd for me to bring copies of my resume into the interview. I did have some questions written down prior to the interview and I added a few quick notes during the interview based on interviewer comments.

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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by guitarguy » Wed Jan 22, 2014 9:15 pm

Andyrunner wrote:My company does this.

My advice. Think of 3-4 stories of work challenges. You should be able to use these for any of the questions they throw at you. Answer it in this fashion:
1) Summarize the situation
2) state the challenges involved
3) explain your approach and what you did.
4) State the results
5) Explain the lessons learned and takeaways of the situation.

Challenge is not to ramble keep the answer between 2-3min max. I had my wife ask me general questions every night and I practiced on all of these examples. She was allowed to ask follow up questions and that helped as well. Do not pull out note cards...you dont want to sound like your reading off of a script. Some managers may not mind, some will. Dont risk it.

Examples are: tell us of a time you didn't get along with a co-worker, tell us of a time you didn't agree with your manager on an issue, sometimes you have to deal with personal information (or replace with compliance issue) how have you approached this?
This is basically how I'm preparing...and preparing my answers exactly as you said too, but also including the "thought process" behind what I did. One of my friends got me an interview packet that may even be the exact one the interviewer will use. If not then at least it has a lot of great example questions like the ones stated above. I've been told to expect around 10 different questions or so...I've got 12 stories prepared that I can pick from so far.
Rodc wrote:A page of bullet point notes is not a deal breaker, but after going through the work of writing up a one pager I would expect you would then have it memorized more or less just because once you did the work and typed it up that is what happens most of the time.

But in the end you should do what feel best to you. And best of luck, we're pulling for you!
Thanks!

I'm thinking once I write up everything...I probably won't even need to look at it. It's like when I'm taking a grad school exam and we can use a sheet of paper for reference...I might cram a lot of stuff on there and then use like 1/100th of what I wrote down because I remember it all by that point. But the thought of having the quick reference list I guess is just a security blanket of sorts. It might make me more comfortable to have something to reference if I blank.
Mintee wrote:The company wants to know if you can do the job, if you will do the job and if you will fit. The last is usually the most important. Your friends have helped you with the latter, but you will want to be prepared for the "Why do you want to work HERE?" question. Understand what the company does, what markets the company is in, where they are going, etc. Most companies will appreciate your preparation.
Good thing is I know the company well. My current company works with them (but is not a competitor). I could answer the "why do you want to work here" question right here right now.

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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by staythecourse » Wed Jan 22, 2014 9:52 pm

Agree with the above poster. If you are coming in to interview then you have passed the "wonder if he can do the job" questions. Now the issues is personality and do you have the qualities that the interviewer is looking for? That, of course, can not be prepared. Just imagine what you would want if you had to hire someone for the job. A team player, taking responsibility in finishing projects on time, energetic, always looking to better yours skills, wanting to take be a leader, etc...

I remember a neurosurgeon telling me his interview on the residency trail was he was given a book of "Where's Waldo" and was asked to find all the Waldos while he had 3 interviewers watching him. At least it won't be that bad.

Good luck.
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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by twindad57 » Wed Jan 22, 2014 10:29 pm

I would think about the message you want to convey. How would you market yourself if you were preparing an ad campaign?

What are you known for? What are your strong points? What examples can you give that are results-oriented? What do you want the interviewer to remember about you when you leave? Once you have this list think about those examples and how you would convey them in a short response. If you've spent the time thinking about this, you should be able to mentally draw upon the examples when you are asked a question and find one that is related to the question.

Too often I've interviewed people who seem to have very little clue about what they want to convey about themselves. Remember you are there to sell yourself and convince the interviewer you would be a good addition to their organization.

Good luck!

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Re: Preparing for behavioral question style interview

Post by dm200 » Wed Jan 22, 2014 11:12 pm

Over the years, I have had both success and lack thereof in interviews. The technique of relating an example of success or solving a problem or challenge has been a part of several interviews - going back decades. In one case, part of the hiring/qualification process was a telephone "interview", asking these sorts of questions, done by a consulting company. This was only about 15 minutes. I must have done OK - because I was hired.

The "key" to these sorts of questions (or series of questions) - as I perceive them, is to start with a general topic where you claim to be good at something or have certain positive attributes. The get you to say something positive. For example, they might ask about your problem solving ability/experience. You say, of course, that you are good/qualified/experienced with problem solving. Then - the very next question is to give an example or two of how you solved a problem. Whatever you claim to be able to do/know or whatever you claim to be good/experienced at needs to be backed up by details/examples, etc.

I recall two very different interviewing experiences with different divisions of the same company. I was working with 2 different headhunters at the time. One headhunter got me an interview with the commercial division of a company. I can't remember why, but the interview went very badly. I could tell right during the interview. I was not even asked back for a follow-up. Not long after, a different headhunter got me an interview for a nearly identical position in the same building with the government division of the same company. That interview went very well and I was hired. We did not have regular, day to day contact, but I would encounter folks from the commercial division from tie to time. I recall that the first time, after starting on the job, when I ran into the manager where the interview went so badly, that he had the strangest look on his face when he first saw me.

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