Interviewing 101: Tell Your Story
Most first interviews are now behavior interviews, or sometimes called "structural interviews." This is commonplace now. You want to know why? Because those making the hiring decisions generally believe that past behavior and performance are great indicators of future behavior and performance; a lot of the literature supports this view.
So the belief is, when you are interviewing with a company, your behavior on past assignments and at past jobs is the strongest indicator of what you will do for them. So you must have specific examples, and they must be in the form of a story. They must be direct, succinct, organized, and structured.
Recruiters try to keep emotion out of the process of recruiting, and you really are trying to keep it in. You want to answer the questions so well, so smoothly, that the interviewer will want to take it personally whether or not you get into the company. You want the person that interviews you to "champion" you. If your interview answers are great, the interviewer will take "championing" you personally. This is your goal.
Interviewing is nothing more than telling stories. You are essentially scored on how well you tell stories about you and your experiences. So, why is it so hard and stressful for some? Some say because it is like a test. You really never know what they are going to ask. Plus, you are talking to a complete stranger and, in a short time, trying to stand out, impress, and convince them that you are "all that and a bag of chips." This is nerve-racking for most professionals. I know it was for me when I was in your spot, but there is a solution.
There are many methods out there: STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result), SBO (Situation, Behavior, and Outcome), SAO (Situation, Action, and Outcome), SAR (Situation, Action, and Result), and others. I don't really care which one you use, but use one of them because they are all leading you down the same correct path.
I prefer SBO because the "B" stands for "behavior" and that is really what is being tested in a behavioral interview. The "B" is a good reminder for you to focus on your behavior and that each question is trying to evaluate you on your past behavior.
The key to all of these methods is to prepare and to have examples in the form of a story. Any question they ask should be answered detailing S, B, and O, and should be completed in about ninety seconds. That leaves you approximately thirty seconds for situation, thirty seconds for behavior, and thirty seconds for outcome. I would say allow yourself a margin of ten seconds either way, but no more and no less.
In other words, your entire answer should lie between eighty to one hundred seconds with the sweet spot at ninety seconds. If it is much shorter than this, usually there is not enough detail in your answer to warrant a really high score. If it is much longer than this, there is usually too much detail or it is not organized enough for the interviewer to quickly see what they need to.
Although each section (S, B, O) is very important and a must-have to score high, if I had to choose which one was most important, I would have to pick behavior. This is because all recruiters, interviewers, and hiring managers should know what I have told you already, and that is past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior. Here is how you get started: you should have six or more stories ready to go.
Focus your stories on areas or topics that companies most likely will ask. Here are some:
- Dealing with a difficult person
- Taking criticism
- Helping others (without being told to do so)
- What you did when something went wrong
- Solving a problem
- Your greatest strength
- Your greatest weakness
- Your greatest accomplishment
- Your greatest disappointment
Now, I know what you are saying: "I thought we weren't supposed to memorize answers and regurgitate them back?" This is different. These are stories about your life-your experiences. You already know them because you lived them. So really all you have to do is to tell your stories back to the interviewer in the S, B, O format. That's it.
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