« Part 2 - internship series (Columbia River Gorge Commission) | Main | United Nations Internships »

Interviewing Tip: Be Specific!

The new trend in interviewing is behavioral interviewing. What behavioral interviewing is a result of is the idea that what a candidate (you) has done in the past, they will do in the future. Basically, if you never been one to do the dishes in the past, they think that you will never do the dishes in the future. You'll know that you are being subjected to a behavioral interview because all of the questions will start with "Tell me about a time when you..." OR "Give me an example of when you..."

Prior to this change in interviewing styles, questions sounded more like, "What is your experience in... " and "How would you deal with this situation:...?" But recruiters and interviewers figured out that you can always think of the right thing to say, but that doesn't always mean that you will actually do that. So, they ask you about what you have really done to determine if your past habits and practices and skills will indicate that you will succeed in the future.

There's a trick to answering these questions: tell stories! It's actually pretty easy. All you have to do is tell the truth and give examples of what you did in the past. No one knows the answers to these questions better than you. Of course, there is a certain degree of finesse that's involved and ways to emphasize certain attributes to make sure that you come off better than your competition, but you shouldn't sweat over behavioral interviewing. I think that it’s better than having to be highly theoretical in an interview. You get to just be yourself.

So, how to answer these behavioral interviewing questions? There’s a formula that's nationally known... I've worked at four different career services offices and this approach, known as the STAR approach, is consistently recommended by all of them. STAR is broken out like this:

S - Situation
T - Task
A - Action
R - Result

When you are telling your story, which should be 2 to 4 minutes long, you want to be sure to touch upon all four of these areas. Sometimes the T and A overlap, but to differentiate, the task is what you needed to do to accomplish your goal and action is what you actually did. Tip: What sounds great to an employer is when your action actually exceeds your task and your results are even better than expected!

We always receive feedback from employers that students are not specific enough in their interviewing answers. They want to hear about what you did, not your theory on customer service or usability. They want tangible examples of when you applied what you've been learning. They already know the theories of these things -- that's why they are interviewing you.

If you have questions, would like examples of behavioral questions, or would like to practice your interviewing, contact me or Joanna and we'll be more than happy to help.

Resources on the web:
Sample Behavioral Interview Questions:

Posted by kkowatch at October 30, 2007 09:26 AM


Login to leave a comment. Create a new account.