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Behavioral-Based Interviews: Your Opportunity to Shine

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Behavioral-based interviews can be a dream - or a nightmare - depending on how prepared a candidate is to answer these often intimidating questions. Jean Accorsini, a Senior Consultant at Boston-based ClearRock, Inc., offers tips on aking these specifically-designed interviews work successfully for both parties.
What are behavioral-based interviews?
Behavioral-based interviews are a structured set of open-ended questions based on the premise that a person’s past behavior/performance in a job is a meaningful predictor of their future behavior/performance.

How are these interviews constructed?
Selecting the right person for a position challenges employers to first determine whether there is a true business need for that role in their company at that time. Next, company stakeholders are encouraged to identify their expectations for that role and how the individual would be expected to contribute to departmental and organizational goals. Before interview questions are formulated, stakeholders determine role competencies - specific skills including job knowledge, industry experience, and technical proficiency, as well as personal attributes that best describe the ideal candidate. Finally, interview questions are scripted by the interview team to test interviewees on how their past performance matches the company’s needs and expectations.

How to be confidently prepared
Behavioral questions typically start with, "Tell me a time when..." or "Give me an example of..." The interviewer is seeking specific examples of a candidate’s past performance. Therefore, the interviewee must prepare by identifying a portfolio of specific accomplishments that directly match key skills/knowledge that are requirements for the job. For example, if the question is: "Tell me about a strategic plan you implemented that was critical to your organization." A solid response would be structured in a S.T.A.R. format:
1. Briefly explain the Situation/Task you worked on. For example, "At ABC Company we wanted to improve..." Think of a specific situation and avoid answering in generalities such as "usually I..." or "when in that situation, I..."
2. Confidently communicate the Actions you took. Candidates must be prepared to explain the importance of the plan, as well as the actions and steps taken to reach a positive result. Talk about what you did individually, not what the team did. This is the time to use "I did this..." and not "We did that ..." Presented in a factual, non-boastful manner, a successful interviewee is able to convey the skills and abilities they possess that translate to the needs of the potential employer.
3. Close with the Result(s) you achieved – organizations hire people to achieve results. Make it very evident that you have the competencies needed to make an impact and achieve the results required in the job.

Nightmare, or Dream?
The nightmare scenario is not being prepared for behavioral-based interviews. Trying to rapidly provide examples, on the fly, which best demonstrate experience and thereby indicate potential future performance, will most likely leave the job candidate overwhelmed and the interview team less than impressed.

The dream is to shine and STARS help! Interviewees should put themselves in the interviewer’s shoes to identify the key skills needed for the job and then prepare examples to demonstrate how they have applied these skills. Most job descriptions give you insight into the questions that will be asked. For every responsibility listed in the job description, be prepared to answer the question "Tell me about a time you demonstrated that specific responsibility." This is exactly what interviewers want to hear. Stories open conversation and make the candidate and their accomplishments shine.

About ClearRock
ClearRock, Inc., headquartered in Boston, is a leadership development, executive coaching and outplacement firm, recognized for bringing best-in-class offerings to the coaching process since 2000. With offices in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, ClearRock offers developmental coaching for high-potential managers and executives; new-leader coaching for newly hired or recently promoted managers and leaders; performance coaching to help managers and executives become more effective; and outplacement coaching through a combination of a "high touch" career transition assistance and comprehensive "high tech" resources. For more information, visit

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