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Acing the Behavioral Interview Using Career Success Stories

Tags:  Interview Skills, Life after college

If you don't know this yet, you need to learn it now. Behavioral interviewing is a practice used by many interviewers to gather specific details about your work experience and how you have handled certain situations or issues in the past in the hope of determining how you will deal with similar scenarios in the future.

Behavioral interviewers believe that past behavior predicts future performance. And why not? If your prior behavior resulted in a positive outcome, it makes sense to try the same approach again. So what does that mean to you?

It means that in order to ace a behavioral interview you need to be prepared to tell stories. Not falsehoods or fairy tales, but anecdotes or career success stories about your past experiences at work as they apply to the questions being asked. Here's how it works.

Say the interviewer asks you to tell her of a time when you felt it was necessary to be assertive to get what you felt you needed from a co-worker. She is listening to hear a specific example from your personal experience. Your goal is to communicate through your example that you have successfully handled this type of situation.

Success stories needn't be overblown or dramatic. In fact for the scenario given, an example might be when you forced a meeting with a lagging coworker to delineate steps to be taken on a project with specific due dates, so that you and he could meet your established goals.

What you need to keep in mind are the five key components to creating career success stories.

Determine Your Achievements

Consider what you have done in your career – big or small -- that is noteworthy, whether it was winning the customer service award or being part of the implementation team for a new computer system.

Quantify What You Have Done

One of the best ways to clearly communicate your successes is by defining it with numbers. Saying you won the customer service award doesn't tell the interviewer nearly as much as adding on that you did it two years in a row and that you were one of only ten employees who has ever done this in the fifteen year history of the company. Now the interviewer understands the magnitude of this accomplishment.

Describe the Situation

Once you know what you've accomplished and how to quantify it, the next step is being able to describe your career successes. That means being able to state in a sentence or two the actual situation that took place.

Naturally, you probably won't remember everything you've ever done; however, by reviewing your work history and preparing in advance by writing them down and reviewing them, you're more likely to have career success stories to share.

Explain What Action You Took

A big part of what the interviewer wants to hear about is the action you took. How did you handle yourself in this situation? This is important to determining if your past behavior and actions are appropriate for the current job opening.

So part of building a career success story is being able to explain what you did. Why did you win the customer service award? What criteria was it based on?  

End With the Result

Finally, wind it all up by describing the outcome. In the case of the consecutive two-year customer service award, maybe you were given a promotion to lead customer service representative. If so, it's important to communicate this.

The whole idea is to recall your career successes so you can communicate how these have prepared you to successfully handle the current opening.

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