First, I want to say thank you for all the time and effort you spent coaching me. It truly made all the difference in my interview. I tried to take your advice – to relax but I was noticeably nervous going in. The agents on the panel were very nice and professional and tried to make me feel as comfortable as possible.
After it was over, I found that I was the second to last person to finish, and the Applicant Coordinator said that using all the time was a good thing.
I left beating myself up because I hadn’t gotten to use what I considered my best stories and I was pretty much resigned to try again next year…
But I passed!! I can’t thank you enough for your help.
The skills you taught me are invaluable. I know I have more work to do when it comes to interviewing and public speaking, but you’ve given me a great place to start.
Behavioral Interview questions – must be answered with a SPECIFIC STORY.
Anatomy of a Story
A common problem encountered in telling stories is placing the emphasis in the wrong place. The biggest mistake candidates make is not giving enough detail when it comes to the action part of the story. By not including the action steps and details of what you did, the listener does not hear a complete story or get a clear picture of the skill sets you used to achieve the result. By spending too much time on the beginning or the ending you are missing an opportunity to let the interviewer know that you have done what they are looking for in similar situations in past jobs.
Common problems encountered when answering behavioral questions.
• Too much time on the “beginning” – setting up the story.
• Not enough information given to the “middle” of the story. The action is simplified – making it sound like it was an easy task or problem, when in fact it was a very difficult and involved a project that required a great deal of effort above and beyond what was normal.
• Forgetting to finish the story with an “ending” – What was the outcome? Your
interviewer is left wondering – “What happened next?”
The beginning – 20% or less – the situation, task, or problem – WHY YOU DID IT.
The middle – 60% or more – the action – steps taken to solve problem:
ideas generated, tasks performed, challenges overcome. Your role in the process – WHAT YOU DID.
The ending – 20% or less – the results – cost-savings, bonuses,
awards, promotions? What was the outcome?- HOW IT TURNED OUT.
Examples of Story Proportions
The correct proportions of a story are essential to get your points across in a succinct manner. When you spend too much or too little time on one part or the other, your story does not have the power it could have. Below are two examples of behavioral questions and answers – one is a poor example, the other is a good example.
Poorly told story.
Interviewer’s Question “Tell me about a time when you dealt with a dissatisfied customer.”
Answer – Beginning – Problem/Situation/Task –
“That is the nature of my job – dealing with dissatisfied customers. I probably get on average of 25 calls each day with people who aren’t satisfied with the products, or have a broken part, or want information on how to return the product, or need
information on how to operate the product. They call and yell at us thinking it is our responsibility. It’s like they think we are empowered to do something about the problem. We have a policy at ABC to always try and satisfy the customer.
Middle – No action
End – We even go so far as to refund money in some cases. Other companies would not be so generous, but our company really cares about its reputation.
This story has problems with the proportions and as a result lacks order and effectiveness –
• Too much emphasis is on the problem/situation (more than 20% of the story)
• There are no identifiable skills given (no action)
• End result is focused on what the company does – not what you did
A book recommendation – quiz book – to teach you how to write a good “behavioral story.”
Boost Your Interview IQ – Second Edition (white cover – published – 2012) – for a quick brush up on Behavioral Interviewing as well as other questions. It’s a quiz and you determine which is the strongest answer.You can purchase on Amazon.