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Preparing for Interviews: Tips for a Successful Interview

There is a new trend in interviewing. We are seeing movement away from interviewers using the standard "50 most asked questions by college recruiters" to behavioral or situational questions. Employers feel they can better gauge a candidate's fit for the position from hearing the responses it the behavioral/situational interview questions. The rationale for this type of interviewing is that past performance may be the best predictor of future performance, i.e., success on the job. As for the candidate, successful behavioral/situational interviewing requires slightly different preparation techniques. You must be prepared to answer the interviewer's questions with stories and examples that demonstrate your assets and qualifications for the position.

Preparation Hints:

  • Think of and select 15-20 stories illustrating your assets.
  • Practice telling your stories until they are brief and concise, one to three minutes long.
  • Let others help you out - use examples of quotes from bosses or customers, i.e., "My boss gave me a good performance review, she/he liked the way I stepped in to get the job done without being told to."
  • A Good story sets the stage, demonstrates the appropriate skill in action and has a positive outcome, that is, shows how you solved a problem or overcame an obstacle. When setting the stage paint a bleak picture of the situation so that when you show how you solved the problem your impact becomes bright and clear.
  • A good story can also combine work experience with a non-work experience (shows you can use the skill in a variety of settings).
  • A good story can also combine a distant experience with a recent experience demonstrating the same skill (shows you've had the skill a long time).
Here are sample behavior/situational interview questions that may be asked during an interview.
  1. Describe the duties and/or responsibilities during your work and/or academic experience demonstrate you ability to do the job for which you are applying.
  2. Describe situations during work, school, and campus affiliations where you demonstrated leadership qualities.
  3. What skills and attributes do you bring to the job?
  4. Give examples from work experience, classroom, and/or organizational involvement which demonstrate that you are creative.
  5. Give examples from work experience, classroom, and/or organizational involvement which demonstrate that you are a self-starter.
  6. Describe situations that demonstrate you have the ability to work with other people.
  7. Given the opportunity, list the areas with respect to yourself that you would improve and how you would improve these areas.
  8. Tell me about a time when you made a major sacrifice to achieve a work-related or personal goal.
  9. Tell me about a time when you failed or failed to accomplish a goal you set for yourself and how you handled that situation.
  10. Describe a time when you were under a lot of stress and how you handled it.

More on preparing for an job interview:


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