Here’s one secret to rule the behavioral interview
Because all secrets should be posted to a blog
A good friend of mine – we’ll call him Elmo – once told me how he figured out the secret to preparing for an interview.
What was Elmo’s secret?
He decided he was going to develop and practice a few good personal narratives based on his college career to date… what he could remember of it anyway. He was going to fine tune and rehearse these narratives until he had them down pat.
Anytime he got a behavioral interview question, such as ‘What’s your biggest weakness’, he would use one of his personal narratives to deliver a well-thought-out response.
This way he’d never stumble through new material. He’d just be leveraging a pre-rehearsed answer that he’d already practiced.
What is this personal narrative that you speak of?
It’s all about sharing an experience that demonstrates some of your most positive traits. Here’s an example of one of his narratives:
That time he made a mistake and how he resolved it.
Elmo never forgot the time he had a ’14 top’ come in towards the end of his shift last summer at Outback.
Juggling apps, sides, steaks and a closing kitchen, Elmo completely forgot to order a well-done T-bone for seat #9.
Elmo took full responsibility, convincing the chef to fire up the grill once more. And he asked the manager to ‘comp’ seat #9’s meal, offering to deduct the cost from his paycheck.
He even received a 30% tip for resolving his error quickly and effectively.
He then asked a more senior server how she avoided forgetting someone’s order at large tables. Her advice: always be sure that the number of entrée orders you send to the kitchen agrees with the number of customers at your table.
He never again input an order without performing this reconciliation.
What does this narrative say about Elmo
Elmo demonstrates that he takes full responsibility for his mistakes, snapping into action to resolve them. He avoids future mistakes by seeking advice from senior team members. And he’s coach-able with the right mindset for personal development.
OK so what questions could Elmo use this personal narrative to answer?
1.) What would you say is a particular weakness of yours?
Elmo: Organizational skills used to be a challenge for me, so the last few years I’ve really focused on implementing “checks and balances” to ensure I don’t overlook small details.
As an example of what I mean by that, [insert above narrative - focusing on the advice given to him by the senior server].
2.) What was a time you made a mistake, and how did you resolve it?
Elmo: [insert above narrative]
3.) What is an area you feel you have significantly improved upon over the last few years?
Elmo: I feel I’ve really learned the value of being mindful to detail, and I’ve learned the importance of always reviewing my work. An example of an experience that taught me this lesson was….[insert above narrative].
So think of a few situations that demonstrate your positive traits. Practice and articulate how you would share the experience in an interview setting. And then work on answering some of the top ten behavioral interview questions by incorporating your prepared narrative.
Here are some more ideas to help you think of your own personal narratives:
- A time where you exhibited leadership to overcome adversity
- Why you chose accounting/finance/information systems as your major
- How your current part-time job or other involvement requires similar skills as the current job for which you’re interviewing
Did you face a particularly challenging interview question and want some feedback on how to respond to it? Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and tell us all about it!