Behavioral interviewing tip #1: Use results to demonstrate past successes

If you’ve done a job search, you’ve probably encountered behavioral interviewing: “Tell me about a time when you…” When behavioral job interviewing first became prominent in the 1990s, people were often caught flat-footed by behavioral questions, which ask you to recount in detail successes, overcoming challenges, and other stories from your career. As time has gone by, however, people have become more familiar with this method of interviewing–but not familiar enough.

Behavioral Interview ScoringAs recruiters, we would like to see all the candidates we work with perform at their best in behavioral job interviews, especially since we develop and conduct such interviews for our client companies. For this reason, we are writing this series of posts.

Results are of crucial importance in the behavioral interview, for both the interviewer and the interviewee. For example, a lot of people don’t know that the interviewer is scoring the answers as the interview proceeds. More specific examples with greater justification of results receive a higher score. Contrariwise, non-specific or vague answers that present ambiguous or no results receive lower scores, and failing to answer the question at all will result in a zero. The scores for all of the questions are totaled, and the candidates with higher scores are more likely to get the job. (We try to look at candidates holistically and not depend on a single number, but that’s a topic for a different day.)

Hence the importance of clarifying results, by you, the interviewee. Let’s compare the answers of two candidates for a sales job. Which do you think will be scored higher in the interview?

Q: Tell me about how you helped grow your most recent sales territory?

A1: Right. Since 2005, I’ve been responsible for the Northeast Region, which includes Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts. By strengthening relationships with current clients and adding new ones, we’ve been able to increase unit sales by an average of 8% each year and dollar sales by 10%. Dollar sales went up not because of price increases but because we were actually selling more of our more profitable lines.

A2: It was a couple years ago, so it’s hard to remember, but I’m pretty sure sales were up every year I was there, except one, maybe.

I regret to report that the type of answer that A2 gives above is by no means rare!

It’s (relatively) easy to talk about numbers when you are in sales, but there are many metrics that can be useful in making your answers more specific and concrete. For example:

  • Increased scores in customer satisfaction surveys
  • Increased productivity metrics
  • Increased quality metrics
  • Reduced scrap and other waste
  • Reduced department costs

Anything that adds to the business is fair game. Be ready to tell stories about how you helped make the good numbers go up and the bad numbers go down, and you will have given yourself a big advantage in the behavioral interview!

The Key Corporate Services Blog Team


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