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Tell Me about a Time When you were Awesome!

by Katrina Michielsen

The interview is a very necessary and stressful part of the job search process. It allows you and the employer to learn more about each other and to determine whether there is a good fit.

When you go to the interview you’re excited and nervous. You walk into the interview in your best “business casual” outfit, give your best firm-but-not-too-firm handshake, and flash a smile that would make a movie star jealous. You sit down and give your well-rehearsed, perfect answers to common interview questions when you’re suddenly hit with it: the behavioural interview question.

Behavioural interview questions usually start with “Tell me about a time when…” Employers ask them because they are looking for stories that show not only your skills and qualifications, but also your thought processes, personality and “fit” for their organization. They get better, more genuine responses when they ask behavioural questions.

Here are three tips to prepare yourself for behavioural questions:

Predict the questions. Employers publish their needs in job advertisements and broadcast their vision, mission and values online. If a company talks about valuing customer service or requiring problem solving skills, expect questions about those qualities.

Prepare STAR stories. Your stories will be powerful if they are specific. Describe what you did in one instance rather than what you have always done. Good stories show many skills, so you can use them to answer a variety of questions. Some of the best stories come from times that you felt proud of yourself at work or in school. Aim for 5-10 stories following this Situation-Thought/Action-Result (STAR) format:

Situation – Set the scene. Describe what was going on at the time, where you were working, what you were doing. State the specific problem or issue that you were facing.

Thoughts & Actions – Talk about your thought process and your actions. The interviewer cares most about what you did, not what your coworkers did, so talk about yourself. If you worked with a team, describe your specific contributions. Discuss your interactions with coworkers, supervisors, customers, and anyone else involved.

Results – Share the happy ending. What did you accomplish in the end? What was the impact on the organization? What did you learn?
Practice your STAR stories. Practice out loud, making sure they are 30 – 60 seconds long. Predict, prepare, practice and let your fabulous self shine through.

For more job interview tips, contact us for free assistance.