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Overview............................................................................................................................. 2 Distinguishing Behavior from Opinions............................................................................. 3 Handling Tough Candidate Situations ................................................................................ 4 Moving Through the Interview Pattern............................................................................... 6 Sample Competencies......................................................................................................... 7 Competency: Flexibility & Openness................................................................................. 8 Competency: Organizational Know-How........................................................................... 9 Competency: Commitment to Task .................................................................................. 10 Competency: Innovation and Continuous Improvement .................................................. 11 Competency: Communication .......................................................................................... 12 Competency: Coaching..................................................................................................... 13 Competency: Problem Solving and Decision Making...................................................... 14 Competency: Functional and Technical Skill ................................................................... 15 Competency: Customer Focus .......................................................................................... 16 Competency: Business and Strategic Perspective............................................................. 17 Competency: Team Contributions .................................................................................... 18
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as they are not too difficult to find. interest. and mature competence to do the job in question. Your task in any behavioral interview is to convince the interviewer that you have the initiative. Maybe you’re wondering how to get information on which competencies a given company values so that you can better prepare for your interviews. there is no way to be certain which questions you might encounter. and interviewer has a particular method (and maybe even skill level) which varies one from another. Use this guide as one of several means of preparing yourself for an interview. If this is the case. industry concentration. In fact. regardless of industry differences. each firm. and there are literally hundreds of questions which could be asked in any given interview. skills. Be sure to check company literature for these kinds of insights. as well as competent demonstration through past (or current) experiences that lend credibility to your story. This information has not been designed to provide you with an exhaustive list of every behavioral question you possibly might encounter. but rather a guide for understanding what an interviewer is looking for and how you might best respond to particular types of questions. Remember. The material presented here is broken down into competency-specific questions that are generic enough that they could be asked in any interview. 2 . The key to being successful in any behavioral interview is to be able to communicate a clear story behind your interest in the position.Overview This guide has been designed to provide insight into behavioral questions that you might encounter in an interview. remember that all the literature a company puts out with regards to its positions (especially the job descriptions themselves) tell you quite clearly the competencies they are looking for from a skill perspective.
Your opinions do count. never. would. then expect further probing around a particular question.Distinguishing Behavior from Opinions What an interviewer might do if they have difficulty getting the answer they want from you. could. If you use these words in responding to a behavioral question. conversational manner. They know when to do this when a candidate avoids or does not apply past tense in a natural. but remember they want to see if you have any behavioral experiences that indicate that you are capable of doing the work required in the job. and often. they might try probing further around the initial question. For the interviewer. always. Answers which are descriptions of behavior always take the past tense. may. will. sometimes. One of the ways they do this is by listening to your answers and recognizing when you are using past tense descriptions. One of the interviewer’s tasks in a behavioral interview is to interpret your answer and separate the behavioral components from your personal opinions. If the interviewer can not get the behavioral response they are looking for. 3 . the following words are indicators of your non-behavioral responses: should. usually. They describe what the candidate (you) actually did in a specific situation.
and not pause more than 15 seconds. a candidate (you) might deliberately attempt to apply an answering technique to one or several behavioral questions. Follow with a reassuring statement (you're okay). Tell me what you do remember. The Bluff: the candidate (you) denies being able to recall an example: What the interviewer might do: • • Ask for an example that happened yesterday. Rephrase the question. If stuck. since you cannot give a past example. a candidate has no idea that they are not providing the right information back to the interviewer the way they need to. or you did not hear the question clearly. ask the interviewer to clarify or repeat it. The Slip: the candidate (you) slips into responding with an opinion: What the interviewer might do: 4 .Handling Tough Candidate Situations What an interviewer might do if they have difficulty getting the answer they want from you. In any given situation. confused. Give the best example you can phrasing it something like "The best example I can provide you is one that happened awhile ago……". What you need to do: • • Think clearly. expanding the boundaries. Sometimes. Not confess to the interviewer you cannot recall an example." What you need to do: • • • Do not try to "bluff" the interviewer. then give your best answer. Restate the question something like "I realize it may be difficult to remember all the details. Here are some typical situations that occur and what you might do to overcome the situation successfully: The Silence: the candidate (you) cannot think of an example to give: What the interviewer might do: • • • Allow you time to think (15 second pause).
Recover by adding something like "……and I recall at least one example which I can provide from my past experience where I……. 5 . in order to provide the behavioral example the interviewer might be looking for. give an example from real experience that supports your opinions or viewpoints.• • • Compliment you for the opinion. Assume responsibility for not phrasing the question properly.". What you need to do: • • • Recognize a behavioral question when you see it. but probe further for the answer. In your answer. Gently persist to get the example. and not give only an opinionated answer.
6 ." Balance: The interviewer will attempt to maintain a balance between questions which focus on positive examples and questions which probe for more negative stories. and some are not always gifted interviewers..Moving Through the Interview Pattern What an interviewer might do if they have difficulty getting the answer they want from you." but may also probe for negatives such as "Tell me about your biggest failure……" Tact: An interviewer generally tries to avoid signaling approval or disapproval to your answers. The following techniques are often used by interviewers when questioning candidates with a behavioral methodology: Coverage: The interviewer asks the highest weighted questions first. These core areas are often referred to as "competencies. They often times lean toward the positive with examples such as "Tell me what you liked best about your last job…. They then ask at least one question from each core area being probed. Not every interviewer does this however. A good interviewer will attempt to continually focus the candidate (you) on responses which discuss "I" and away from those which discuss "we". The interviewer needs to discover what you personally did and what outcomes resulted.
the interviewer will typically break questions down into areas where they can probe your past experiences along specific skill areas (or competencies) that are deemed essential to being able to do the job in question. These might include your experiences or abilities relative to: • • • • • • • • • • • Flexibility and openness Organizational know-how Commitment to task Innovation and continuous improvement Communication Coaching Problem solving and decision making Functional and technical skill Customer focus Business and strategic perspective Team contributions This section of the handout provides sample questions along each of these dimensions and proper "do’s" and "don’ts" relative to each question. A "do" response and a "don’t" response for comparison. 7 . Characteristics that define whether the interviewer sees "positive indicators" or "negative indicators" in your response. The sections that follow provide: • • • One sample question from each competency.Sample Competencies In a behavioral interview.
my experience at the ABC Company put me in a position where I was continuously faced with keeping pace with client demands that often exceeded our service capabilities. allowing for enough lead time to study coming changes and prepare for them. • Reacting defensively to changes. taking suggestions or developments as personal cynicisms. 8 . • Expecting and accepting change as part of any dynamic organizational environment. In particular. I feel I could do the same at your firm.Competency: Flexibility & Openness Question: How effectively do you adapt readily to shifting priorities? Do answer: Based on my past experience. and to each client’s satisfaction. I feel that I can shift quite rapidly to any given situation. Having handled previous situations well. keeping the pros and cons in perspective. • Evaluating ALL the consequences of coming changes. except when my team mates don’t take the initiative to assist. I like to look ahead and anticipate changes so that I’m ready to handle them when they come. • Demanding to achieve absolute certainty of success before trying new approaches. Negative Indicators: • Ignore or resist all changes in priorities or structures. I try my best to stay in touch with what’s occurring around me. Positive Indicators: • Proactively looking ahead for signals of change. • Exaggerating the possible downsides of change out of proportion while ignoring the potential benefits. seeking the details of what happened and what was learned. but I seem to do well here. • Checking out others' experiences with similar change situations. No one can predict what might happen in any given circumstance. Don’t answer: I need to know what’s going on all the time. and the work is all left for me to do and I don’t have the resources I need to get the job done.
and then see it from the perspective of the customer. • Avoiding or changing conversations that stray outside of well-defined areas of existing competencies. Positive Indicators: • Networking with customers and professionals to gain from the experience and advice of others. 9 . Don’t Answer: I think a person needs to understand the business overall. and I think I’m qualified to do it. Once they have this. This is how I have always approached my work in the past. so I can place where my work fits in the overall operation of things.Competency: Organizational Know-How Question: How effectively do you develop a more broadly based understanding of the business? Do Answer: I’ve always found it effective to step back and look at the big picture first. I also think its important to see the product from all angles – from concept to the final sale. I think they need to stick to what they do best to keep up their part of the team’s overall effort. • Consistently passing up opportunities to learn about and practice new technical or business topics. I think a person needs to look at how things are done. I find it helpful to talk with experienced people on my team or in the firm to get their insights. • Taking the role of customer or supplier to see how policies impact other key players. The way I like to approach learning about an organization is to first look at what’s really being done. I’ve read a lot about this kind of work. • Walking through a complete implementation cycle of a proposed change. Negative Indicators: • Stick within tightly defined areas of technical and business specialties. • Signing up for training courses or stretching work assignments outside of traditional knowledge areas. asking for feedback from all affected groups. • Seeking out additional projects or training within areas of established expertise in order to avoid broaching new skill areas.
I was required to direct all of the operations necessary in the distribution of our product to customers.Competency: Commitment to Task Question: How effectively do you complete assigned tasks/projects on time or under budget? Do Answer: In my previous position as general manager at the ABC company. It also required me to have clear goals and objectives set for my group. Positive Indicators: • Prioritizing tasks and budgeting for requirements. I’ve been fortunate to have always been able to complete my assigned projects on time. and as long as I stick to a similar process I think that I could continue to deliver this kind of result. • Setting realistic goals for completion. I think it’s important to get things done on time which is why I’ve always paid attention to this in my previous jobs. • Neglecting to inform budgetary authorities of overruns until after they occur. Don’t Answer: I’ve always gotten things done on time and think that I can manage projects quite well. • Simply making excuses for not meeting deadlines or budgets. • Failing to monitor progress on a regular basis. This required keeping pace with anticipated slow downs and adjusting as necessary. • Monitoring progress to ensure the project is proceeding as planned. • Making adjustments to plans as necessary based on new circumstances. Negative Indicators: • Completes assigned tasks/projects late or over budget. and that I communicated these goals clearly to all levels of the organization when necessary. 10 . I had to forecast my costs to develop an operating budget and plan that would ensure our customers were satisfied. • Underestimating the requirements of a project.
• Insisting that specialists or management do all the problem solving. and like to work in an environment where new ideas are valued and encouraged. leaving them for others to fix. Positive Indicators: • Using slack time to think about how costly problems could be solved. in low impact settings. • Blaming others for work problems. I don’t like to work in places where things aren’t done correctly. In my previous job at the XYZ firm. or just part of a team.Competency: Innovation and Continuous Improvement Question: How effectively do you initiate valuable improvements to procedures? Do Answer: I’m always keeping an eye out for a means to improve whatever I’m involved with. • Coming forward with suggestions to superiors. I find that in my past experiences. Negative Indicators: • Ignoring or deferring action on costly problems. I made several improvements to the sales side of the business by watching closely and testing concepts in relatively low risk areas. I think its also important to get feedback from customers as to where they think improvements can be made. and that lead to a lot of problems. They needed to make changes but couldn’t see it. and that bothered me. This resulted in some significant revenue growth for the firm. I like to bring up my ideas often. one at a time. • Talking over ideas for improving procedures with peers and customers. • Trying out small changes. people were always doing things differently. 11 . Don’t Answer: I like to make suggestions on how things can be improved. • Refusing or putting off novel work assignments. whether I’m leading the project.
To do the job effectively.Competency: Communication Question: How effectively do you explain concepts and procedures. Don’t Answer: I think a person needs to feel comfortable with the audience. • Keeping the explanation as simple as possible. asking questions to ensure understanding. facts and support material. while maintaining attention and interest? Do Answer: I’ve always been successful in communicating to various groups. and their communication level. Negative Indicators: • Failing to understand who the audience is. and we seem to work well and understand each other. Positive Indicators: • Knowing what needs to be communicated and the level of detail necessary. neglecting to consult experts. • Researching the data. • Either giving too much detail or not giving enough direction. to keep pace with them in the event they drift from the message or aren’t hearing clearly what is being said. I’ve done this before. I’ve worked quite successfully with my study group here at Darden. both internal and external. I take the time to look at whatever is being communicated from the listener’s perspective. clearly and completely. and get to know them some before actually getting to that point. • Relying on his/her own expertise. I’ve always tried to watch my audience closely. I think the facts need to be present clearly and concisely in order to be effective. • Presenting in a disjointed and disorganized manner. You need to understand what has to be communicated and then get that message across. • Getting feedback from the listener at all stages. monotonic voice. This requires good preparation and attention to details which I take very seriously. 12 . • Assuming the listener understands the message. • Speaking in a flat. We seem to communicate well as a group. and feel that I am good with all kinds of people. using terms and phrases aimed at the receiver's level of understanding. can do it again. • Preparing an outline and developing a strategy for the presentation.
Don’t Answer: I’ve always shared my opinion openly with subordinates. 13 . I figure a person needs to hear the truth. causing resentment and defensiveness. I have only talked with one customer so far).e. I let them know it. but rather to support them. threats. My goal has always been to get the person to focus on the task and what they can do to continuously improve their overall performance on the job. If they can’t get the job done. detailed feedback in such a way as to not offend them. • Quickly delivering the feedback and then leaving (known as a hit and nun). commands or statements that label the person receiving the feedback. accurate feedback when asked or needed in a supportive manner? Do Answer: My previous position at the XYZ Company required me to provide both coaching and mentoring to peers and subordinates. • Describing the observable actions of others as they relate to your knowledge. and to factor that in to any type of coaching experience. My approach has always been to give a person accurate. • Using phrases that imply the absolute knowledge and correctness of the provider (i. • Using phrases that honestly describe possible limitations of your information (i. If they can’t do it. If its still a problem for me. then maybe they’re in the wrong job. everybody knows that). • Focusing on personal opinions. to see their perspective clearly. and those who are performing adequately.Competency: Coaching Question: How effectively do you provide detailed. then its their job to figure it out.e. experiences and/or feelings. I think people need to be told what to do when they can’t quite see things clearly. Negative Indicators: • Blurting out unsolicited feedback regardless of the situation or who else may be present. Positive Indicators: • Seeking the permission and interest of the other persons before providing the feedback. then I take the person off the assignment and get someone else to do it right. This is true of both people struggling in their assignments. • Asking for the other person's viewpoint or conclusions on the observations you offer. I think its also important to listen carefully to what the person has to say.
or drawing on a few "loyal" group members. Negative Indicators: • Retaining a narrow technical focus in scanning for new developments or spending little time on scanning for business changes. • Moving steadily from scooping out the problem through exploring and evaluating alternatives to timely implementation of decisions. • Criticizing or punishing the bearers of bad news. I think in any situation. resulting in a reluctance to bring forward negative numbers or outcomes. • Putting off tough issues until the last minute.Competency: Problem Solving and Decision Making Question: How effectively do you make the tough calls and tradeoffs to ensure the company’s long term success? Do Answer: In my position as account representative at ABC Company. 14 . I make sure that I research all the facts. open line of communication needs to exist between all parties so that everyone knows what risks are being taken. This requires people to use the best judgment they can. I’ve always taken my ideas to the people I can trust most in the firm. In my experience. weighing the risks and advantages to any move. • Relentlessly pursuing all the reliable and relevant data or evidence when evaluating options. putting the critical information on the table for all who are involved to evaluate. Positive Indicators: • Regularly scanning the business environment and competitors in order to be the first to know when business conditions change. and in a tight situation. • Accepting the first viewpoints or biased evaluations that appear when evaluating action options. an effective. it is part of my job to make tough calls on a regular basis. then taking the responsibility to get the job done. • Dealing with tough issues openly. I make the call myself because I feel like I’ve got what it takes to get the job done. Don’t Answer: I think a person needs to make moves quickly to take advantage of market conditions and to maintain a competitive advantage. even if all the facts aren’t known. this approach has always paid off for the company’s short and long term interests. • Clearly communicating the importance of learning about negative results as quickly as possible. then covertly making decisions personally. The way I approach this is to make sure that I am constantly keeping an eye on what the market conditions are like for both the firm and even from a competitor’s standpoint.
15 . • Paying close attention to signs and symptoms. I figure it’s the job of the people on the technical side to keep pace with the details. If a person doesn’t do this. • Failing to implement systematic methods of monitoring. what I have learned from my prior positions is that its critical for any operations manager to watch the entire operation for subtle changes or indications that things aren’t running smoothly. they can run into a lot of problems and cause difficulty for the entire operations team. That way. • Assuming that someone else will report apparent problems to supervisors. to get things back on track. Negative Indicators: • Misses or underestimates subtle but critical changes in operations. and inform me. conditions or signals in operations manuals. remaining alert and aware of general conditions. • Discussing apparent problems with peers or supervisors. For example. • Looking up unusual readings. and also by reading whatever material I could in order to better understand how things work. I had to keep pace with the technical aspects of the operations. • Having inadequate knowledge about normal operations. or the operations manager. when things aren’t right.Competency: Functional and Technical Skill Question: How effectively and quickly do you detect subtle but critical changes in operations? Do Answer: While I haven’t had any direct experience in operations management. Positive Indicators: • Knowing what normal operations are. and did so by discussing issues with peers and supervisors. This helped me to identify problem areas quickly. and to respond to them appropriately whenever they came up. or assuming that they are unimportant. I can respond when they come up. in my position at the XYZ Firm. or to fix them myself. Don’t Answer: I respond quickly to any problem areas whenever they come up. • Ignoring potential indicators.
I’ve always taken the initiative to know who my customers are. 16 . • Telling customers that they expect too much when they ask for additional features or consideration. I like to work in an environment where there is an emphasis on clear quality control. Customers sometimes demand more of a firm than what can be delivered. and what it takes to meet their expectations. like others. • Adhering strictly to a narrow definition of the job. • Supportively seeking customer feedback. I was part of the quality assurance team that held the responsibility for making sure customer feedback was taken on a regular basis. In order to ensure quality services and customer satisfaction. • Developing clear.Competency: Customer Focus Question: How effectively do you personally insist on high quality for internal and external customers? Do Answer: In every job I’ve had. • Avoiding opportunities to obtain customer feedback. In my job at the ABC company. I believe its important to put quality into everything you do. leaving quality up to someone else. taking timely action to resolve problems. Positive Indicators: • Knowing who all their external and internal customers are. or win new business. I expect that your firm. Don’t Answer: I hold myself to high quality standards in everything I do. you can be assured that you could lose customers. and integrated into the units overall quality assurance process. and I think that a company needs to adjust as necessary. I always held myself and others to high standards around customer satisfaction. Negative Indicators: • Shifting attention to something else as soon as the basic minimum has been accomplished. specific. and without it. both big and small. quality control standards and then monitoring team performance. have quality assurance programs in place that do this already. I always made sure I was monitoring the feedback to ensure that I wasn’t missing any opportunities to make adjustments that would improve customer satisfaction. but not to the extent that it always requires a massive change in the established processes. • Knowing what it takes to meet and exceed customer expectations.
I think its important that all levels of an organization have a big picture of what the firm does and why. so I like to apply my energy here to make the biggest contribution I can. • Taking the role of customer or supplier to see how policies impact other key players. My strengths are on the research side of the business. If there are areas that I need improvement on. I hope that my peers or supervisor will tell me what I can do to improve or get on board. 17 . Don’t Answer: I’ve read a lot about this type of business. or participating as a team member. Positive Indicators: • Networking with customers and professionals to gain from the experience and advice of others. from initial planning and design to implementation. • Seeking out additional projects or training within areas of established expertise in order to avoid broaching new skill areas. I’ve taken it upon myself to network with key clients and internal peers who can give me their perspectives based on real experiences. • Avoiding or changing conversations that stray outside of well defined areas of existing competencies. and maintain it in order to be solid contributor whether I’m managing the project directly. • Walking through a complete implementation cycle of a proposed change. • Consistently passing up opportunities to learn about and practice new technical or business topics. either as a new-hire or when promoted to a new job. I’ve always worked hard at making sure that I get that picture. and feel that I can work closely with others to get the job done. Negative Indicators: • Sticking within tightly defined areas of technical and business specialties. or greater understanding.Competency: Business and Strategic Perspective Question: How effectively do you develop a more broadly-based understanding of the business? Do Answer: In my previous positions. • Signing up for training courses or stretching work assignments outside of traditional knowledge areas. I’ve also taken the opportunity to participate in any project where I could see the work go through a complete cycle. asking for feedback from all affected groups.
making sure that we don’t overlook any of the details. • Covering up or withdrawing from disagreements. and we have supported each other through each case we have been given. I have always placed a strong emphasis on making sure that the goals and objectives of the project are met. • Supportively bringing conflicts into the open. and the diversity of experiences and skills they bring to the table. or the organization with critical comments. My study team and I get along well and I have always been a good team member. In all the teams I’ve ever managed or participated on. I’ve always applied these personal attributes. or on teams where people aren’t willing to pull their own weight. Negative Indicators: • Working independently or counter to team objectives. Don’t Answer: Here at Darden there is a strong emphasis on team work. I don’t like to work with teams that can’t cooperate. seeking to reach mutually satisfying solutions. and support each other throughout the project. • Stubbornly promoting personal views without listening to team members. We approach everything we do with the big picture in mind. there is a strong emphasis on team development here at Darden. and my prior work experiences have also emphasized a high degree of team work. In my past and current team interactions. Positive Indicators: • Implementing team decisions even when they vary somewhat from personal preferences. • Working strictly as a group of one. • Frequently attacking team leadership. I believe the strength of a team is its people. I think a team needs to solve problems cooperatively. develop good working relationships and trust. the quality of the end product could suffer. • Taking the initiative to develop strong working relationships with team members. We always have been able to resolve any conflicts in the team. other members. suggestions. or ideas that might be worth considering. • Solving problems within the team as much as possible. 18 . despite the usual differences of ideas or perspectives among team members. I feel that without them.Competency: Team Contributions Question: How effectively do you work cooperatively as a team member? Do Answer: As you know. excluding other team members.
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