If you think that the hiring process is simply about matching your skills and experience with those listed on a position description, think again. This is only the first big hoop through which you need to pass.
Any thoughtful hiring manager will want to assess your character traits, attitudes and interpersonal style. He or she will look for clues about your work habits, how you see yourself in relationship to others, how you will perform and how well you will fit into the company's culture. These things aren't generally discernable from a résumé or LinkedIn profile. Nor can they be asked about directly. But, often behavioral questions will comprise a significant portion of an interview and your answers will reveal a great deal.
These kinds of questions typically begin with something like, "Tell me about a time when…" or "What would you do if…" It is virtually impossible to rehearse for every one that might be asked. Your spontaneous answer is what your interviewer will find most valuable in making his or her assessment of you.
You can, however, prepare to deal with these kinds of questions by thinking about the qualities that someone would likely possess to be successful at the role for which you are applying. Then come into your interview with stories you can tell which demonstrate these traits. Here are five example qualities that employers value, and sample questions you might be asked during the interview to determine if you have these traits.
1. Empathy. Employers not only want you to do the job, but to care about it and the people with whom you will interact.
- Tell me about a time when you went out of your way to help someone at work.
- Can you recall a time when a co-worker's actions were hurtful to someone? What did you do about it?
2. Mentoring inclination and ability. Interviewers want to predict your interest in reaching out to mentor others, and how you will go about elevating their knowledge and skills.
- Tell me about an experience you had with a mentor or coach who helped you. What did he or she do that you found to be most helpful, and how did you respond?
- Tell me about a time when you were able to transform someone you managed from an underperformer into a valued team member. What did you do to get great results?
- Tell me about a frustrating experience you had managing an underperformer. How did you handle it?
3. Interpersonal skills. Employers want to hire people who can play well with others in the "corporate sandbox." Interviewers will be interested to learn how you deal with personality conflicts and your own role in them.
- Tell about a time when you've worked with someone you didn't like. What irritated you and how did you deal with it?
- What types of people do you best get along with and why?
- Tell about a time when you have worked with people who have had difficulty getting along with each other. How did you handle the situation?
4. Self-direction and initiative. Employers seek people who will take upon themselves more than what is actually expected or required. To find out if you have that kind of drive they might ask:
- Tell about a time when you proposed a new and better way of doing things to your manager. What prompted you to think about the problem to begin with?
- Talk about a time when you turned a weakness into a strength. What prompted you to do so, and how did you go about it?
5. Flexibility and adaptability. In many companies, change is often the only constant. Policies, priorities and procedures need to anticipate and respond to internal and external conditions. Employers seek people who can adjust quickly. To find out your ability to adapt, you might be asked:
- Tell me about a time when a major change was introduced in your workplace. How did you respond?
- Tell me about a time when you were required to change the way you have been doing something for several years, when you know that what you've been doing "works" for you. How did you respond? What were the results?
These questions have no single "right" answer, but they do allow an interviewer to see the way your mind works. Moreover, your answers reveal your ability to be introspective, maintain self-control and deal with difficult situations.
Take the time to understand the human qualities employers seek and which are intrinsic to your character. Then you will be able to draw stories from the well of your experience that demonstrate these qualities in your interview, and advance your chances of being hired.
Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.