How to Prepare for Performance Based (or “Behavior Based”) Interviews

The traditional interview format is sometimes called a “beauty contest,” and it’s very subjective: The employer asks general questions and forms a judgment about the candidate. Today the trend is toward performance based (sometimes called “behavior based”) interviews: asking a barrage of very specific questions about the candidate’s performance in response to various situations, with the goal of gaining a more objective understanding of the applicant’s capabilities based on past performance. The experience can be grueling for the person being interviewed, but it’s also a great opportunity to shine — IF a job seeker knows how to prepare.

The performance based interviewer isn’t looking for general answers (“I pick up new software quickly,” “I’m an open supervisor,” or “I’m a people person”). He or she is looking for specific examples of your performance relating to the job. HOW are you good with people, WHAT computer software have you picked up, give an ILLUSTRATION of how you are an open supervisor. You will be asked – and sometimes even grilled – to provide concrete examples to back up what you say, and the more specific you can be the better.

For example, if the job requires problem solving skills, you will be asked to give an illustration of when and how you solved a problem. Without lingering over extraneous details, you need to be as concrete as possible. Describe a specific problem and talk about how you approached it, how you resolved it, and what the results were.

During the stress of an interview, you may find yourself unable to think of what you want to say, so do some brainstorming about your job performance and achievements ahead of time. Regarding problem solving, instead of saying, “I cleaned up the warehouse,” you might say, “When I took over as plant manager of XYZ Manufacturing, I was challenged to cut operating costs. I quickly realized that we were paying a fortune for a huge warehouse full of inventory, much of it outdated. I worked with the warehouse staff to remove the outdated inventory and transition all processes to computer. I also negotiated with suppliers to have key materials delivered as we needed them, reducing the need for storage. The result was a 70% reduction in inventory levels and a 60% reduction in warehousing costs.”

Now that’s an interview response to make an applicant shine!

~ Anne Follis, CPRW

© Copyright 2007, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

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