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During job interviews, many employers focus on behavioral questions, which require you to describe how you’ve handled specific situations at your previous jobs. They want proof that you’re both qualified and prepared for the types of situations you’ll encounter every day, so it’s important to prepare answers that are succinct, engaging and relevant to the position for which you’re applying.
Employers want concrete, detailed evidence of how you’ve successfully handled situations similar to what you’ll experience every day if hired. While you can’t anticipate exactly what an employer will ask, reviewing the job description often offers insight. Go through the description line-by-line and envision yourself in the role. Try to anticipate the skills you’d need and the challenges you’d likely face. Then, review what you’ve accomplished at previous jobs and how you’ve used these same skills. Prepare several examples you can offer when employers ask you about your past experience.
Describe the Outcome
When describing how you handled the situation, use a problem-response-outcome formula. Instead of simply noting the issue you faced, describe why it was challenging. For example, mention that you had limited resources to work with and had to come up with a solution that didn’t drain your department’s budget. Then, discuss how you approached the dilemma and what actions you took. Close by describing the outcome, preferably with a result that benefited the company, team or customers. For example, note that your plan kept the project 15 percent under budget.
Ask for Feedback
If you’re turned down for a job, consider asking the employer how you could have strengthened your answers and improved your chances of getting the position. Not every interviewer will feel comfortable offering specifics, but many will gladly offer suggestions for improvement. Make it clear you’re only asking because you want to improve your interview skills, not because you question the decision not to hire you. You might learn that your replies didn’t adequately address the job’s requirements or that you needed to provide more specific information that illustrated your qualifications and skills.
Conduct a mock interview with a friend, family member or other trusted person playing the role of the employer. If you’re a student, your school’s career services office might also offer this assistance. Ask the other person to offer specific, in-depth feedback regarding your performance and the kind of impression you made. Even if the person doesn’t routinely interview and hire candidates, he might spot mistakes you’ve overlooked, such as rambling or only offering one-sentence answers that offer no glimpse into your personality or working style.
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