08/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Career Lessons From My Recruiting Desk Part II: Interviewing in 2009

What are your greatest strengths? I am always a little surprised when I still hear people say that interview questions like this one are still the most popular. One dimensional questions like this are not the most popular among sophisticated, well trained Hiring Managers and Recruiting professionals.

In old fashioned interviews you will indeed be asked questions like, "What are your strengths?" However, more and more companies have begun to employee behavioral interviewing. Behavioral interviewing was developed by industrial psychologists in the 1970's. It is based on the premise that past behavior is an accurate predictor of future behavior in a job environment. Statistics show that behavioral interviewing is five times more accurate than the traditional interview style for choosing the right candidates. As a result more and more companies looking to save money by making the "right" hires are integrating this technique into their recruiting practices.

Behavioral interviewing is a technique that digs much more deeply into a candidates experience by inviting candidates to share from real work or life behavior. In a traditional job-interview, you can usually get away with telling the interviewer what he or she wants to hear, even if you are stretching the truth. However, it's much more difficult to give responses that are untrue in a behavioral interview. In a behavioral interview the interviewer can drill down to get the specifics. For instance, they may ask follow up questions that include, "What were you thinking at that point?" or "What made you decide to choose that specific action as opposed to another choice?" If the truth is being stretched there is a good chance your response won't hold up among this deeper questioning. Candidates who thoroughly tell the interviewer about particular situations that relate to each question will be far more effective and successful than those who remain general.

Your responses to behavioral interview questions will take the S-T-A-R approach.

1. S or T - Describe the situation or task
2. A - Describe the action you took in the context of the situation or task
3. R- What was the result of your action.

A typical behavioral interviewing question might be: "Tell me about a time when you overcame a crisis, solved a problem, dealt with failure, had to manage someone's performance, etc."

Tips to prepare for behavioral interviewing:

1. Company research
So that you have a deep understanding of what skills you need to showcase during the interview be sure to do your company research and take the time to ensure your understanding of the position you are being considered for.

2. Accomplishments
Whether you are actively interviewing or happily employed always keep an ongoing journal of all of your great accomplishments. Also, include details regarding your accomplishments in alignment with the behavioral interview "S-T-A-R" structure. By doing this you are prepared at a moment's notice to present information about yourself in this format.

3. Stories
Prepare for interviews as if you are crafting a twenty to thirty minute presentation about yourself including a series of short thirty second to one minute stories. This gives you an opportunity to present yourself as the expert and the solution to a company's problems. Story topics might include illustrations about how you functioned as an effective team player, how you handled difficult situations on projects or with employees ,how you overcame a challenging sales presentation. It is quite likely that an interviewer will want to explore your behavior under stress by asking about how you overcame seemingly negative situations. Therefore, be sure that your stories include difficulties and challenges you overcame.

4. Solutions
In my last "Lessons From My Recruiting Desk" I encouraged you to present yourself as a solution to problems. Behavioral interviewing also gives you an opportunity to showcase yourself as a solution by choosing to illustrate professionally challenging situations that you managed with aplomb.

With this kind of preparation you are well on your way to interviewing confidently and gracefully. However, I have also seen candidates so well prepared that they flood their interviewers with too much information too soon. Think of an interview like a dance. When you dance you take one step at a time allowing your partner to step in sync. Take one step at a time in an interview by allowing your interviewer to ask their questions. Answer with targeted information that sufficiently addresses the specific question. On the flip side some of my most frustrating memories as a recruiter are from when I had to make significant effort to pull information from candidates who were ill-prepared and not providing sufficient information. My suggestion? Find a balance and run with it and you will give a memorable, impressive interview!


In an ever-changing world Jason's coaching empowers you to start living life on your terms, creating a career and life based on personal integrity and authenticity! Learn more at and request a free copy of Jason's career coaching e-book: Swinging Through the Unemployment Jungle by e-mailing