Article by Carole Martin
When asked a traditional question like, "What would you do if you had a customer who wasn't interested in buying the product?" you can make up a story. But when you are asked behavioral questions, the interviewer is listening for specific examples of how you have handled situations or problems in the past.
Behavioral questions begin with phrases like, "tell me about a time when," or "can you give me an example of." The interviewer wants to hear your real-life examples. When an interviewer asks such questions, he or she is listening for examples of how you handled situations similar to the ones you may handle for this company. This is your chance to talk about your accomplishments. If you can demonstrate, through examples (preferably recent ones), that you've succeeded in certain areas of interest, you will be considered a possible candidate for success in a future position. After all, if you did it somewhere else yesterday, you can do it for this company tomorrow.
Your success stories should include the situation, the action you took and the result. Here is an example if you were interviewing for a sales position:
The Situation: I had a customer who did not want to hear about the features of my merchandise because of a prior interaction with my company.
The Action: I listened to her story and made sure I heard her complaint. I then explained how I would have handled the situation differently and how I can offer her better service. I showed her some facts that changed her mind about dealing with the company again.
The Result: She not only bought the merchandise, but complimented how I handled her account. She is now one of my best customers.
You can prepare for this type of interview by writing out your stories before the interview. Determine what stories you have that would be appropriate for the position based on its job description. If the job requires dependability, write your story about a time when your dependability was recognized or made a difference with a customer.
You can use the stories you prepare even when the interviewer does not ask behavioral questions. If you are asked a traditional question, use your prepared story and preface it with, "I can give you an example of a time when I used that skill on a previous job."
By preparing for the interview ahead of time and recalling your past successes, you will be able to have examples in mind and will not be caught off guard. There is no way you can predict what the interviewer is going to ask you, but you can prepare what you want him or her to know about your past as a predictor of your future performance.