Recruitment methods have recently become a topic of discussion for both HR managers and job seekers. Unfortunately, many of the techniques used by recruiters are incomprehensible, seem irrelevant to the position, and sometimes, they can even be controversial. Moreover, accuracy in different approaches often raises doubts. A competency-based or so-called behavioral interview is a pleasant exception. It has a high degree of reliability and does not cause complaints among candidates. Read on about how not to fail that kind of tryouts and get the desired position.

The task of the behavioral interview is to find out how the candidate will behave in real situations related to her professional activities. Recruiters use this method to assess an applicant’s skillset on real-life examples.

What Urgent Issues Does a Behavioral Interview Solve?

“Tatiana Isaieva, the founder and director of  Trinity Education Group- a Cambridge-certified business school of foreign language, explains why the results of this questioning will be reliable. Mrs. Isaieva started TRINITY Educational Group from scratch and turned it into a leading business school of foreign languages in Ukraine. TRINITY Educational Group has received wide praise and recognition from its reputable clients in the media. Mrs. Isaieva, with the TRINITY director of studies Tathagata Chattopadhyay, shared the extensive experience in innovative and highly demanded books “Your Guide to Cracking IELTS”, “Top Score in IELTS and How to prepare for a Behavioral interview.

Tetiana Isaieva, the founder and owner of a business school of foreign languages in the capital of Ukraine – Kyiv – “TRINITY Education Group,” entrepreneur of 2013 in Ukraine, tells us why the results of this questioning will be reliable. Mrs. Isaieva raised her business from scratch and hired a team of professionals, so she knows almost everything about the recruitment process.

Tetiana Isaieva: “A behavioral interview allows to get reliable answers to the questions immediately, and not only about the facts of a candidate’s biography (educational qualifications, work experience, duties performed, etc.), but also about critical competencies, peculiarities of a person’s approach to work and techniques and methods used. Metaphorically speaking, the information obtained during standard information collection can be compared to a black and white photo. At the same time, the behavioral interview provides a comprehensive model of the professional and personal qualities of the candidate.

A job seeker may not tell the whole truth to get the desired job, take credit for someone else’s achievements, and pass off theoretical knowledge for practical skills. But a competency-based interview is built in such a way that makes it possible for an HR manager to avoid deception and discern the applicant’s actual knowledge and skills. The fact is that it contains quite a few questions, each of which requires an example from real life. Even a person with an excellent imagination cannot technically make up all the examples, and at the same time remembering real examples and coming up with something new is challenging for a person.”

How to Work With Competency-Based Questions

The most popular behavioral interview techniques are STAR and PARLA. By following these methods, recruiters get complete behavioral examples from your life and career.

STAR Technique

S – Situation. You are asked to talk about a situation you have encountered in the past. How did it arise, and under what circumstances? It could be a case of dealing with a demanding customer, a story about some project and your involvement in it, or an example of your most creative decision at your last job. T – Task. What was your goal in this situation? Who set it: you or your boss? A – Action. This is where you describe what you exactly did to accomplish the task. Were there any challenges in the process, and what kind of difficulties? R – Result. How it ended, was it successful, what conclusions were made. You might also be asked what you would do in a similar situation in the future.

The PARLA Methodology

The first three steps in this technique are the same as the STAR steps.

P – Problem. A – Action. R – Result L – Learned. What did you learn from the situation? A – Applied. How was the experience from the example later applied?

Steps to Succeed in the Recruitment Process

The person dealing with recruiting already knows what a perfect candidate for a particular position is and has a list of questions or cases to test his or her skills. But how can job seekers prepare for this interview if they don’t know what questions may await them? Take the following practical and simple steps to succeed:

  • Research the company’s website in advance. Find the corporate competencies of your potential employer and typical qualifications that might be applicable to your position.
  • Carefully review the position content for which you are applying and analyze your profession and try to predict what skills you will be tested on.
  • Identify your key expertise. How are you different from other applicants for this position? What tasks will you do better than others in your field?
  • For which key skills, can you identify several difficult, unusual situations from your professional experience in which you have successfully demonstrated these skills and in which your full potential as a specialist was revealed?
  • Describe each specific situation according to the STAR or PARLA techniques. What was the main problem, and what was your challenge? Describe in detail all of your actions to achieve the goal and describe the results achieved through your actions.
  • Remember and outline what you have learned from the situation described above. What hidden capabilities did you discover in yourself up to that point?
 Situations you remembered in advance and put on paper will help you give a meaningful answer to the specialist who carries out the interview. And your conversation will turn out to be lively, informative, and quite natural!

Practice Makes Perfect

We asked Tetiana if it was worth memorizing the answers to pass the interview.

Here is what Tatiana said: “I strongly advise against that as it will look unnatural and there is a chance of forgetting something. You had better prepare real stories from your previous experience to demonstrate your successful problem solving and high performance. You need such stories to support your claims of coolness. Spend enough time practicing stories with friends or in front of a mirror. You should start getting comfortable talking about your past experiences and selling your strengths and accomplishments. It is not a time for being modest. If you are shy and unsure of your answers, practice is an even more important part of your preparation. With enough training, you will be able to tell what a pro you are naturally. Thus, it won’t seem as if you are showing off.

Keep in mind to get feedback from the simulated interview situation:

  • what impression you made on the interview
  • how accurately and truthfully you responded to the questions
  • pay special attention to your emotions, recalling certain moments of the “interview” when you had difficulty answering.
 You should carefully analyze all the information and make the necessary conclusions — it’s pretty helpful when preparing for a future interview.

What to Do If You Are Caught in a Bad Time?

If you have done your homework well, you’ll be ready to answer the competency-based questions. If you do get a question that takes you by surprise, there’s nothing wrong with that. Take a short pause to get your head together, clarify if you’re not sure you’ve fully got the question. Then, give a relevant example from your homework, which best fits the situation you are being asked. In any case, you won’t be able to develop a good example and a good story at the interview itself. However, if you have 5-8 stories, you can always adapt one of them.

What Questions to Expect at a Behavioral Interview?

Job seekers often wonder the difference between a regular interview and a behavioral one and what special preparation is needed if the employer asks “behavioral” questions. At first glance, there is no difference in the interview format. We will tell you what special questions an HR manager may ask and how to prepare for answering them.

Unlike a typical interview on abstract topics with questions like “How would you behave in this situation?” during a behavioral interview, a recruiter or an employer will ask you, “How did you behave in this situation?” That is, he or she wants you not to dream up about your heroic future but to be quite specific about your heroic past. Therefore, the questions will focus on quite specific tasks.

You will be asked in detail about what you did, what you said, how you reacted, and how you felt about each situation you talked about.

As Mrs. Isaieva notes, there are no right or wrong answers to such questions. The employer is simply trying to understand how you behaved in the given situation and how it will affect your future behavior at the new workplace. Your responses will determine whether your skills are appropriate for the position you are applying for. So, listen carefully, answer clearly, be detailed and be honest.

The big secret is that if your replies don’t fit the manager, you’re unlikely to be happy in the job, trying to do things you aren’t interested in.