Interviewing: Tell Me About a Time….

Written by Benjamin Thomas, Employer Relations Graduate Assistant, Career Center

We all have heard those great stories, those motivational speeches, or hilarious anecdotes. Story-telling is a great way to relate an event or to communicate an idea. A job interview, however, is a very common, and sometimes unexpected, reason for telling a story.

Picture it:  You’re in a chair across a desk from an interviewer, or group of interviewers, and you’ve studied and prepared for all the classic questions: “Tell me about yourself.” “What are your strengths?” “What are your weaknesses?”

But how will you respond to, “Tell me about a time when you had to convince someone else to see things your way and how you did that”?

These are called behavioral based questions. Instead of asking for you to describe yourself, or giving descriptive answers like strengths or weaknesses, these questions require you to describe a behavior you displayed.

An Effective Technique for Answering Behavioral Based Questions

The Career Center has an easy strategy that equips you for success in these situations. Just remember SAR:

Situation: Start with the context or antecedent events, for example: “A coworker and I were assigned to work together to increase net sales by 10%. He believed that increased web advertising was the best method, while I felt the use of networking would improve sales.”

Action: Proceed with the story, being sure to address the question asked.  Be specific, concise, and remain positive: “I used research and statistics to demonstrate to my coworker that networking was more effective, and even suggested that we begin with social networking, which is similar to his idea of web advertising.”

Results: Conclude the story with a summary statement, and reaffirm how this supports your strengths: “Together we were able to increase net sales by 15%, a new high for the month of November. I was able to support my ideas, and logically change his mind, which helped our business grow.”

These questions are your chance to shine, to set yourself apart from other applicants. Telling a great story is not a matter of having a perfectly memorized script; instead you should focus on conveying meaning, and demonstrating your strengths as part of the narrative.  If you remember the framework, SAR, can be a great strategy in a pinch.

Examples of Behavioral Based Questions

It is also a good idea to look over lists of behavioral based questions, in order to know what types of answers you should be ready to generate. Below are just a few examples:

http://blog.timesunion.com/careers/50-behavioral-based-interview-questions-you-might-be-asked/1538/

http://www.cgu.edu/include/ocm_behavioralquestions.pdf

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One Response to Interviewing: Tell Me About a Time….

  1. Good info. Lucky me I ran across your site by chance (stumbleupon). I’ve book-marked it for later!