Preparing for the Behavioural Interview: A Recruiter’s Perspective

How do you deal with difficult issues?

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Preparing for the Behavioural Interview: A Recruiter’s Perspective
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About the Author

Laura Machan

Laura Machan

Laura Machan is a Partner, Recruitment Solutions for a major human resources consulting firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Although she has been recruiting for quite a few years, she still gets a big thrill from calling someone to set up an interview and an even bigger thrill when she hears a happy dance as she tells them when their new job starts. Laura lives with her family in Oakville, where she has lived for over 25 years, and is a significant contributor to the Canadian Federation of University Women - Oakville and Women in Nuclear, Golden Horseshoe Chapter.

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People seem to have pretty visceral feelings about behavioural interviews. I am not sure why. When you think about it, it is a pretty efficient way for a hiring manager to learn about how you approach your work and relationships.

This kind of interview is based on the theory that what you did in the past is an indicator of what you will do in the future. Most people will identify 4 to 6 things that they feel are needed to be successful in a role, and then build questions around those activities or qualities.

Just about every job has relationships, obstacles and deadlines, so you can pretty much bet there will questions about these.

Sometimes the interviewer will just throw it out there. “Tell me about a difficult relationship and how you dealt with it.”

But other times there will be a bit of a lead in. “In our group, we can only meet our deadlines if we get information from other departments and some of them run late. Can you tell me how you have been able to influence people who don’t report to you?”

The key to preparing for these conversations is to think of situations from your work life and then “package” them.

You need to set the stage, describe your actions and decisions and then wrap up with how the thing resolved.

It should be neat and compact. You want to avoid having your sentence trail off because you can’t remember your original point.

This takes practice. It’s a bit like telling your favourite joke. It makes people laugh because you can tell it well. You always remember the punch line and your timing is great. Your work stories need to be the same.

Write some questions on cards and then either shuffle them or add them to your Cards Against Humanity deck. Get some friends and get to work!



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