MBA Interviews | Mastering Behavioral Techniques

A new breed of interviewing is emerging among Recruiters in the US.

It’s called Behavioral Interviewing, and the goal is to use examples of past behavior to predict future performance. Knowing what drives this part of an interview is step 1 of mastery.

Behavioral interview questions are typically not questions at all. Interviewers pose statements that begin, “Tell me about a time when you…(e.g. led a team; sold an idea to management; resolved a conflict).” Carefully crafted stories about your accomplishments illustrate your work ethic and personality traits, and allow an interviewer to see if they can visualize working alongside you.

Here’s how to do it.

1. Learn the Techniques – SAR, STAR, START.

Just like a good book, an interview story flows through a beginning, middle and end as: Situation, Action, Result, or the SAR technique. Begin by setting up the situation and indicating your specific role or task in the story. As you’re doing research on interviewing techniques, you may come across the STAR technique; this just specifically calls out the Task piece of the answer.

Go on to describe the action you took in the story, being sure to include examples of skills you know the company values.

Close with the results of your action, and include numbers if you can. MBAs love to quantify success.

You can take your story to the next level by adding a Take-away at the end, resulting in the START technique. Highlight what you learned from the experience, and how you plan to carry that knowledge forward to further your success in your next role.

2. Create an Interview Matrix.

Now that you know the goal of Behavioral Interview questions and the best techniques for answering them, begin preparing for actual questions by drafting an Interview Matrix.

I always use Excel to create a matrix; however, word processing programs or even a pencil and paper would work just as well. Put the question on the left of the table, and add columns for three examples to the right.

Three examples may seem excessive, but some of your stories will work for multiple situations. Plus, I’ve personally worked with interviewers that eliminated candidates because their depth of experience didn’t meet expectations. In other words, they couldn’t give three examples of a time they acted as a leader; therefore, they must not have much leadership experience. Don’t worry if you do not have three examples from work for each situation. It’s OK to use stories from school or your personal life as long as they answer the question.

Here’s an example of an interview matrix:

3. Practice.

You know what they say, “Practice makes perfect,” and interviewing is no exception. Use your Interview Matrix as a guide to practice your Behavioral Interviewing skills. You want your answers to flow like a story, not sound like a tape recorded message; so don’t memorize word for word. Instead, practice using the START technique in an engaging, concise way.

Practice with friends, practice with family, practice with professionals. Just make sure you practice.

4. Perform.

When it’s time for your interview, go in and perform like the master you are. Remember to utilize effective US-style body language (e.g. eye contact and nodding your head) to establish rapport with the interviewer. Listen carefully, and make sure your story answers the question. As an aside, many Recruiters I know say failing to answer the question is the number one mistake of candidates during an interview. Use the START technique, and dazzle the interviewer with your depth of experience, personality and preparedness.

Author: Grayson Leverenz

Grayson Leverenz founded MBA in the USA® to help international students build networks, find jobs, and have fun in the USA. Hundreds of global professionals have benefited from Grayson’s intercultural workshops, and she has worked with people from Brazil, China, India, South Africa, South Korea, the UK, and the USA to build effective virtual teams and craft brilliant careers.

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