Kaitlyn Waller, Staff Writer
University Program Board presented “Secure the Bag: Tips to Better Interviewing” this past Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. in the Collabitat Building on South Campus. Helen Jardine, district director of Northwestern Mutual—St. Louis, gave a presentation to job-seeking students on preparing for behavioral-based interviews.
Behavioral-based interviews are different from traditional job interviews in which the employer outlines the position and asks if the prospective employee can fulfill those criteria. Jardine explained that behavioral-based interviews instead, focus on the interviewee’s past performances and behaviors in order to predict his or her future performance.
“It’s a way of interviewing to help you highlight some of your skill sets, maybe a competency, maybe a special story that can help show you in the best light,” she said. “They are talking more about your past experiences, what you have actually done. So for your past performance they’re going to say if you’ve done x, y, z before, then you should be able to do x, y, z or something similar here.”
She gave several methods people can use to prepare for a behavioral-based interview. Firstly, interviewees should research the company, the job description and what skills are necessary for the career. She or he will then know what skills to highlight in the interview and what questions the employer might ask to determine if she has those required skills and experiences.
“Take a personal inventory of yourself so that if you can, reflect that inventory in a positive light to an interviewer,” Jardine said. Taking inventory can help when a person applies to a job different from their field. “For some other jobs you might be a History major and you might go in and apply for a different job, but you’ll want to be able to reflect on some of the things that you’ve done, and think about your strengths. If you don’t have it, you can always get it,” she said, referring to leadership experience, a common criteria for many jobs. Leadership experience could be acquired from volunteer opportunities, not necessarily from a former job position.
Jardine handed out packets containing common interview questions an employer would ask depending on what skill or competency he or she is looking for.
“As different people interview with us in different roles there are specific questions because we want to find out specific information. As you think about a role, if it’s a highly detailed role, you might get asked questions that have to deal with details. If it requires clear communication, there’s sample questions there.”
“I can’t say that any employer you are going to have is going to use these exact questions, but at least hopefully some of the mystery of why they’re even asking that question, like what are they really trying to learn, can help you fit it into a topic category,” she said. “They’re asking these questions because they’re trying to figure out if you have initiative or they’re asking you these questions because they’re trying to figure out how well you prioritize and goal-set.”
The best method to prepare for an interview is to practice answering these questions. “The more detail you can give, the more real it’s going to seem,” she said. She advised students to tell the whole story, to be specific and to not “showboat.”
“When people are in front of me and they’re like nothing has ever happened to them or they’ve never made a bad decision, I’m either thinking they’re really lacking in insight and self-reflection, or they’re really not mature enough to have done any sort of self-analysis for themselves,” she said, referring to the common “strengths and weaknesses” or “past challenges” interview questions.
Jardine said, “Until you’ve done a lot of interviewing, you don’t want to go in cold.” Roleplaying with someone can help with answering these common behavioral interview questions and to prepare for questions not studied for. She also identified “PAR” (“Problem, Action and Result”) as another helpful tool for preparing answers for common behavioral interview questions.