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Behavioral vs. Traditional Interviews -- Part 2

By Jen A. Miller

Now you know why employers use behavioral interviewing. But how can you tell if you're in that kind of interview?

If you're being asked open-ended questions that force you to draw on events that have happened in your life to answer, you've got yourself a behavioral interview. The difference between "What's your weakness"? and "Tell me about a time you failed at something" might not seem like much, but it forces you to give a different kind of answer.

"Behavioral interviewing is used to get people to talk about what they do or how they might act in situations," says Dr. Herb Greenberg, founder, president and CEO of Caliper, an international management consulting firm, and co-author of Succeed on Your Own Terms.

Where before potential employers might ask you those old chestnuts of "What's your strengths"? and "Why are you a good fit for this job"? they're now using open ended questions to get a better idea of your behavior in a work environment. By asking you to reference something that's happened to you and only you, it forces you to give your employer a better picture of who you are and how you act in specific situations. You can't give an answer that a career guide book suggests. You have to tell about you, it shows a potential employer your behavior in a situation that could be mirrored in the workplace.

"Employers love behavioral-based interviewing because it allows them to see patterns that are often missed when people are answering basic questions," says Roberta Chinsky Matuson, principal of Human Resource Solutions, an HR consulting firm. "Employers can get past what a candidate says and focus on how they respond."

Behavioral interviewing also helps employers get over that hurdle of experience, so any experience you've had is fair game -- extracurricular activities, Greek life, relationships. You can even go back to things that happened to you in Boy or Girl Scouts, or on a sports team.

Some employers like behavioral interviews because they think you can't prepare for it. Think again.  Read on to find out how you can be as prepared for a behavioral interview as a traditional one.

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