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How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview -- Part 3

By Jen A. Miller

Behavioral interviews are designed to make you think on your feet.

But no matter how many employers say you can't prepare for them, you can still dig deep into your memory before the interview and be ready to talk experiences that could fit situations your potential employer throws at you.

Here are some questions you might encounter, courtesy of Scott Weighart, author of Find Your First Professional Job: A Guide to Co-ops, Interns and Full-Time Job Seekers:

Tell me about a time you:
* failed at something
* had to take an unpopular stand
* really had to go way above and beyond
* had to show exceptional attention to detail
* dealt well with a difficult colleague/co-worker
* showed that you can multitask under pressure

Remember, it doesn't matter if what you'll talk about is from job experience or not  -- the employer wants to get to know about you and then make judgments on how they think you would fit into the job.

Make sure you prepare your stories, too -- you might be able to wing it, but you won't give the best answers if you do.

"Using index cards, make some notes of past achievements, experiences, certifications, and formal education as these relate to perceived responsibilities on the job," suggests Ron Price, CEO of Price Associates.

And don't even think of making stuff up. "You don't want to invent stories about yourself that aren't true. Those would be seen through pretty quickly because you need so much detail," says Weighart.

In one of his classes, students write five behavioral based stories, which are critiqued and graded. That way, the students are prepared to talk about something that shows off their best qualities. If you're not lucky enough to have Weighart as a professor, read your scenarios aloud to a family member or friend, and ask for feedback.

"And if it's a good story, it should prove three or four different scenarios," says Weighart.

Really think about (and write out) how the scenario proves something about you. The best way to do that is making sure your story has its ABC details:

Affection, which shows emotion
Behavior, which shows your action
Cognition, which shows your thoughts

"A good behavioral interviewer will ask you for all three, but it's good to work them in in the first place," says Weighart.

Even though this might seem like a lot of work, preparing will help you relax in the interview, and the answers can be a piece of cake. "They should be easier if the interviewee can relax and recall past experiences. Of course, not all interviewees are equal and some of us tend to forget some of our past experiences and achievements when we get nervous," says Ron Price, CEO of Price Associates, a business consulting firm.

So break out those index cards and start brainstorming -- that way you can be ready with scenarios that will get you that first paycheck.

Happy interviewing!

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