Telling stories is the key to behavioral interviewing

Not only are stories the foundation of helping people with new insights that drive behaviors that create improvement in life and work, that are as well the foundation of great conversations. Any time two people get together in conversation around a question that matters, stories enrich and expand the learning in that intimate interaction. An interview is no different.

I am an internal consultant and coach for 850 team members, about 100 of which are leaders on our site. My primary clients are the leadership team members but I am blessed to work with many front line team members when they need help to promote. I am amazed with how many team members I coach on behavioral interviewing, the interviewing style that we use in our company. I have personally coached at least 50 team members in the last 12 months from front line up through the manager level on behavioral interviewing helping them learn how to tell stories as well as conduct internal classes on behavioral interviewing. It is a part of my work as a leadership development manager that I love. My conversations are not dry “how to interview conversations” but a full conversation on leadership, coaching, feedback, and balancing relationships with performance improvement and of course, how to tell your story in a behavioral interview. One of the reasons that this work is so gratifying is the extraordinary expressions of gratefulness that I receive from those that I help. As an INFP, I really do not need lots of public recognition, but a personal thank you, now that is something that really means allot to me. One of the more meaningful notes to me is below. This is what makes my job so fun.

“I am career pathing towards being a SR. After my first interview I took the feedback given to me to John to see how I could interview stronger my next time around. John gave me a lot of useful information both verbally and with handouts. I was very impressed that he would take the time out of his busy schedule to meet with me and even prepare stuff that I could later take with me and read.
He was knowledgeable about the content we discussed, and very passionate about (our company) in general….at times through our conversation I wondered why he was not actually a General Manager. Personally he made me feel like he was interested in my goals and truly wanted me to reach them.
No matter what I do with my career and even in life I will remember the conversation that I had with John, I will take interest in others as he did for me, and have the same passion and beliefs for my job. John definitely lives the (Our company) Values.”

As we use a proprietary process for interviewing and feedback, I can not mention the exact acronym without probably getting sued by the vendor, so I will simply state that the process for telling a story is simple. Regardless of whether or not the question is behavioral based (tell me about a time when…) one answers with a behavioral answer (here is a specific time when…).

  1. Define the situation or task that you were involved in.
  2. Tell about what you did i.e. your behavior or actions
  3. Then describe the impact of your actions or the results.

The stronger your stories, the better you will shine. There is far more too a successful behavioral based interview, but the above is the basic outline.

So why use a behavioral based interview process? Two reasons as far as I am concerned. First past performance is a good predictor of future performance. Second, if you ask blue sky questions, (what would you do if) those people who are good at BS’ing can do well and those who are more reflective do not do well. Why screen out the more reflective people. Not a bright thing to do if you want the best and the brightest. A prepared person (they know their stories at least) regardless of personal communication style will do well in a behavioral based interview and the employer will have the information they need to make an informed decision. The best way to go from my point of view.

I often coach others on the process and if you would like, drop me a line and let me give you a hand. We will need at least an hour and depending on your comfort level, assignments and followups. I use PayPal for ease of transaction. I would be glad to help any time. And I wish you success in your quest for a new place in this amazing and complex world.

Good luck on your story telling.