article by Deborah Walker, Certified Career Management Coach
Have you ever experienced brain freeze during a job interview? You are asked a question and your mind goes blank—it’s horrifying. You lose composure as well as confidence. Your interview goes down hill from there. Brain freeze most often happens as a result of behavioral or situational interview questions that are not anticipated before hand.
As a career coach, this is the most common interview problem I hear about from my clients. With the right preparation you can avoid the nightmare of brain freeze and improve your interview performance greatly.
First of all, it’s important to understand what a behavioral or situational interview question is. It is any question that start with:
Tell me a time when …
Give an example of …
Describe a situation when …
Employers ask these types of questions with the assumption that past
behavior indicates future performance. These questions reveal a lot
about a candidate, including a candidates ability to think fast on
their feet. Given that interviews are inherently stressful, many job
seekers find it extremely difficult to think fast during interviews.
Here are four steps that will help you prepare for any interview
Take inventory of your accomplishments.
This requires more than a cursory mental note of the good stuff you’ve
done in the past year. Take a systematic approach by asking yourself
what challenges you’ve faced in each of your positions over the past
five or more years. Try asking yourself
What processes have I improved?
How have I made work easier for others?
What did I do to save my company money?
When did I find a solution to a departmental problem.
How did I save time?
When did I go beyond the call of duty to solve a customer problem?
Write out your answers to these questions. Remember to include the
quantitative details when appropriate. Include dollars saved, hours
cut, percentage increased etc.
Study the job description.
With your list of accomplishments in hand you are ready to turn your
attention to the job description. Study the requirements to determine
the all possible challenges involved with the job. If the actual job
description is skimpy in details, look to other similar positions
listed to help fill in the blanks. Additionally, ask others who hold
similar positions what their greatest challenges of the job are. Write
out your list of anticipated challenges.
Create a list behavioral questions.
Turn your list of challenges of the position into a list of questions
that start with:
Tell me a time when you …
Describe a situation when …
Have you ever had to …
Your list will look something like:
Tell me a time when you had to cut costs out of your annual budget.
Describe a situation when you had to fire a friend.
How would you go about repairing a relationship with a disgruntled
Use your list of accomplishments to answer your behavioral questions.
Ask a friend to help you role play your interview answers. You should
feel very comfortable communicating your success stories. The more time
you practice actually talking about your accomplishments the faster
you’ll be able to recall your stories in your next interview.
With interview performance more important than ever before it pays to
prepare, prepare, prepare. There is no such thing as over preparation
when it comes to interviews. Use this 1,2,3,4 approach to interview
prep and you’ll be surprised at how much more confident you’ll feel in
your next interview. The better you interview the faster you’ll be at
your new job.
Deborah Walker, Certified Career Management Coach
Read more career tips and see sample resumes at: