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By Sheria A. Akins
MoneyMix Contributor 

I had a job interview the other day.  At first, it began with the common interview questions: 

  • "What are your strengths?" 
  • "What is your greatest accomplishment?" 
  • "Tell us about yourself." 

But sometime during the middle of the interview, the interviewer began asking questions for which I didn't have a prepared response.  For example, the interviewer asked me how I would approach a situation when my assistant was not performing his/her job and if I dealt with a similar situation in the past.   Panic set in.  After that question, the rest of the interview was a blurry haze. 

On my way home, I started thinking about the questions that I wasn't prepared to answer.  What was the interviewer really trying to find out about me?  How could I have answered the question better?  What kind of questions were they?!  Later, I found out that the questions were behavioral and situational style interview questions.  More employers are using these styles of questioning during job interviews.  To avoid being blindsided by these types of questions, prepare for them and know what the interviewers are seeking.

what are behavioral and situational interviews?

"Behavioral interviews focus on asking questions about specific examples from [an] interviewee's past."
-Karen E. Perkins
"Behavioral interviews focus on asking questions about specific examples from [an] interviewee's past," says Karen E. Perkins, NCC, LPC, a licensed professional counselor and proprietor with MVP Coaching and Counseling, an agency that provides practical, solution-based advice to help you reach your life goals (www.mvpcoachingandcounseling.com).  Perkins points out that these types of interviews seek to illustrate an interviewee's accomplishments.   

On the other hand, situational interviews focus on how an interviewee would react in certain situations.  "In a situational interview, an interviewee is asked hypothetical questions to determine how they may act in the future," says Perkins.

Employers may incorporate traditional interview questions as well as situational or behavioral interview questions.  Jevon Clarke, an Assistant Manager at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, gave insight into Enterprise's interview process.  Clarke said during a typical interview, traditional questions such as "where do you see yourself in five years" and "describe your strength and weaknesses" may be asked at the beginning of the interview to help the interviewer develop a general picture of the potential employer. 

"After asking basic interview questions, the interviewer will ask questions that are specifically tailored to evaluate a potential employee's future performance in situations that commonly arise while working for the company," says Clarke.  The question examples Clarke gave included questions like, "if a customer returns a rental and is very upset about the rental and begins to shout, how would you handle the situation?" or "would you feel comfortable being a someone's superior when you worked with them as equals?"  These questions incorporated both the behavioral and situational interviewing styles.

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Published January 27, 2009

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