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7 Behavioral/Structured Interview Tips


I originally wrote this in 2016 - but it still applies today...

I participated in a Veterans in Aerospace symposium yesterday providing this same advice to transitioning service members. I wanted to share some tips I’ve collected over the years while everything is still fresh. These have helped me receive 9 job offers over the last 6 years since separating from the military (obviously didn’t accept them all), so I can attest to how well they work. Coaching and mentoring are among my favorite activities, so please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions or want additional information.

  1. Google different behavioral/structured interview questions (e.g., tell me about a time when…)--that you might be asked and write out narrations or bulleted answers in the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format answering each one. Be sure that these questions aren’t limited to operational issues only. Consider topics related to conflict, cultural differences, or anything else that you think might come up in relation to the position. I have a document I maintain with over 30 different STAR narrations that I can reference when preparing for an interview (how many you have is up to you). I highly recommend this as well as practicing answers aloud. This will make the answer come smoothly while also allowing you to ensure you’re able to convey everything needed.

  2. One area I’ve often seen people struggle is expressing their contributions (actions) and quantifying the results. You should also try and span your different assignments rather than simply talking about your latest assignment. This will help relate previous roles to a current requisition, especially if the hiring team fails to see the connection. Many people I’ve interviewed only reference their latest position, even when earlier positions they listed in their résumé were much more applicable to the current opening. Employee reviews are a great place to reference when building your STAR responses.

  3. Have an elevator speech and practice it aloud as well. Be sure to tailor your monologue for the job that you’re applying for (i.e. don’t focus all on leadership if you’re applying for a technical position).

  4. Ask to skip a question and return to it later if you get stumped. I have seen numerous candidates ruin their interview by working themselves up when they get stuck, some to the point of breaking down during the interview. You’ll often find that you come up with an answer while answering the following questions.

  5. If you know you gave a terrible answer and you think of a better one before the close of the interview then ask to return to it.

  6. Research the position so you can show your knowledge during the interview as well as have insightful questions to ask at the conclusion. You can do this by searching online for available information and/or contacting people who already do the job you’re applying for through LinkedIn or other resources. One example of this was the research I completed before my Supplier Management Interview. I searched online until I found a list of the different suppliers in the region and researched each individual supplier so that I could translate my skills in reference to their statements of work. I then took the information and built it into my elevator speech.

  7. Keep the notes you have with you so you can reference them if push comes to shove (it’s better than not giving an answer). I’ve found that, although I haven’t referenced my notes in an in-person interview, knowing I have a safety net helps to reduce anxiety during the interview process.

Thank you for taking the time to read and I hope this helps some of you with your future prospects.

Good luck!

John Day

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