Imagine you are in a job interview for a position and the first question to you is: "Tell me about a time you provided exceptional customer service. What made it exceptional?"
This is the go-to interview question of Brooke Hartlage, Staffing Specialist with LG&E and KU Energy. This type of behavioral-based interview question is becoming more prevalent in today's business world. Thus, to successfully navigate the interview process, it is critical that job seekers develop an excellent strategy for answering tough interview questions such as this.
Before you appear for the interview, set yourself up for success with thorough, thoughtful preparation. Research the company online and via LinkedIn. Take time to read basics about the company and its history. Note new projects or initiatives of interest. Study the company mission and values to evaluate how you fit in. Dress appropriately to the setting. When in doubt, ask your company contact what is appropriate.
Hartlage advises, "The advice I give candidates when they have a job interview is to prepare for the interview. I highly recommend saving the job description once you apply for the position so you can refer back to it later. You can also use the job description to help anticipate what interview questions the interviewer or panel may ask and how your experiences align with the position."
When reviewing the job description, take note of skill sets which are critical in successfully performing this role. Chances are, many of the questions you will receive in the interview will revolve around these critical skills. Spend some time reflecting on experiences when you have previously used these skill sets. Your ability to concisely recount these experiences will prove helpful when you are asked to provide evidence of your experience with various skills.
"I also recommend job seekers research different types of interviews (behavioral, situational, panel-based, phone) and think ahead about questions they want to ask during the interview," Hartlage shares. "For example, we utilize behavior-based interview questions at LG&E and KU. I encourage candidates to follow the STAR Approach (Situation, Task, Action, Result) when answering questions. This gives the interviewer a good understanding of your skills and experience and can reduce follow-up questions."
The STAR method has proven especially beneficial in providing structure to behavioral-based interview questions.
■ First, describe the situation and the desired end result. Share important context.
■ Second, explain the task at hand. What was the goal of this task?
■ Third, what action did you take to address the task? What did you contribute?
■ Finally, what was the result? Was the goal met? What did you learn from this experience?
When responding to behavioral-based interview questions, it is critical to share a specific example, not a generalized overview of how you would respond to a situation like this. Going back to Hartlage's go-to question, she is looking for a specific instance when a candidate provided exceptional customer service, not simply what a candidate thinks exceptional customer service includes.
"Common red flags during an interview are when candidates avoid answering questions or answer with a very vague response," Hartlage says. "Requiring the interview panel to ask several follow-up questions can result in a poor interview. It's important for candidates to be specific and focus on what you have done."
The interview does not end when the interviewer finishes his or her questions. Always prepare a few meaningful questions prior to your interview. Demonstrate to your interviewer that you have thoroughly researched the company, have the pertinent skills areas to perform the role, and are genuinely interested in the company.
Hartlage says, "I encourage candidates to ask questions about areas of interest pertaining to the position, department or company. However, they should avoid asking questions that can be easily answered by researching the company. Interviews are a two-way conversation, so coming prepared with questions shows that you are serious and interested in the position."
Some questions to consider asking an interviewer include: How do you measure success in this type of role? What do you see as a potential challenge for a new person in this role? How does the team collaborate with one another when completing group tasks?
At times a response to a candidate's question will provide an opportunity for further elaboration by the candidate about how his/her unique background and skill areas are a strong fit for the position.
Remember, the keys to a successful interview are thoughtful preparation and, when answering questions, share specific examples employing the STAR method. Following these simple steps will maximize the quality of your responses and thus maximize your likelihood of being chosen for the position.