Behavioral interview questions are a necessary evil. Giving examples from your work history is the most tangible way to answer them. Which jobs are your examples coming from, and how far back do your examples go?
Do they come from:
- Yesterday; or
- Yesterday, yesterday, yesterday
“What have you done for me lately” is not just a famous Janet Jackson song. It’s your motto when you answer interview questions. Many job seekers reach so far back in their past that the recruiter wonders,” what have you done for me lately”.
The #1 tip to find recent examples to interview questions is:
- Sit down and contemplate your job/jobs over the past 5 years
- Ignore all other positions, especially if they paid you more than you make now, or you had a better title
- Dig in to find recent examples since you have them
- Repeat bullet #3
You draw a blank when thinking about fresh examples to interview questions
You want to pull out those stories or examples from 10 years ago. However, how do you balance the past and the present, especially if you’re not so fond of the present?
Maybe you feel like a shadow of yourself since the heyday of 15 years ago. Maybe the startup attempt did not work out as you planned?
Suppose you used to work for a sexy buy-side or sell-side Wall Street firm. The Great Recession of ‘08-’09 threw your career for a tailspin either then or years later. What you’re doing now doesn’t sound so sexy, and maybe nobody has even heard of your company.
You just seem stuck for fresh interview question examples.
Don’t compare yourself to “yourself”
Your historical examples may be the best. However, history is history. Sit down and think about your most recent professional accomplishments, skills gained, and contributions. It does not matter if they do not compare well to those of the past. The interviewer doesn’t know the stories from your past.
A comparison of the examples from the distant past and now represents your ego. Breath and think “now”. I even provide my video on breathing exercises to calm you down so you can concentrate more.
Try to step outside of your head and imagine your job(s) over the past 5 years is/are the only ones you have ever had. Review in your mind your projects, assignments, clients, etc. Reach and think. Push yourself and dig in. Rinse repeat.
My client answered interview questions with examples from her “heyday”
My client was on her 4th job, which she had for the past 4 years. Her prior positions were more rewarding financially and represented the pinnacle of her career. Every time I asked her a behavioral interview question, she reverted to examples from anything other than her most recent position.
She told me she was embarrassed since she is not as proud of her current position as she was of her former ones. Feelings of shame were overwhelming her.
While she can reach back to her first few jobs, she needs to minimize the number of times she does. Every time she avoided her current job, I stopped the conversation. As an interviewer, I felt like I was speaking with a ghost, not the competent professional before me.
I taught my client how to focus on her current position for interview examples
I focused her attention on her current position and asked her to write down and send me:
- Her 5 greatest soft-skill accomplishments (team leadership, etc.)
- Her 5 greatest hard skill accomplishments (revenue, cost savings, etc.)
We discussed each in-depth to choose the right experiences for the right behavioral interview questions. Every time she said, “But this example is not as “good as those from my other jobs”, I kept reminding her those jobs don’t exist.
It took her a while to break her mindset. Establishing new neural pathways in the brain is really hard. She put up a fight, but I fought even harder.
We got her to think differently. Hello Wall Street.
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