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The Perfect Candidate

May 13, 2013
by Tim Tolan
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 Behavioral interviewing tells us a lot about a person – especially their perceptions of themselves, their actions and experiences. In a behavioral interview, the interviewer asks probing questions and the way they are answered can often be the best way to predict a candidate's future job performance. In other words, what you see and hear is a sort of preview of upcoming attractions.

Questions are framed to uncover and understand the candidate's past job behavior, work experience, intellectual capacity, interpersonal skills and what motivates them. It’s difficult for a candidate to avoid answering as each question is designed to be open-ended, and a simple “yes” or “no” just won’t do.

Believe it or not, there are self-perceived 'perfect candidates' lurking amongst us. These are the candidates that can’t seem to recall anything that would portray them as less than perfect. Really? That would be correct. These candidates attempt to strategically dodge each and every question, often never admitting to any mistakes they have made or incorrect actions they took. It’s not realistic nor believable for anyone to not have the self awareness to admit that they have made mistakes during their career. Let’s face it – that’s how many of us learn. Stepping up to the plate and admitting a shortcoming or bad decision shows that yes, you are human, you made a mistake and grew from that experience. It’s ok.  

In behavioral-based interviewing the candidate is often asked how to describe an activity that centers around their experience, technical capability, leadership/management skills, analytical skills, interpersonal/writing skills and other critical areas important to the role they are seeking.

I challenge you to prepare and practice examples of moments during your career where you know you made mistakes. Don’t try to “reach for an answer” during an interview. It comes across disingenuous and downright phony, and can also disqualify your candidacy.

Develop the answers now so you will be prepared for questions like the ones noted below:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to take the initiative and drive a project for your team that was not going well. How did you use that experience to coach and mentor?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult provider during an implementation. How did you handle the situation and what was the result?
  • Give me an example of a challenge you faced in your current role and elaborate on how you solved it.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to handle a very difficult leadership situation. What did you do?
  • Give me an example regarding a conflict with a coworker and how you resolved it.

While these are not rocket-science questions, they deserve genuine and honest answers to help demonstrate your value to an organization that may be placing high bets on you and the future of the establishment.

Listen to the question, pause and think about the answer for a few seconds. Be yourself – be honest and above all – don’t candy coat the answer. We are all human.