Story Time

If it’s been a while since you last interviewed for a job, you’re probably hearing about something kind of scary called “behavioral interviewing” wherein the interviewer puts the interviewee on the spot with some pretty tricky questions.

What you’re hearing is true. These kinds of questions are growing in popularity among employers, who look at them as the best way to find out how someone will perform on the job. The reason why they are considered valuable is because they ask about things the candidate has done in the past. According to the official theory, “The most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in a similar situation.”

What kind of questions can you expect? Most behavioral interviewing questions begin with phrases like:

  • Tell me about a time when . . .
  • Describe a situation in which . . .
  • Give me an example of . . .

For respiratory therapists these questions can range from anything from “Tell me about a time when you had to provide a treatment to a difficult patient” to “Give me an example of how you worked on a team to improve patient care.” They all have one thing in common, though – they simply ask you to tell a story about what you did, why you did it, and what the outcome was.

Preparing for these types of questions can be a challenge, but there are some concrete steps you can take to get ready:

  • Ask to see a copy of the job description before the interview and then go through it carefully to see what responsibilities will be expected of you. Think of times when you faced responsibilities like these in your previous job or jobs and how you dealt with each of them. If you haven’t had held this type of position before (for example, this is your first time to apply for a managerial position), consider other times when you were faced with similar responsibilities (whether at another type of job, at school, through a volunteer group, or even at home) and how you handled them.
  • Write your answers down, focusing on the problem, the actions you took to deal with it, and how things turned out in the end. Include enough detail for the interviewer to get a good picture of the situation, but don’t go overboard – you should be able to complete your entire story in a couple of minutes or so.
  • Practice your answers out loud. The more you practice, the easier it will be to rattle off these stories when the questions are asked.

It is also important to note that your stories don’t have to be an exact match for the question that is actually asked. For example, if you have a great story prepared about treating a difficult patient, but the question you get is something like, “Describe a situation when you used an effective method to assure adherence to physicians’ orders,” you can spin your story to fit. (Because surely whatever you did with that difficult patient ended up with him or her receiving treatment according to physicians’ orders!)

The key is to have 4-5 great stories prepared that you can tweak on the fly to cover almost any question that might come your way.