Chapter 2

Identifying the Most Relevant Behavioral Traits


“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” - Theodore Roosevelt

Researching Company Values and Requirements

Before diving headfirst into crafting your perfect behavioral interview responses, it's essential to understand the heart and soul of your target company - its unique culture and values. This process is akin to deciphering a treasure map, where clues about the organization's desired employee traits are scattered across their website, social media profiles, blog posts, and even conversations with insiders.

Whether it's Amazon's Leadership Principles that emphasize "Customer Obsession" and "Think Big," or Google's legendary 'Googliness,' understanding these core values can offer significant insights into what the company values in its employees. Keep an eye out for stories of successful employees that the company spotlights, as they often embody these desired characteristics.

As you gather this information, list the most common and relevant behavioral traits highlighted within the company culture. Then, consider which traits align with your strengths and experiences, and identify areas where you may need further development to meet the company’s expectations.

Lastly, review the company’s competitors and the broader industry landscape. Being well-informed about the competition and the dynamics of the market demonstrates that you have a comprehensive understanding of the environment in which the organization operates. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to craft well-informed behavioral interview responses, positioning yourself as an engaged and knowledgeable candidate prepared to make a meaningful impact.

Analyzing Job Descriptions for Clues

Carefully analyzing job descriptions can reveal important clues about the behavioral traits an employer is looking for in a candidate. Begin by thoroughly reading the descriptions and requirements for specific roles, as well as any other materials provided by the company in relation to the position. Look for repeated keywords or phrases that emphasize certain qualities or abilities. These words will give you insight into the company’s priorities and help you identify the specific behavioral characteristics they value.

For example, if a job description frequently highlights communication, teamwork, and leadership, you can infer that the company values candidates who excel in these areas. Similarly, if the description mentions problem-solving, time management, or adaptability, make a note to address these traits during your interview.

As you identify the desired traits, consider how they relate to the role’s key responsibilities. Ask yourself how these characteristics might factor in day-to-day tasks or big-picture projects, and think about how your experiences and strengths align with these attributes. Reflect on past professional, academic, or personal examples that demonstrate your ability to embody these traits, and prioritize the ones that feel most relevant and impactful.

Finally, remember that even if a job description doesn’t explicitly mention behavioral traits, you can always fall back on your research into the company culture and values. Aligning your response with the organization’s priorities will help you tailor your answer, even when the description is less specific about desired candidate characteristics. By deeply understanding the company’s expectations, values, and desired skills, you’ll be well-prepared to deliver targeted and relevant responses during your interview.

Asking the Recruiter for Insights

Beyond analyzing job descriptions, reaching out to the recruiter can be a valuable source of insights about the behavioral traits and values a company seeks in its candidates. In fact, this can be a proactive and beneficial part of your interview preparation process.

To start, prepare a list of thoughtful questions to ask the recruiter. For example, you may inquire about the specific qualities and behaviors they prioritize in candidates, the workplace culture the company fosters, or the core values they uphold. The responses to these questions will provide a clearer picture of what is important to the company, and you can use this information to craft your behavioral interview responses.

For instance, if a recruiter emphasizes the importance of adaptability, teamwork, and communication, you can align your responses to showcase these traits. Conversely, if they mention the significance of innovation, self-motivation, or attention to detail, reflect on instances in your career where you demonstrated these attributes.

Consider asking about the challenges the company or the specific role you are applying for might face. Understanding these challenges can help you illustrate how your skills and behaviors can provide solutions or bring added value to the company.

Furthermore, discussing the company’s culture and values with the recruiter can offer deeper insights into the behaviors they appreciate. For example, if a company’s values align with customer satisfaction, community engagement, or continual learning, you can emphasize instances where your actions reflect these values.

Lastly, remember that asking questions gives you a better understanding of the company’s priorities and demonstrates your genuine interest in the role and the organization. Engaging with the recruiter and expressing curiosity’ll set yourself apart as a proactive, interested, and well-prepared candidate.

Recognizing Common Interview Themes

Recognizing common interview themes can help you better prepare for behavioral interviews by allowing you to anticipate the types of questions and scenarios you may encounter. Familiarize yourself with the most frequently mentioned behavioral traits in job postings, as these characteristics likely play a significant role in determining a candidate’s success within the company.

Some common themes that often arise during behavioral interviews include:

  1. Leadership:

    Interviewers frequently assess candidates’ ability to motivate, delegate, provide direction, and make decisions. Demonstrating your leadership experience and qualities positions you as capable of taking charge and driving results.

  2. Teamwork and collaboration:

    Nearly every organization values employees who can work well with others and contribute to a positive team dynamic. Share examples that illustrate your collaboration and conflict resolution skills and your ability to bring diverse viewpoints together to achieve a common goal.

  3. Problem-solving and critical thinking:

    Showcasing your ability to analyze complex situations, develop viable solutions, and take resourceful action is essential in nearly every role. Talk about instances where you met challenges head-on and overcame obstacles creatively and effectively.

  4. Adaptability and resilience:

    Employers are keen on candidates who can withstand change, learn from setbacks, and adjust to new circumstances. Provide examples of times when you had to adapt and exhibit resilience in adversity.

  5. Time management and organization:

    Demonstrating that you can efficiently prioritize tasks, set goals, and manage resources is essential in many positions. Describe situations where you successfully juggled multiple projects, met tight deadlines, or improved productivity through organizational techniques.

  6. Communication and interpersonal skills:

    Communication is a vital aspect of most jobs, from being an active listener to effectively conveying ideas and information. Share instances where your communication and interpersonal skills played a critical role in achieving results or solving conflicts.

By being prepared with examples that address these common interview themes, you can proactively shape your responses and demonstrate your mastery of the behavioral traits that are most critical to your target role. In addition, this groundwork will give you the confidence and informed perspective necessary to excel in your interview.