Happy 2015! It’s about time I dusted off this blog hahaha.
A few weeks ago, a P2 colleague and I were chatting after a hospital internship panel, and we got to the topic of interview prep. I shared with her my use of the SBO strategy, which stands for Situation-Behavior-Outcome and is a behavioral interview technique I picked up two years ago at an interview workshop hosted by a Target recruiter (whom I must give credit because I later landed a spot in the Target executive pharmacy internship experience, whoohoo). She then commented that this sounded like something that would belong on my blog. After my overjoyed surprise that she know of my blog, I affirmed that yes, this information should be on my blog! Thus, this post is dedicated to her 🙂
You may or may not have heard of SBO before, but you most likely have heard of behavioral interviews. Behavioral interviews are structured to elicit information about an individual’s work ethic based on the assumption that past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior. History repeats itself, right? The focus is to tease out a person’s intangible skillset, like impartiality or courage, rather than his or her tangible skillsets, which are already highlighted in the resume or cover letter. Your intangible skillset should be a strong dictator of your actions and behaviors.
Unfortunately, not all interview prompts will straight up ask for your moments of glory. Interviewers will most likely ask about how you handled difficult situations because those experiences are a lot more telling than about how you handled accomplishments. Work/school/life is tough, and your interviewer wants to know how you tough it out.
So, how do you make your actions speak louder than your words when you can only use words?
SBO is your story outline. It’s a framework for concise yet impactful stories that begin with a brief description of the Situation, your Behavior in handling the situation, and the Outcome of your behavior. Specific, detailed examples speak volumes more than generic, vague examples; the fine line you must walk is how to condense your S and B so that neither section overshadows your O, aka your lesson learned. In general, I would try to keep my stories to five minutes max, with at least 40% of my story dedicated to my outcome.
At the end of the post is a jumbled list of behavioral prompts that I pulled from the interwebs. You may recognize some of these from an old post of mine. What I would recommend is to start an interview cheat sheet, which will serve as a running list of all your marketable stories. For me, this was an Excel sheet (or a Google doc for portability’s sake) with five column headings: Organization, Situation (brief), Behavior (thought process and actions), Outcome, and Prompts. Under Organization, fill out the name of whatever group/company you were with, along with the timeframe you were with them. Don’t be surprised to find multiple stories under one organization–for better or for worse, you walked away with a bunch of takeaways. Under Prompts, copy and paste all the prompts that you feel your story does a decent job answering. The other columns are self-explanatory.
Before each interview, pick 3 or 4 master stories out of your story list. The more recent the experience, the better. Choose stories that speak to your strengths and answer a variety of prompts about how you handled challenging situations such as conflicts, disagreements, stress, and failure. Now, not all of your stories will have happy endings—mine sure didn’t. I’m here to tell you that unhappy endings are A-OK and can make for stronger stories than happy endings. The beauty of mistakes is that they oftentimes teach more than success does. In your response, acknowledge the actions and behaviors you would have wanted to take, and elaborate on how the experience shaped you for the better. Displaying your readiness to learn and grow from mistakes can be more powerful than presenting constant perfection.
Hm. It makes you wonder if one can truly appreciate success without understanding what failure feels like. It’s all about perspective, no?
Prompts down below! I tried to group them…but it kinda looks like a hodgepodge anyway. As always, thanks for reading, and good luck on those interviews!
List o’ questions
- Tell me about a time you worked effectively under pressure. Describe a stressful situation at work and how you handled it. Give me an example on any job in which you faced a problem and tell me how you went about solving it.
- How did you handle meeting a tight deadline? Describe for me a situation when you failed to meet a deadline. What things did you fail to do? What did you learn?
- Give an example of a goal you didn’t meet and how you handled it.
- Tell me a time in which you had to not finish a task because of a lack of information. How did you handle it?
- Describe a situation where you had trouble with a co-worker. Provide an example of how you resolved a conflict with you and another person when you disagreed with each other. Tell me about a time you had to make two opposing point of views agree. By providing an example, tell me of a situation where you had to use your ability to negotiate.
- Describe when you lead a team or group and what worked well. Have you had to convince a team to work on a project they weren’t thrilled about? How did you do it? Can you tell me a time in which you felt you were able to build motivation in your co-workers or subordinates?
- Describe a time when you led a diverse group of people who didn’t get along and you brought them all together to finish a task on time.
- Describe a time you were a mentor for someone. Describe a time you had to use a different coaching style to help guide someone. Have you ever had a major influence on someone, and explain.
- Provide me with an example of a time when you had to teach someone a new skill or procedure.
- Can you tell me a time when you were able to effectively “read” another person and guide your actions by your understanding of their individual needs or values?
- Describe a time when you’ve had to work with strong-willed peers. What did you do? How did you handle them so you could influence their decisions?
- Describe a situation where you made a mistake and how you handled it.
- Describe a time your leadership skills led you to make a bad decision.
- Tell me about a time you had to make a difficult decision. Tell me a time when you had to quickly make a decision without having much information. Did you ever postpone making a decision? Why?
- What did you do in your last job to contribute toward a teamwork environment? Be specific.
- Describe a job experience in which you had to speak up to be sure that other people knew what you thought or felt. Relate a time in which you had to use your verbal communication skills in order to get an important point across.
- Explain a time when you took a leadership role and went above and beyond. Tell me an example of a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done. Have you gone above and beyond the call of duty? If so, how?
- Give me a time when one of your suggestions was put into practice by your supervisor.
- Tell me about a time you had to adjust to a situation quickly.
- Have you handled a difficult situation with a supervisor? How?
- Give me an example of a specific occasion in which you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree. Have you ever dealt with company policy you weren’t in agreement with? How?
- Describe a situation where you had to defend your position. Describe a decision you made that was unpopular and how you handled implementing it.
- Tell me of a time when you had to take initiative to develop an innovative project to achieve better results. Describe the most creative work-related project that you have carried out.
- Give me a time in which you had to set an important goal in the past and tell me about your success in reaching it. Describe for me a job experience when you had to serve as the leader in order to accomplish a goal. How do you handle a challenge? Give an example. Provide an example of a time in which you had to use your fact-finding skills to gain information for solving a problem.
- Describe a time when you had a project to do and had no idea how to approach it and tell me what did you do to approach the project.
- Tell me about an accomplishment that you are very proud of and why it means so much to you.