Employer Secrets Revealed: The Most Difficult Job Interviews

No interview is alike. Depending on which company you are trying to get a job with, you may be faced with either a traditional, situational or a behavioral interview.  While each one poses their own challenges, ever wonder why a company will go with one style over another?

Lynley Williams, recruiting director for Progressive Insurance, which ranked 22nd on Glassdoor’s Top 25 Most Difficult Companies To Interview report, explains why the company uses the behavioral interview and sheds some light on what any interviewee should prepare for:

What Interview Candidates Need To Know

“With the behavioral interview you are looking at real world examples of specific skills,” says Williams, who says Progressive has been using the behavioral interview for at least 25 years. “We can see how well the past experience matches with what they are asked to do during the job interview.”

The idea behind a behavioral interview is to focus on the job candidate’s experience, skills and knowledge based on how it relates to the job he or she is interviewing for. Companies that use this approach believe that past behavior is a good indicator of future performance.  Within the behavioral interview, you could be asked a hypothetical question, a question about yourself and a ‘why’ question to learn more about your rationale in certain situations.

According to Williams, the behavioral interview is a great way to dig into the past to get predicators of the future, which is why Progressive will ask questions specifically about the past. For instance, if you are interviewing for a sales job, the insurer may ask you about your most difficult sale and how you approached it.  A general question, regardless of the job, may be to describe a time where you went above and beyond your job responsibilities in order to get a specific task completed. Williams says Progressive is also known to ask questions that may not put the candidate in the best light; for instance, ‘Describe a time you were faced with a stressful situation and how you reacted to it.’

“The biggest reason we use behavioral is because it draws from the candidate’s own experience,” says Williams.

Critical Thinking Tested

With a behavioral interview, there is no wrong or right answer, but Williams says there are things you can do to stack it in your favor.

The best way to prepare is to take the time to think about what you have done in the past and be able to articulate that well,” says Williams. “What we see sometimes is candidates tend to freeze because they haven’t prepped and are unable to present themselves in the best possible light.” Preparing is important, but being too polished could actually backfire because with a behavioral interview it’s not possible to give those canned answers when you are asked specifically about your past performance, says Williams.

Know The Company

In addition to focusing on things you’ve done in the past, Williams says many job candidates are surprised when Progressive asks them about their knowledge of the company or what about the company attracted them to the job. Williams says it’s important to do your homework and learn as much as you can about the company, and then connect that to why you want the job in the first place.

She says another area that many interviewees fall short is practicing ahead of the interview.  According to Williams, candidates should practice with friends and record themselves so they can improve any weaknesses.

“In this day and age, candidates absolutely have to do their research to find out about the company,” says Williams. “They have to prepare for the interview by practicing out loud and practicing with friends because practice overall helps them sound more polished.”

While Progressive may have a tough interview process compared to other companies, Williams says it is not going to get harder because of all the information readily available on websites like Glassdoor.

“We have had a consistent process in place for a long time and are very transparent about our behavioral process not only on the website, but with recruiters,” says Williams. “We are very much advocates for candidates to be prepped and know from the onset that the interview will be behavioral.”