4 tips to answer behavior-based questions in your Peace Corps interview

By Mariana Andrade-Bejarano
Jan. 26, 2018

“Congratulations!” the Peace Corps interview request reads – you have come one step closer to making a dream of service come true. 

So you sign up for an interview time, patiently await the confirmation, read about how to stand out, even prepare professional attire for the video interview and set a reminder to show up early.

However, this is not all it takes. As you see in the request, underneath “Interview Tips,” your placement officer told you that they will:

-Ask about past and long-term experiences

AND

-That you should try to share different experiences for each of these six subjects (an experience with people from a different culture; a time working in an unstructured environment; an experience teaching, tutoring or mentoring; when you failed to reach a goal that was within your control; etc.).

Do you know of many jobs that send you the interview questions in advance? Besides the Peace Corps, probably none. Yet here you have them.

Why do we ask these questions and why do you get to know them in advance?

Placement officers understand that one of the best predictors of future behavior is past behavior. By sharing these in advance, you can prepare and make the best of your hour together. So here are four tips that can help you in this specific second portion of the interview:

Tip #1: Take time to consider a different experience for each question and write it down – but don't write a script. You don’t want to appear disingenuous or inflexible! Your placement officer will have very specific follow-up questions to see how you navigated each experience. If you write a script, it will be very difficult to redirect or demonstrate necessary flexibility for service.

Tip #2: Choose experiences that lasted a few months, not just a handful of days. That five-day trip may have been very meaningful but your placement officer's questions go beyond immediate observations or solutions; they seek to gauge how you adapted through and maintained a prolonged experience (remember: Peace Corps service lasts 27 months!).

Tip #3: Give yourself some credit. While the questions are not meant to be easy, if you find yourself thinking, “I’ve never even left the country, how can I answer the culture question?!” you’re stressing too much. You don’t have to leave the United States to have established a relationship with a community unlike your own. Nor should you have single-handedly established an organization to demonstrate your ability to take initiative or develop a strategy.

Lastly, Tip #4: take these questions as an opportunity to reflect on your preparedness and expectations for the Peace Corps. These are very specific topics with set time requirements because the Peace Corps is a long-term, formative experience that requires more than good intentions. It requires the humility to own up to and learn from failures, the ability to step away from a single cultural lens and the emotional maturity and resilience to push through instances when there is no step-by-step job manual.  

As you prepare for your interview, remember that this is just one portion of a long and multi-faceted assessment process. Your motivation is also shown in your consideration of the challenges or your motivation to learn from and serve a new community. So instead of worrying too much, maybe practice a few breathing exercises or apply other healthy coping strategies! These behaviors, too, will come in handy when you make your dream of service a reality.

Ready to start your Peace Corps journey? Connect with a recruiter today.

Mariana Andrade-Bejarano

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