Behavioural interview questions are random so you can’t prepare, right? Wrong. Here’s your step by step guide for handling these tricky questions
This is your ultimate guide to the perfect preparation including:
- What exactly is a behavioural interview question
- Why so many interviewers ask them
- A 4 step technique for preparing for them
- Examples of questions you are likely to face
- Key takeaways to keep in mind
Let’s get started…
What exactly is a behavioural interview question?
Well the clue is in the name here – behaviour
Behaviour-based interviewing is an approach that looks at past behaviour as the best predictor of future behaviour.
By asking this type of question, interviewers are looking for evidence of what you have done in the past and how this may influence your future behaviour if they were to hire you for their organisation.
These questions are usually mixed in with the other common questions and typically start with
Tell me about a time when …
Give me an example when …
When have you had to …
Describe a situation in which
Why do so many interviewers ask behavioural interview questions?
Behavioural interview questions are used at some point in most job interviews. The reason employers and hiring managers use these types of questions is to get a clearer picture of whether you have the skills, competencies, and attitude needed for the job.
These types of questions provide a really powerful tool for interviewers, revealing character traits and deeper information about candidates that other questions just don’t provide
Slightly scary news isn’t it? Interviewers, good ones anyway, have superpowers for looking straight into your soul to see anything they want about you.
But do you know what?
These questions provide you too with superpowers, enabling you to see exactly what interviewers want to get ahead of your competition … as long as you answer them in the right way
How to prepare for behavioural interview questions
If you have an interview coming up, you may be feeling a little nervous about how to handle these probing questions. But, just like the greatest strength and greatest weakness questions, you have nothing to worry about – as long as you take some time out for preparation.
Now, you might be thinking, that’s great but how can you possibly prepare for the unknown?
After all, these questions can be about absolutely anything.
But, if you take a logical approach to this, then you most certainly can.
Here’s your step by step guide for the perfect preparation.
Step 1 – Identify your key skills and competencies
Always remember the reason why interviewers ask you these questions.
They want to explore your past behaviour to predict your future performance should they hire you.
This means that their questions will not be random but in fact highly targeted to the information you have given them on your resume.
The great news is that nobody knows your past jobs and performance better than you do so it is easy for you to identify key areas that might be explored at interviews.
You know that they will be using your resume as a point of reference so this is a bit like getting site of an exam paper before the actual examination.
These are things such as teamwork, leadership, attention to detail, project planning, customer focus, interpersonal skills, conflict management, and flexibility.
Sit down and go through each position on your resume
Ask yourself these questions:
- What skills did/do I use to perform this role?
- What challenges have/do I face?
- How have I successfully overcome these challenges or obstacles?
- What was/is my greatest achievement in this role?
Make a rough list of your answers as you go along.
Step 2 – Identify key skills and competencies of the job description
Next, look at the job description for the role you are being interviewed for.
Take note of the key skills and personal characteristics they highlight.
Here’s an example below.
Looking at the above, these are areas they may be probe you on for this interview:
- Evidence of challenges overcome, main achievements and behaviour on projects specifically within large civil resource projects
- Ability to lead teams backed up by examples – plus how you have overcome any issues or conflicts
- Communication skills and liaising with multi-skilled teams
- Awareness of the specific KPI’s that determine progress
- Examples of your attitude towards safety
- Confirmation that you are happy to FIFO and how you have achieved work-life balance currently or in the past
Most job descriptions have sections such as the above and they are a great clue to which type of behavioural questions they may ask you.
Combine these areas with your previous notes based on your resume to produce a master list of things you have done and things you will be doing, if successful, in this next role.
You now have a list of likely areas they might explore at interview.
The next step is to prepare answers to these areas and the best way to do this is to use the STAR technique.
Step 3 – Use the STAR technique to formulate responses
There are four steps to preparing answers using the STAR technique: situation, task, action, and results.
Let’s take a look at each one in turn.
This involves describing the situation in which the event took place. The event could be anything from a specific project, a meeting, or the job as a whole.
This describes the task you were trying to, had to, or were asked to undertake. If there was a particular problem or issue you were trying to solve, describe that here.
This is where you explain what action you took to complete the task or solve the problem.
These should explain the result of your actions. For example, if your actions resulted in completing a task, resolving a conflict, or improving safety, explain this. You should focus on how your actions resulted in a success for the company.
Use this technique to prepare answers for all the areas you identified on your master list.
You don’t need to memorise each word for word but, in completing this task, you can go into the interview feeling confident about any probing questions that may be thrown at you.
Yes, this does take a bit of effort to prepare but it will definitely be worth it.
Step 4 – Practice your responses
This last step is crucial for your preparation. Yes, I know that ‘practice makes perfect’ is a worn-out phrase but it is so true when it comes to answering behavioural interview questions.
By now you will have all the information you need to give perfect responses but, to get this right, you need to know which example to give when you are put on the spot. If you choose the wrong one at your interview, you could come across as fake and robotic.
The answer? Do a dry run with this list of example questions.
Here we go.
Tell me about a time when you had to lead a project and your other team members weren’t contributing as you had envisaged. How did you resolve the situation?
What has been the most stressful situation you have ever found yourself in at work? How did you handle it?
Give an example of when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. Why was this? How did you handle it? How did the relationship progress?
Have you ever solved a problem in an unexpected way? Tell me about it.
Give me an example of a decision you made at work that you ultimately regretted. What happened?
Did you ever postpone making a decision? Why?
What is the most difficult decision you’ve ever had to make at work? How did you arrive at your decision? What was the result?
Tell me about a time when you had to adjust to a colleague’s working style in order to complete a project or achieve your objectives.
Have you been in a situation where you didn’t have enough work to do?
Tell me about a time when you failed to achieve what you set out to do. How did you deal with it?
Give me an example of how you’ve worked on a team.
What obstacles or difficulties have you ever faced in communicating your ideas to a manager?
Have you handled a difficult situation with a supervisor? How?
Have you ever dealt with company policy you weren’t in agreement with? How?
Describe a situation where workmates on a project disagreed with your ideas. What did you do?
Tell me about a time when you had to give a colleague constructive criticism. How did you go about giving it?
Describe a decision you made that was unpopular and how you handled implementing it.
Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.
When you worked on multiple projects, how did you prioritise?
Have you handled a difficult situation with a client or vendor? How?
Have you ever made a mistake? How did you handle it?
Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it.
Tell me about your greatest career achievement to date. Can you describe what steps led to the outcome?
Have you had to convince a team to work on a project they weren’t happy about? How did you do it?
What do you do if you disagree with your boss?
Have you gone above and beyond the call of duty? If so, how?
Describe a challenging project that you worked on. What was the biggest issue and what was the logic you applied to solve it?
What do you do when your schedule is interrupted? Give an example of how you handle it.
What do you do if you disagree with a co-worker?
Tell me about a time when you had to balance safety concerns against loyalty to a colleague.
Share an example of how you were able to motivate employees or co-workers.
Describe a project that you worked on, that you feel was important to your professional development.
There is no such thing as a completely right or wrong answer but there are a few key points you should keep in mind.
- Don’t rely on just a couple of examples
Always work on a range of anecdotes prior to your interviews for maximum preparation. If you are comfortable with one area, it is really tempting to put all your golden eggs in one basket but that is a big mistake.
Don’t just have a couple on say management style and teamwork, because they may focus on an area that you did not expect.
- Take your time
If you face a particularly difficult behavioural question, it is fine to pause or to take a deep breath before beginning to answer it.
In fact, it can work in your favour because they will appreciate you giving them a full, honest, thoughtful response.
- Stick to the STAR technique
It is so easy to ramble on or lose your way when giving answers in interviews but if you use this technique it will help keep you on track.
Don’t memorise responses word for word though because you will not sound genuine. Simply know a couple of points for each stage and use them when the appropriate time comes.
- Never display bitterness
You may have a good reason to be critical, but do it in a diplomatic way because otherwise, you can appear volatile and unprofessional.
Practice answers to questions based on conflict at work prior to your interview to ensure you don’t trip up on this one.
- Always remain positive
You may be asked to recall a situation or task that was problematic but don’t dwell on it for too long.
Introduce it, briefly give it context and then spend most of the answer on the solution
One last thought…
There is a really great side effect to this preparation
Every time you work through a scenario it will remind you of how capable you are, what you have achieved and, most importantly, why you deserve this opportunity.