How to answer behavioural Questions in an Interview

The interview process requires preparation in order for it to be successful. Especially if you’re a new grad or still early in your career. Knowing where to start and what to focus on is essential.

Recruiters love to ask behavioural questions when conducting an interview. You’ll recognise these questions because they usually start with “Tell me about a time…” or, “Describe a moment when…”. It’s important to understand what to do when you’re confronted with these questions. In a behavioural interview, the employer may say, “Tell me about a past experience where you had to multitask at work”, or, “Could you give me an example of a conflict you had with an employee, and how you resolved it?”.

Employers who use this method of interviewing are trying to find some evidence that proves the candidate has the mandatory skills and abilities required for the job. The purpose of a behavioural interview question is that past behaviour is an indicator of future behaviour. Therefore, it is a good idea to give your potential employer an idea of how you would approach a situation and how you would resolve it if you were to be hired.

What questions you could expect to be asked:

Interviewers may ask a range of behavioural questions. Some examples of these questions could be, “Provide us with examples of how you were able to motivate an underperforming staff member to extend productivity in the workplace?” and “Describe a time in the past where you implemented a new, but successful program?”.

Recruiters are looking for a detailed explanation of a story from your past experiences. They want to know exactly what the experience was, how you approached it and how you dealt with it.

How to prepare:

It’s near impossible to anticipate all possible questions you could be asked before an interview. They are likely to be specific to the job that you are applying for. However, by carefully researching the company, as well as reviewing lists of common behavioural questions, you can prepare for the most likely asked questions.

A good idea would also be to contact any professionals in the same field, and conduct an informational interview in order to get input regarding the preferred skills, knowledge bases and personal qualities of a successful employee in that type of work.

Once you have a good sense of the type of questions they may ask you, the next step would be to gather some examples from past experiences that have helped you to develop the skills and qualities needed for that job. Start by creating 8 – 10 essential assets that make you a strong candidate for your intended job. For each asset, think of an experience that helped you use that strength to add value to a situation. You may use stories from your past roles as a student, intern or employee.

How to answer behavioural questions in an interview:

When preparing for answers for the behavioural interview questions, a good practice would be to use the STAR response method. The STAR method is a four-step technique to answering questions about past experiences in the workplace. When answering an interview question, the aim is to provide detail in an organised succinct way. The STAR method provides a framework or simple checklist in your mind. It helps to ensure that you don’t leave essential points out. It also aids in keeping you focused on what’s important.

S – Situation: Describe the situation and try to set the scene. Explain the place of work and the task you were given.

T – Task: Explain the issue or conflict you were presented with.

A – Action: Describe the action you took to solve the issue or conflict. This should introduce the essential asset you would like to illustrate.

R – Result: Narrate the results your action generated. Explain how you managed to solve the problem and improve the company in some way.

An example of a behavioural interview question and answer using the STAR method could be as follows:

Interviewer: “Tell me about a time that you used your organisational skills to improve a situation at work.”

You: “When I took on the job as an assistant at Marketing Solutions, I soon learned that there was no easily accessible system for retrieving information on past campaigns. Each of the five consultants had their own computer files. I suggested to the director that we set up a shared online filing system with past campaign materials that would be accessed by all staff. I interviewed each of the staff to get input about how to categorise the files and proposed a system that was implemented. The system was a success; it is still in place four years later. My supervisor mentioned this accomplishment as one of the reasons for my raise at my recent performance review.”

A few tips to keep in mind when answering questions:

There are a few things you need to consider when answering the questions. These things could let you down if you aren’t careful:

1. You may feel the urge to exaggerate your stories to make them sound better or more exciting to impress your recruiter. Resist that urge! The truth always has a way of coming out. You may get confused and mix the story up which throws red flags, or maybe the interviewer knows someone who could verify the facts. Honesty is the best policy.

2. Keep the story short and to the point. Don’t drag it out and add details that aren’t relevant or don’t demonstrate your ability to do the job. It’s easy to get off track and overshare. Remember to share details but keep it concise.

The only thing left to do is practice! Create a few sample interview questions and practice creating your STAR responses. Continue until you are comfortable with your delivery, then get out and ace that interview!


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