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Tackling behavioural questions at interview

Employers use many styles of questions when interviewing candidates. One of the most common is the behavioural question.

What are behavioural questions? Why are they important? How do you prepare for them?

This expert article tackles these and other topics, to help you be super ready when you walk in the door for that all-important interview.

What are behavioural questions?

As the name suggests, these questions are designed to assess your behaviours, more than your education or hard skills. They help employers paint a full picture of who you are.

Why are they important?

Employers use behavioural questions to test how you’ve performed in the past, which is often an indicator of how you’ll perform in future. They use them to form a view of your level of competency and how you work through problems and/or challenging situations. Employers also rely on behavioural questions to assess if you’re a great fit for the job, team and company culture.

What are examples of behavioural topics?

  1. Describe a time you faced a stressful situation and how you overcame it.
  2. Describe a situation when you had to think on your feet to make an important decision.
  3. Provide an example of when you motivated others and how this led to a positive outcome.
  4. Provide an example of a goal you set and how you reached it.
  5. Describe a situation where you knew your boss was wrong and how you handled it.
  6. Provide an example of when you had to go above normal duties to get a job done.
  7. Provide an example of a problem or conflict you had with a colleague and how you resolved it.?
  8. Describe a time when you weren’t performing at work and what you did about it.
  9. Detail a time when you didn’t meet a deadline and what you did about it.
  10. Discuss a setback you’ve faced in the last 12 months and how you overcame it.

How do I prepare to answer behavioural questions?

If you want to be a STAR at interview, you need to learn the ‘STAR interview method’.

STAR stands for:

  • Situation—the challenge and the situation you found yourself in.
  • Task—what you had to achieve.
  • Action—the alternatives you considered and what you did.
  • Results—the outcomes, what you achieved and what you learned.

Choose two or three scenarios and practice your answers. Remember to keep to the point and avoid rambling.

Discover how to approach behavioural questions using the STAR technique in this expert article, which also provides tips and an example to guide you.

How do I know what behavioural questions I’ll be asked?

It’s impossible to know for certain what behavioural questions you’ll be asked at interview, but by preparing and practising you should be able to respond to any question using the STAR method. If you’re asked a question and haven’t experienced the situation in the workplace, use a personal example.

Prepare by:

1. Researching what’s important

  • Study the job description to scope what’s important.
  • Research the company to determine the behavioural-type questions they’ll likely ask.

2. Developing a list of competencies, attributes and skills

  • List what the company is looking for, including competencies like time management, leadership, attention to detail and/or creativity.
  • If you’re working with a recruiter, ask them to help you pinpoint what the employer wants from the role.

3. Creating a list of your past experiences

  • Choose at least three STAR stories you can use to illustrate past experiences.
  • Be honest and don’t gloss over challenging situations.

What shouldn’t I say when responding to a behavioural question?

Avoid being negative about your current or previous employers or colleagues. Never blame others. So, for example, don’t say a project got behind schedule because your team members didn’t do their job. Instead, say something like, ‘For reasons beyond my control, I was faced with a project that was behind schedule. To solve the problem I did a, b and c.’

Want to learn more about behavioural questions at interview?

Read Resume Success Secrets: How To Write A Resume That Gets The Job! This book, with loads of bonus interview tips, was written by our Chief Executive Officer, Kate Prior, to help jobseekers win their dream positions. It shot to #1 on Amazon soon after its release.

Buy your copy here.

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