Behavioural interview questions are questions posed in a job interview that ask how you would act in potential situations.
They focus on how you handle challenges and stress, how you work in a team, and your leadership capabilities.
Hiring managers use behavioural interview questions to see how your past experiences have made you a good candidate for the job. By hearing your answers to behavioural interview questions, hiring managers hope to understand how you approach work and what skills and abilities you possess.
In this guide we will discuss:
Behavioural interview questions are questions that ask you to describe how you would react to a set of circumstances. They may ask for real examples from past work experience, or they may pose hypothetical situations. When you answer a behavioural interview question, you will have to describe the appropriate behaviour for the situation.
Hiring managers use behavioural interview questions to determine:
When they ask a behavioural question, the hiring manager's goal is to go beyond your resume and learn more about you as a person. They want to know how you've handled specific situations in the past and how you will work in the future.
Behavioural interview questions present you with an excellent opportunity to impress potential employers. While you can certainly use your replies to talk about accomplishments and achievements, they're a great chance to highlight your soft skills. The best answers will demonstrate your teamworking skills, self-awareness, leadership, and your desire to be a great employee and colleague.
The best way to answer behavioural interview questions is by using the STAR method.
STAR is an acronym of Situation, Task Action, Result. This method provides a way to structure your answers to behavioural questions so that your answer is focused, concise, and impactful.
When responding to a behavioural question, you can answer using this formula:
Situation: Describe the circumstance or situation you found yourself in Task: Describe your goals or responsibilities in the situation Action: Explain in detail the steps you took to resolve the situation Result: Give the outcomes of your actions
The best way to answer a behavioural interview questions is to tell a story. Unfortunately, not everyone is a natural storyteller, and even those who are can struggle to stay composed during high-pressure situations like a job interview. The STAR method is a well-proven way to keep your answers on-topic and impressive.
Providing strong answers to behavioural interview questions is essential to a successful interview. Here are a few things you can do to ensure you make a positive impression.
Before your interview, look for lists of behavioural interview questions (such as the lists below) and brainstorm ideas for answering each of them. You can’t predict exactly which ones will be asked in your upcoming interview, so you should have possible answers prepared for as many as possible. You may even be able to find example answers to common behavioural interview questions to help you come up with your own.
Look back on your work experience and remember situations where you showed initiative, leadership, teamwork, people management, problem-solving, and other important workplace qualities. Write down some of these examples, and think about how you would tell those stories in an interview context. You can even practice your answers out loud.
Make sure each story has a defined start, middle and end. Use the STAR method described above to structure each story, with the Situation and Task as the start, Action as the middle, and Result as the end. This formula will help you come up with answers that make an impact.
When a hiring manager asks you a behavioural interview question, it’s okay to pause to consider your answer. You don't need to leap in and answer straight away with a story that doesn’t quite fit the question. Take a moment to compose yourself and ensure that your answer is perfect.
It’s important to keep your interview answers positive and constructive.
The nature of behavioural interview questions will require you to describe some problems or conflicts in the workplace. When telling your story, keep your descriptions of the problem brief so you can focus on the solutions. Your answer shouldn’t include complaining about past colleagues or discrediting a former employer. Keep your response positive and use it to highlight your qualities as a candidate.
Further, when recalling past challenges, don't include situations where you made catastrophic errors in judgement or failed in an easily avoidable way. While there is nothing wrong with taking responsibility for your mistakes, any mistakes you admit to in a job interview should be relatable growth opportunities. Any error that shows a lack of character, or cost a previous employer a lot of money, is best not mentioned.
Q: Describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult co-worker. What was the conflict and what did you do to resolve it?
Situation: I worked for a large multinational bank for a few years, and we had a very diverse mix of employees. One of my fellow supervisors was an experienced bank manager with a very blunt communication style.
When he gave critical feedback to the team, I could see that it left many of them hurt and discouraged. One of the most talented staff members confided in me that they were going to leave.
Task: I knew losing this member of staff would be a mistake. I understood that I had to speak to this manager. However, it was a sensitive situation because I didn't want to create conflict between me and the manager.
Action: I asked him to meet me for lunch because we had some other work business to discuss. Near the end of our break, I mentioned, without naming names, that some staff members were feeling discouraged by what they felt was excessive criticism. I told him that I tended to mix in some encouragement alongside criticism to keep my staff feeling confident.
Result: He was receptive to my suggestion and explained that his approach was common in his last workplace. He promised he would work on his communication style, and we retained the talented staff member who was going to leave.
Q: Have you ever had to step up, take control and lead a team? What happened?
In my last position, my manager was involved in a serious car accident and had to take leave for a few weeks. The company director asked if I would be able to take their position in their absence.
I had done some managerial electives in college, and I knew our business well. I wanted to progress my career, so while this opportunity came a little early, I knew that I had to say yes.
The very first thing that I did was speak to another manager in the organization. I asked them for some guidance and support during this transition, which they were happy to provide.
Secondly, I gathered my team and explained the situation. I admitted that this would be a new experience for me but told the team to be open with me if I wasn't getting things right.
While those few weeks were tough, I gained a lot from them. As a team, we met our deadlines and my manager and the director were happy with my performance. As a result, they offered to pay for project management classes and set me on a managerial track. Later, when my manager took a job at another firm, I successfully applied for her position.
Q: Tell me about a time when your integrity was tested at work.
I had gotten my first start at a local newspaper and had become friendly with the editor. He was a fairly volatile character when under pressure but generally quite reasonable. However, one day he was verbally abusive to one of my colleagues in front of me.
When management heard about the complaint, they asked HR to investigate. The editor approached me after work and asked me to lie about what he said. He said if I helped him, he would make my life very easy, but if I did not, things would be different.
While I was eager to accelerate my career, I considered this a step too far. I told the editor I wouldn't lie for him, and he informed me that I would regret it. When I spoke to HR, I informed them about what he'd said to my co-worker.
I was sure I'd made the right choice, even if it might cause me a few issues at work. As it turned out, this wasn't the first type of complaint the editor had received at that paper. He was let go soon after, so I never had cause to regret my decision.
Q: Have you ever encountered a complex problem? How did you solve it?
In my job as an event organizer, we ran an annual conference for a cybersecurity company. These were important events for generating leads and sales; however, attendance had dropped by around 15% in recent years.
As we planned the next event, I understood that we had to increase attendance.
I performed a lot of research on the events and looked at why there was a drop in regular and new clients. I sent some emails and questionnaires and conducted a few one-to-one interviews.
We asked past attendees what sort of speakers or topics they wanted to hear about and passed all this information to our event team. Further, we amped up our social media and networking presence to ensure that interested parties would hear about the event.
As a result of increased marketing and our audience research, the next event was a great success. We saw a 30% increase in attendees, which significantly boosted sales and revenue.
Q: We've all dealt with demanding clients from time to time. Tell me about your most challenging situation with a client and how you solved it satisfactorily.
In my current position as a customer service representative, we have to deal with some irate customers.
On one occasion, a customer came into our store very upset and angry. He was demanding a full return for a product. However, store policy only allows an exchange or store credit.
My first step was to stay calm and de-escalate the situation. I listened to the customer intently and emphasized with his situation. I told him that while we couldn't issue a full refund, I was there to support him and would help him find a similar product.
The customer calmed down and was really grateful for my assistance. I helped him find a product that would work for him, and he apologized and expressed his thanks before leaving.
Q: How do you handle stress in the workplace? Describe a time that you overcame a stressful situation and achieved a successful outcome.
In my current position, my manager asked me to head up a team to deliver a sales pitch to a critical prospect.
I was delighted to be given the opportunity, but the catch was that the sales meeting was set for one week’s time. Management informed me that this was a significant deal for them, which could bring in $2m in revenue each year. While the time frame was very tight, I understood that this was a chance for me to make a good impression.
I pulled together a team of experienced and talented colleagues. Together we outlined what we needed to do and agreed on the milestones we would need to achieve to meet the deadline. From there, I delegated work according to people's experience and specialties.
With my team clear about what I needed from them and how important this contract was to our business, we set about getting the pitch ready. The short-time frame involved a lot of staying late at the office, coffee, and a few pizza boxes. It also caused me a few sleepless nights.
When the big day came, it went incredibly well. We landed the deal, and management was absolutely delighted. It was a real case of a team pulling together, going the extra mile, and making vital individual contributions.
Community Success Manager & CV Writing Expert
Ben is a writer, customer success manager and CV writing expert with over 5 years of experience helping job-seekers create their best careers. He believes in the importance of a great resume summary and the power of coffee.
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