How to excel in behavioural interviews

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Behavioural interviewing is a technique used by employers to identify suitable candidates for roles and often feel quite different from the traditional interview you are used to.

This type of interviewing is based on the assumption that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. You will be asked to provide examples of a past situation or exercise that you have been involved in, focusing on the core competencies that are needed to be successful in the role.

A strong answer will include the background information about the event that took place, the action taken by you in the situation and the outcome. This will include knowledge, skills, abilities as well as your personal characteristics and style.

Top tips to succeed in behavioural interviews:

Refer to different experiences - Make sure you don't refer to the same experience in order to answer all questions. You will need to think carefully about the answers you give, making sure that your example relates to the question asked, clearly talking about what you did, rather than what the team did as a whole.

If you are asked to illustrate a situation that you were in or a task that you needed to complete, give a detailed description of what you have done in the past. 

Give specific examples - If you are asked to illustrate a situation that you were in or a task that you needed to complete, give a detailed description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event. 

Prepare a range of detailed examples - The interviewer will examine your examples in more detail asking a series of probing questions. As a result, you should use good, solid examples, within which you are able to recall as much detail as possible about your role and what you did. Search your memory for stories that illustrate your skills and successes. Think back over your work or other type of experiences, outside of work activities, and personal achievements and ask yourself, "When did I demonstrate team work/time management skills etc?" 

Prepare examples from your personal life - Your personal experiences are just as valuable as your professional life to convey your personal skills and attitude (although the bulk of examples should be professional). This may give the interviewer an insight into your personal interests, which can help determine cultural fit.

Take time to think about the core competencies - Try to identify what the core competencies (behaviour, attitude or skill) are likely to be - consider the job description and pull out the requirements of the role, i.e. those competencies that you are expected to have prior to starting in the position. If you do not have a job description, ask for one prior to the interview.

Ten examples of behavioural interview questions

  1. Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.
  2. How do you handle a challenge? Give an example.
  3. Have you ever made a mistake? How did you handle it?
  4. Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it.
  5. Describe the last time you missed a deadline and why?
  6. Give an example of when you had to support others in the team?
  7. Talk about a time when you were complimented for helping a client beyond the call of duty?
  8. Give a recent example of when you came up with a different solution to a problem?
  9. Describe an occasion when you took responsibility for making a key decision?
  10. Give an example of a time when you were unfairly criticised?

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For more career advice please contact:

Nic Sephton-Poultney, Country Manager (South Africa)
+27 (0) 11 881 2414

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