How to answer behavioural interview questions

By Hannah Kingston

Friday October 2, 2020


Behavioural interview questions, also known as STAR questions or behaviour-based questions seek to find out how potential candidates have handled past situations, tasks and roles. These types of questions exist to ascertain how well suited they are to the role they are currently applying for.

Oftentimes the questions will start with phrasing like “Can you describe a time when..” or “Tell me how you have tackled [X challenge] in the past.”

Behavioural interview questions are essential for the person who is interviewing you because they help them to build up a profile in their minds of the type of person you are, how you tackle challenges, how you deal with conflict resolution, and what both motivates and drives you.

Here are some examples of behavioural interview questions:

  • Describe a project you are proud of and why
  • Describe a challenging time and what you did to succeed
  • Tell us about a time when you made a mistake or had to resolve some conflict
  • Can you describe some projects that you worked on and how they relate to the role you are applying to?
  • How do you deal with people you don’t like?
  • What motivates you at work?
  • What do you think makes you stand out from all of the other candidates?

No matter how much research you have completed on an organisation, you do not have experience working there, you might not yet understand the organisations broader goals, or what your personal KPIs will be, but you do have your skillset and experience to rely on. That is how you get and maintain a potential employer’s attention.

Behavioural interview questions can be challenging to answer sometimes because they may involve providing an anecdote, or needing to go into your memory bank and think of appropriate examples to provide your potential employer.

Part of effectively preparing for a job interview is forecasting that these types of questions are going to come up. You need to think ahead to get an idea of which parts of your experience and skills best relate to the organisation you are applying for, otherwise, you could end up not giving the best example, or lead off into a tangent.

Write down all of the examples you can think of and rehearse them in your mind and out loud. Keep a structure to what you will be saying to the hiring manager.

The STAR method is a good tool for adding structure to your answers. It helps you to describe your experiences in a compelling yet simple way. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result.

Situation: Describe the situation you have been asked about in 5-10 sentences whether it’s an event, project or challenge.

Task: Describe your assignments, roles and responsibilities for the task.

Action: Relay how you managed the project, resolved the conflict or performed the task.

Result: Communicate 2-3 key data points to the interviewer.

Though behavioural interview questions take the most time to prepare for, and can sometimes seem unrelated to the role, they help the interviewer to build the evidence on why you would be a good candidate, so make it easy for them, and clearly and concisely showcase your talents.

If you can easily communicate concrete examples of successes, failures, challenges, how you managed it and the resulting outcomes, you are giving yourself the best chance of nailing that interview.

Keep reading: What is a personal brand and how do you build one?

Keep reading: Common interview questions and how to tackle them 


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