Behavioural interview questions assume past behaviour is the best indication of what future behaviour will be like.
In asking detailed questions about specific tasks you undertook or experiences you had in a real life setting in prior roles, the employer tries to ascertain how you may react in similar situations in the role you are interviewing for.
When you hear the words: “Tell me about a time when…” it’s highly likely that the hiring manager is asking you a behavioural interview question. Other variations include:
“Describe a time when…”
“Give me an example of…”
“Have you ever…?”
How to answer behavioural questions
The CAR principle gives you a structured way to respond to the interviewer, by giving Context (describe the background and situation that you were in), Action (describe what action or steps you took) and Result (describe the professional outcomes you achieved).
The STAR method provides a similar structure, and stands for Situation or Task (describe the specific event or task you were given), Action (describe what steps you took) and Result (describe the professional outcomes you delivered to the business). Here is an example:
“Tell me about a time when you were faced with a stressful situation and how you handled it.”
Context (also known as Situation or Task): I was leading a special project team. Our client shifted the deadline forward by two weeks. This had a significant impact on our suppliers. Some could deliver to the new deadline, but others couldn’t.
Action: Leveraging the strong relationship that I had developed with my client already, I took the time to understand what was driving him to change the deadline. Once I understood the detail as to why it needed to be shifted, I realised that I could deliver the project to the client in phases – thus satisfying his needs, and keeping the suppliers happy. I developed a phased delivery plan and proposed this to the client.
Result: The client accepted the phased schedule, and we delivered the project on time. The client was very satisfied and as a result we were appointed another new project worth $1 million to the business.”
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