As a professional resume writer and communications expert, I’ve got doubts about the scientific validity of behavioural job interview questions but they’re popular and if you’re in the job market, you’ll cop them. Here’s a good insight on behavioural interview questions from the Robert Half recruitment agency.
Behavioural interview questions assume that past behaviour is the best indication of your future behaviour. In asking detailed questions about specific tasks you undertook or experiences you had in a real life setting in prior roles, the employer will try 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…” or “Give me an example of…”, it’s likely the recruiter is asking you a behavioural interview question.
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).
“Tell me about a time when you were faced with a stressful situation and how you handled it.”
Context: “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: “By 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, 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 we were appointed another new project worth $1 million to the business.”
Three tips to answering behavioural interview questions effectively:
- Do your research. Find out what skills and behaviours the employer is looking for, and mine your own CV to find examples that you think will demonstrate a good match for the role.
- Practise the CAR method out loud in advance. If you remind yourself of the acronym while telling your story, you’ll stay on point.
- Don’t keep referring to the same experience. Arrive at an interview armed with a few different examples that you can adapt according to the different questions asked.
More behavioural interview questions
Communication: Have you ever had to get buy-in from a resistant audience to a project or idea? Tell me how you approached it. Or, tell me about a time when you had to give a team member constructive criticism. How did you go about giving it?
Achievements: Tell me about your greatest career achievement to date. Can you describe what steps led to the outcome? Or, describe a project that you worked on, that led to your professional development.
Leadership: Tell me about a time when you had to lead a project and your other team members weren’t contributing. How did you tackle the situation? Or, describe a time when a team member was under-performing. What did you do?
Analysis: Tell me about a time when you had to analyse information to solve a problem. How did you go about doing it, and what was the result? Or, describe a project that you worked on where you had to take steps to solve a problem. What was the problem and what was the logic you applied to solve it?
Teamwork: Describe a situation where you had to make an unpopular decision. How did you go about communicating it to your team? Or, give me an example where you’ve had to work with someone who you didn’t get along with. How did you approach and resolve the situation?