The ultimate behavioural interview cheat sheet

By Liam Nuttall

Tim Gouw Bwki71ap Y8 Unsplash

​Behavioural-focussed interviews have become increasingly popular and for good reason; the logic behind them is that past behaviour predicts future behaviour. What your interviewer will be aiming to understand is how you would deal with situations that are likely to come up in the new role, based on specific examples of how you have handled similar challenges in your previous roles. These can be daunting and complex questions to tackle if you aren’t prepared, but stay tuned and you’ll be ready to impress!

What to expect?

Don’t stress about trying to cram every detail of your whole career to the forefront of your mind. The questions you can expect are going to be based on scenarios that are likely to arise specifically in the position that you are applying for. For example, if you are interviewing for a leadership role, you can safely anticipate questions such as “Tell us about a time you had to motivate your team to overcome an obstacle?”

Your ability to best predict these questions will be determined by how well you understand the job description. Study the job description and check out the company’s website to gain an understanding of what they’re looking for in terms of soft skills. Most companies will have a list of values they follow to ensure a positive working culture, typically outlined on their "About Us" section. This will be a good indication of the attributes they are looking for in a new team member. By viewing the attributes listed on the job description through the lens of these values, you should get a pretty solid understanding of what they're truly after.

If you're dealing with a recruitment consultant, make sure to ask them for any inside scoop or insight they might've gathered from their previous experiences dealing with this client.

How to prepare?

Now that you have an idea of what you may be asked, think back across your experiences and record any relevant challenges and achievements that may be useful examples of how you gainfully handled a situation. Be sure to vocally connect the dots between the key abilities that you utilised to overcome the task with what the role requires, and provide specifics. For example, if you are interviewing for a role that requires strong communication skills, think about the steps that you took to effectively articulate information, such as company-wide communications, regular status updates and reporting, presentations, etc. and why that was important.

How to answer?

Your interviewers will be looking to ascertain how you dealt with a particular situation, so it is important to answer insightfully and methodically to ensure your message is communicated loud and clear. For example, if you are asked about a that time you delivered a positive result to a client despite obstacles, a response such as “I deliver good results to clients all the time no matter what” isn’t going to cut it.

Popular for good reason, the STAR technique is a useful method to ensure that you clearly deliver your answers in a detailed way without going off on a tangent or getting distracted. The gist of it is:

S ituation- What was the situation you were in?

T ask- What tasks were required?

A ction- What actions did you take?

R esult- What was the result of your actions?

Time to Practise!

To ensure you’re prepared, have a friend or family member ask you questions that you think are likely to come up in the interview (I’ve included some common ones below). Have them ask these in no particular order, or even have them throw in some of their own. This will allow you to practise thinking about an example on the spot. It’s okay to take time to decide which scenario will best answer the question, but it’s important to have these up your sleeve beforehand. This is also a good way to get feedback on your delivery.

Common Behavioural Interview Questions

1. Tell me about a time you worked as part of a team to overcome an obstacle.

Tip: Speak positively of your contribution and how you collaborated, but also pay credit to the efforts of your team members.

2. Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with a co-worker.

Tip: Be honest with your answer and explain the steps and compromises that you took to resolve it.

3. Describe a time you worked effectively under pressure.

Tip: Don’t focus too much on the stress that the situation may have caused you, instead draw attention to the measures you underwent to deliver a successful outcome.

4. Give an example of a time you handled a difficult customer/client.

Tip: Don’t speak negatively of the customer/client, highlight how you were able to relieve the tension and deliver a good result.

5. Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it.

Tip: Communicate your motivation and how you proactively took it upon yourself to set the stepping stones to achieving it.

With the above in mind, you’ll be set to nail your behavioural interview! For more general interview tips, check out this article by my colleague, Sean Masters.