Job hunting

4 Tips for Acing Behavioural Interview Questions


by Shannon Barlow

over 3 years ago


Behavioural questions are now commonplace in interviews, but they can still have the power to make you freeze with fear.  If you dread the ‘Tell me about a time when…’ question and your mind goes blank when you try to think of examples, these tips can help you handle behavioural interviews with ease. Behavioural interview questions are designed to explore how you have responded to situations in the past.  The assumption is that your past behaviour is the best predictor for future behaviour.  The key here is that you choose a past experience that demonstrates a competency that can transfer to the new role.

1. It’s okay to live in the past

When I ask, 'Tell me about a time when you worked effectively under pressure,' I want you to describe a specific time you were under the pump and how you reacted, rather than a general statement on how you think you would handle working under pressure. Remember the acronym SAO to help structure your answer:

S=Situation – Set the context.  What was the specific situation? What were the pressures? A=Action– What actions did you take?  How did you respond to demands? O=Outcome– What was the result? Did you meet deadlines?

2. Be selfish

4 Tips for Acing Behavioural Interview QuestionsThis is your chance to showcase your abilities. Don’t waste it telling me about how your team/manager/company handled the situation – I’m interviewing you, not them!  Give enough detail on how you approached the situation that I can build a picture of how you might react to a similar situation in this role.

3. Don’t forget the 'O'!

Choose a story with a happy ending, and don’t forget to tell me about it!  Some people do a great job of explaining the situation and what actions they took but then don’t tell me how it ended up, or worse, remember too late that the outcome wasn't great.  Tell me about your success; I want to know that your behaviour led to positive results.

4. Channel the scout within – be prepared

If you go a bit ‘deer in headlights’ when you are put on the spot to think of a specific situation, give yourself a chance by having some examples in mind. Anticipate the types of behaviour or soft skills that may be explored in the interview.  The job advertisement is a good place to start.  If the ad lists influencing skills and strategic thinking as key attributes, make sure you have some examples you can talk about in which you have demonstrated these skills. Another way to ensure you are not left stumbling for an answer is to think of some of your major achievements.  Remember, I’m looking for evidence of your success, and by choosing a complex project that worked out well, that one example can be used to demonstrate a range of competencies.  For example, your big achievement of winning back a major customer could be used to answer questions on persistence, negotiation, communication and initiative. Give these tips a try, and let me know which techniques have helped you ace a behavioural interview.

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