The Behavioural Interview - Are you Prepared?

Posted by Amanda Wencel on Monday, November 7th, 2016

Behavioural interviewing is becoming the more preferred and utilized method for interviewing in organizations today.  Behavioural interviews have become popular because of a strong belief that past performance can predict future success in similar situations.  The interviewer determines behaviours, knowledge, skills and abilities for the job and then creates behavioural-based questions to uncover the candidates profile in the relevant areas.  “Behavioral interviewing, in fact, is said to be 55 percent predictive of future on-the-job behavior, while traditional interviewing is only 10 percent predictive.”

A behavioural-based question often starts with:
“Give me a specific example….”
“Describe a situation where….”
“Tell me about a time when…”

There are many ways to tackle preparing for a behavioural interview, but the one way that I often suggest to my clients is to identify 5-6 skills that the company is looking for as posted in the job description that you applied to prior to receiving an interview.  Then, for each of those skills, come up with examples from your experience that demonstrate how you utilized the desired skill in the past.

You can write out your examples in a storyline format using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result).  Writing out these “stories” and practicing them ahead of time, allows you to recall your memories easier and link them to specific questions, based on the skill/trait asked for.

a) Situation – give a specific example of an event – a moment in time – where you utilized the skill in question.  This situation can be from a previous job, volunteer work or non-work experience, however try to make it as recent and relevant as possible.

b) Task – explain the task that you had to complete, highlighting any challenges or constraints.

c) Action – describe what you did in the particular situation you are talking about.

d) Results – What was the result?  How did the event end?  What did you accomplish?

You need to paint a picture of the situation so it will stand out in the interviewer’s mind.  Here is an example:

Question: Give me a specific example where you were asked to lead a team.  What was the outcome?


(Situation) “A relevant example was at my last company, where I was initially a software developer in a team of 6 developing a new finance module for our core accounting product.”

(Task) “The project was critical as launch dates had been set with a lot of sales and marketing investment riding on the product being ready. However, the project fell behind schedule when our team leader unfortunately became ill and had to leave.  Since I had led past teams with success, I was asked to step in as the lead on this project."

(Action) "By using my technical analysis skills, I spotted a few small mistakes made in the initial coding that were causing the sporadic errors, and slowing us down. I then negotiated with our product director a small bonus incentive for the team, and budget for two pizza evenings, so we could pull a couple of late night shifts to correct the coding and catch up with the critical project landmarks."

(Result) "The software was delivered on time with a better than target fault tolerance, and was seen as a great success as the additional project cost was minimal compared to the costs of delaying the launch. The team was delighted with the extra bonus and I have now been officially promoted to team leader as a result, until my co-worker is able to return to his position."

The answer given here identifies a few key traits:
• The person showed a track record in leading teams with success.
• The person had strong attention to detail and accuracy, and was able to find a problem/solution.
• The person was able to work with his superiors to come up with a plan.
• The person received acceptance within his/her team, which shows an ability to get along with others.
• The person demonstrated that they are willing to take on tasks outside of their job description when the team is in need.

There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to behavioural interviewing.  The interviewer is trying to decipher how you behaved in the past with regards to being put into certain circumstances.  The more information you can give that shows your use of the skills they are seeking, and your ability to solve problems, the better chance of them seeing a fit between your experience/abilities and the position at hand. 

For behavioural-based questions that you can practice prior to an interview, or more information on the STAR interview technique, try these websites:

In my next blog about interviewing for this series, I will finish up by discussing some general interview tips and provide information on what to do after the interview.

Stay tuned on my business Facebook and LinkedIn!



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