behavioural interviews are about fitting into a company’s ethos
There will be slightly different questions compared to a traditional interview. Less like these:
- What does a typical day look like in your current role?
- What’s the biggest problem you’ve faced?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
And more like these:
- Can you share an example of how you made sure that you met a critical deadline?
- Can you tell me about a time you solved a challenging problem?
- Describe a time you used feedback to improve your performance.
In behavioural interviews, an employer will be trying to find out not only if you have the skills needed for the role, but if you can apply them successfully in challenging situations. Their questions aim to tease out specific examples from your career that demonstrate this. The theory is, the way you have acted in the past is the best way to predict how you will act in similar situations in the future.
Make sure you give STAR answers to behavioural interview questions
The good news is there’s a fairly simple way to respond to these questions, known as the STAR model. An interviewer will be looking for a specific situation you were in, a task that needed to be completed, the action you took and the result of those actions. So include these elements in your answer.
Once you’ve given your initial response, expect detailed follow-up questions on the example you have provided. These may explore how you took action, how you decided on your approach, how you interacted with others, how you felt and what you learned from the experience.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
The bad news is you won’t know what questions are going to be asked. So how can you prepare?
Reading the job description or advert carefully is important for identifying the skills the employer needs for the role. Sometimes they’re not clearly stated, but if you’re moving into a role similar to your current one you should have a good idea already. If you’re trying to move into a different field, make sure you’ve researched whether your skills are transferrable. Either way, it’s always a good idea to speak to people who’ve been successful in similar positions.
Once you’ve come up with a list of required skills, think about a couple of examples from your career that prove your expertise. Often the trickiest part of a behavioural interview is thinking about the right example to use on the spot, so identifying some beforehand will put you in a much better place. Go through each one in detail, breaking them down into situation, task, action and result and practice describing them, clearly and concisely, in this format.
Finally, as in all interviews, be honest. Your responses are meant to determine if there is a fit between your skills and the position. By using the right follow up questions, a skilled interviewer can determine if you are making things up, so dishonesty or overselling your skills can easily backfire. Nobody wants to hire someone they don’t trust.
There are no right or wrong answers and these questions aren’t meant to trick you. If the way you handle situations is not what the company is looking for, then the job may not be the right one for you.
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