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How to answer behavioural job interview questions

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Behavioural questions are asked to gain an understanding on how you would be likely to handle a range of real-world challenges based on your previous behaviour facing a similar circumstance. Whereas situational questions look at how you would approach certain scenarios, and competency-based questions assess you have the necessary skills required for the role, behavioural questions attempt to ascertain if you have the character traits the interviewer is looking for. These questions are particularly important for an employer to understand how you would fit within in an existing team.

Such questions tend to be based on the principle that a candidate’s past behaviour is the best predictor of their future behaviour. These questions can touch on a range of areas such as your ability to work as part of a team, client-facing skills, your adaptability, time management skills and more.

Example behavioural interview question #1:

“Give me an example of something you tried in your job that didn’t work. How did you learn from it?”

  • How to answer: For some roles a vital part of your job is being creative. However having great creativity can also mean lost more ideas but not all of your ideas will necessarily work. Realising this and not being disheartened by this, may be important for an employer to understand. When the interviewer asks this question, they will therefore wish to see evidence of your willingness to learn from what did and didn’t work, while nonetheless learning from your experiences.
  • Example of a good answer: “Working in customer service for a community health club, we had the idea of offering one-off month-long memberships. However, not enough people who took up these memberships then purchased a longer-term membership for it to be cost-effective for the business. We therefore switched to making our shortest contracts six months long, and found that this did a better job of keeping the health club in profitability.”

Typical behavioural interview question #2:

“Tell me about a time you knew you were right, but still had to follow directions or guidelines.”

  • How to answer: The best response to this question is one that shows you are a responsible team player who – even if you disagree with a decision – nonetheless does what needs to be done, while remaining motivated and helping to keep colleagues motivated as well.
  • Example of a good answer: “The deadline for sign off on a whitepaper was looming, so I worked with my other team members to finalise and quantify the market research we’d agreed upon. I did have concerns, however, as to the relevance of the date range used in our research, and so raised this at a team meeting. We were able to make some good changes to the status quo to help to prevent the same situation arising again, and decided to conduct similar research in the future over a longer period of time, to ensure more effective results

If you are looking for further advice on interview preparation and job hunting take a look at more career advice here