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Preparing for behavioural interviews


Behavioural interviews focus on getting candidates to answer questions with specific examples of past experiences rather than hypotheticals. The root of this is the belief that past behaviour is a predictor for future behaviour. In other words, if there is a problem you resolved in a certain way before; you will likely repeat that behaviour again should a similar problem arise.

Aren’t all interviews behavioural?

While most interviews will contain some behavioural questions; in this type of interview, they will be the sole focus. These questions are recognizable because they often start with “Give me an example of…” or “Tell me about a time when…” and require candidates to give a detailed response of both the situation and the actions they took.

HR, hiring managers, and recruiters use behavioural interviews to get past ‘canned’ answers. They will have identified the skills that are essential for their open role, and will want to learn whether a candidate possesses the right qualities.

For example, in a non-behavioural interview you may be asked “How do you work in a team environment?” While in behavioural interviews you will likely be asked more specifically “Tell me about a time when you had members of your team fighting. What did you do to get them to work together? What was the outcome?” The first question allows for a well thought out in advance answer that ticks all the boxes. The other reveals their ability to manage a team’s work in real life. Behavioural interviews allow the interviewer an opportunity to probe more into specific areas to get an idea of how the candidate will actually respond in a given situation.

Behavioural interviews allow your personality to shine

Although behavioural questions are always answered factually, they allow your personality to show. As the interview asks more probing questions, they will find out about your team work, composure under stress, problem solving skills, ability to realise when you made a mistake and how you move on from that mistake.

These details provide more information about your potential cultural fit with the company than you realise. Hiring managers are not only looking for people with great skills, but they are also looking for the ability to fit in with the team they already have.

Rules to follow in behavioral interviews

As with every interview, it is always important to create a good impression. Here are a few rules that will serve you well in all behaviour interviews.

1. Wait patiently for the interviewer to complete their question before you answer. Don’t assume you know what they will ask before they finish speaking. Pay attention. Often the questions asked will have a couple of parts to them. You want to make sure you answer the entire question, not just part of it.

2. Take your time to answer. Your interviewer knows that you will be giving very specific details of a situation you have been a part of. You will need to gather all the pieces of information and present them in a clear, precise, logical format. Give yourself a couple of seconds to gather your thoughts before you answer.

3. Pay attention to your body language. Always look at your interviewer when you answer. Don’t stare unblinking, but maintain good eye contact while looking away occasionally. Try not to fidget or show your nerves and stress. If you need to, place one hand over the other on your lap, and allow your bottom thumb enough space to tap against your leg. No one can see you tapping and it can help calm your nervous ticks.

4. Never get in an argument with your interviewer. They may ask you a provocative question, but you will want to maintain an atmosphere of a relaxed conversation.

5. If you don’t hear a question, simply ask for it to be repeated. If a question is ambiguous, ask for clarification on whether they meant A or B. Don’t allow yourself to become flustered. There is nothing wrong with making sure you understand a question fully before you answer.

6. Don’t use the same experience to answer every question. You will want to provide examples of a variety of scenarios. This will demonstrate the breadth of your abilities and skills, as well as the difficulties you have come up against in past roles.

7. Answer with the STAR technique.

The STAR Technique

The STAR technique is a very effective method of structuring your answers in behavioural interviews. It helps you touch all relevant information in a clear concise manner while making sure you don’t miss any details.

Situation – Describe a problem you faced and the circumstances surrounding the situation. Be as specific as possible. Stay factual and don’t let your emotions cloud your answer.
Example: “We needed to make a project presentation to the CEO, and the lead on the presentation was stuck on a train and wouldn’t make it in time.”

Task – Explain what you needed to do, why, and any challenges involved.
Example: “As the most senior member of the team it fell to me to take the lead on the presentation, so that we didn’t waste this opportunity and create a bad impression.”

Action – Describe the actions you took to resolve it.
Example: “I contacted another member of the team that could help in a pinch. Susan rushed to meet with us. As she was close by, we had enough time to reorganise our presentation and make sure the most informed team member was speaking on that section.”

Results – Explain what happened because of your efforts.
Example: “We explained the situation briefly before our presentation. This allowed other member of the team to step up and assist as we went through the presentation. Thought the final presentation wasn’t as polished as we would have liked, it still allowed us to demonstrate our team work and collaboration abilities. As a result, we won the project bid.”

Final thoughts

Hiring decisions shouldn’t be based solely on a good first impression. They should be based on experience relevant to the position and the company’s work environment. Succeeding in behavioural interviews is a better guarantee that you truly fit the position they are hiring you for.

Energy Resourcing often facilitates behavioural interviews for our clients and candidates. As we recruit for technical positions, we understand that a “one size fits all” interview mentality is unrealistic, and that behavioural interviews can assure a proper placement. Be it telephone interviews, video interviews, panel interviews, behavioural interviews or case interviews – we have you covered!

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