Behavioural Questions

April 17, 2018


Behavioural interviewing (also called situational interviewing) is a job interview focused on discovering how a candidate will act in a specific employment related situation. It focuses on experiences, behaviours, knowledge, skills and abilities that are job related. This approach is very popular in New Zealand and is based on the belief that how you responded to situations in the past will predict how you will behave in the future.

Preparing For a Behavioural Interview

Prepare by reading through the job description to see what competencies the employer is looking for. Below are some common competencies employers look for:

  • Problem solving
  • Decision making
  • Knowledge/Skills
  • Leadership
  • Team work
  • Initiative
  • Communication
  • Conflict resolution

Think of examples (stories and situations) that demonstrate these competencies. Like many new graduates, you may not have much experience in the paid work‐force when you begin your job search. However, your tertiary group projects provide excellent opportunities to demonstrate skills that employers are seeking, as do part time and voluntary work experiences that involve you dealing with people, organising things etc.

Examples of Behavioural Questions

Problem SolvingGive instances in which you anticipated problems and were able to influence a new direction
Have you ever been caught unaware by a problem or obstacle that you had not foreseen?
What happened?
Decision Making Discuss an important decision you have made regarding a task or project at work.
What factors influenced your decision? 
How have you gone about making important decisions?
Leadership Describe your leadership style and give an example of a situation when you successfully led a group.
Have you ever had difficulty getting others to accept your ideas? What was your approach?
Did it work?
Team Work Have you ever participated in a task group? What was your role? How did you contribute? 
When working on a team project have you ever had an experience where there was strong disagreement among team members? What did you do?
Initiative Give me examples of projects/tasks you started on your own.
Give an example of a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty.
CommunicationDescribe a situation when you were able to strengthen a relationship by communicating effectively. What made your communication effective?
Tell us about a time when you had to present complex information. How did you ensure that the other person understood?
Conflict resolution Describe a situation where you had a conflict with another individual, and how you dealt with it. What was the outcome? How do you feel about it? 
Have you ever had to settle conflict between two people on the job? What was the situation and what did you do?

Strategy for Answering Behavioural Questions

A strategy for preparing to answer behavioural questions is to us the STAR technique. Your responses need to be specific and detailed. Tell them about a particular situation that relates to the question, not a general one. Briefly tell them about the situation, what you did specifically, and the positive result or outcome. Your answer should contain these the following steps:

  • ST: The Situation you were in or Task you did
  • A: Action that you took
  • RResult of that action

Below is an example using the STAR technique:

Describe a situation where you've had to deal with a difficult person?

Situation / Task:

I was transferred to a new project because a member of another team was leaving the company and I had similar skills and knowledge as the person leaving the group. My new team leader exhibited hostility towards me and I found myself left out of vital communications and meetings.


After a few weeks, I was able to talk her into a one on one meeting. In our meeting I asked her to explain the key objectives for the team and the previous team member’s role in meeting those objectives. We then discussed goals that I could set to make sure I was able to serve as a quality replacement. In our discussion, we also identified a few underlying issues with management that she had been carrying around with her. After uncovering this, she was able to clearly define her situation and achieve an understanding with her supervisors.


In the end, the entire team morale improved, I was able to exceed my goals and the company benefited with increased profits from our team performance.


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