How To Prepare for a Behavioural Interview in 5 Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A behavioural interview is a meeting that employers host to determine the professional experiences of a job candidate. Employers may conduct behavioural job interviews or merely ask behavioural questions in a normal job interview, depending on their aims. If you're preparing for an interview, it's helpful to plan your answers to a variety of potential conduct-related questions. In this article, we discuss what a behavioural interview is, explore how to prepare for one, provide tips for success and offer example questions and answers that may help guide you in your efforts.

What is a behavioural interview?

A behavioural interview is a way to assess a job candidate's past actions. Employers use this technique to learn and evaluate how a candidate has reacted to certain situations and approached problems. While the structure of the interview is normal, the questions employers ask can differ from regular job interviews. Specifically, instead of just asking about credentials and personality traits, they focus on previous conduct and performance. This helps them measure which candidates have practised the skills and talents necessary for the job position. It also allows candidates to express the ways they've taken initiative and achieved goals.

Behavioural job interviews also differ slightly from situational interviews. In situational interviews, employers ask hypothetical questions to gauge how candidates think and test how prepared they are. For example, employers might say, “How would you react if you were under a lot of pressure at work?” In contrast, employers in behavioural job interviews ask about events that have actually occurred. They want to see evidence of how an employee has used their skills to accomplish tasks. So, they might instead ask a question like, “Describe a time you were under a lot of pressure at work. How did you react?

How to prepare for a behavioural interview

By preparing for a behavioural job interview, you can enter it with enthusiasm and confidence. Here are five steps on how to do so:

1. Read the job description carefully

Study the job description closely and take notes on the key skills, responsibilities and qualifications for the role. Write or type each component on a document and then record an example of how you fulfil it. For example, if the job specifications for a writing role include educational training in writing, work experience in research, leadership skills, communication skills and attention to detail, here's what your list might look like:

  • Educational training in writing: As an English major, I have extensive experience in composing compelling messages. One of my favourite courses was on Medieval Literature, and in it I wrote a 20 page paper on early medieval romance and folk tales.

  • Work experience in research: My internship as a grant writer prepared me with strong research and analytical skills. In that role, I found and studied over 50 grant opportunities for my company.

  • Leadership skills: As an assistant manager at a local cafe, I have been responsible for onboarding and training five new employees. I believe the key to leadership is practising effective communication.

  • Communication skills: Due to my three years of experience volunteering as an art mentor, I have learned how to explain complex information in a clear and concise way. In that role, I helped my mentee understand the importance of art history.

  • Attention to detail: I**n my marketing internship, I was responsible for creating and editing digital content to post on social media. I practised strong attention to detail by ensuring each work was 100% error-free.

Examining the job description closely and creating this type of list helps you confirm you meet each expectation of the employer. You can later transform these notes into powerful answers to potential interview questions. Preparing this way can help you better understand and organise your professional accomplishments for other future job interviews.

2. Create a list of possible interview questions

Create a list of interview questions you may encounter in a behavioural job interview. Include generic questions and specific questions to be ready for various outcomes. Here are some common questions for most interviews:

  • Tell me about yourself.

  • Why do you want to work for us?

  • What are your strengths?

  • What is your biggest weakness?

  • How does this role fit into your career path?

Here are some questions that are specifically typical in behavioural job interviews:

  • Give me an example of a difficult problem you solved.

  • Can you tell me about a challenging situation you overcame at work?

  • Has there been a time when you had to pitch an idea to a manager or leader? What was the outcome?

  • Tell me about a time you handled a stressful situation when you were under a lot of pressure.

  • What is your proudest professional accomplishment and why?

  • Tell me about a mistake that you've made. How did you handle it?

  • Can you tell me about a time you set and achieved a certain goal?

3. Craft your answers

To develop your answers to each of the questions on your list, use your notes from the job description. Think of a specific story or fact that demonstrates your ability in each area. Use the STAR technique to structure your answers, describing the situation, task, action and result. This can help you ensure your answers are both specific and brief.

Related: How To Use the STAR Interview Method (With Example)

4. Practice your answers aloud

Practice saying each response aloud several times, and try to keep each answer about one to two minutes long. Saying them can help you memorise each answer and convey it in a clear, confident way. Then, when you take part in the actual interview, you can respond to the employer's questions with sincerity and ease. Your strong, succinct answers can also show your interviewer that you've prepared thoroughly for the event, conveying your professionalism.

Related: Job Interview Tips: How To Make a Great Impression

5. Practice with a friend

While practising by yourself is helpful, it can be extremely beneficial to practise with a friend. Ask someone you trust to perform a mock interview with you, asking you some potential questions and listening to your answers. You can then ask them to offer you feedback about your performance.

Tips for performing well in a behavioural job interview

Here are some important tips to consider when preparing for and participating in a behavioural job interview:

  • Consult your resume. Your resume can be a great resource in the interview preparation process, as it likely includes your professional accomplishments, any major projects you've worked on and other evidence of your success. You can expand on the achievements to answer behavioural job interview questions.

  • Revisit previous job performance reviews. If you have previous job performance reviews, use these to learn about how previous supervisors have described your conduct. This is especially helpful for behavioural job interviews, as employers may ask you about ways you've worked with or impressed others.

  • Take deep breaths to calm any nerves. If you're accepting an offer to interview, this means the employer already thinks you meet the basic qualifications for the role. Remember that you're assessing the interviewer too, to determine whether you want to work for them, so take deep breaths to relieve any nervousness.

Related: Interviewing Skills To Ace a Job Interview

Behavioural interview example questions and answers

Here are some questions employers may ask you in a behavioural job interview, with example answers for each:

Tell me about a time when you overcame a conflict at work.

Here's an example answer to this question:

"At my last job, my colleague and I disagreed on how to handle a sensitive situation with our client. We made a mistake in their campaign that resulted in poor overall performance. While my colleague wanted to move forward without explaining the mistake, I thought it would be best to let the client know what happened. I asked him if we could set some time aside to weigh the costs and benefits of each option. I felt this would help us better understand each other's perspectives.

We decided to let the client know what happened and agreed to provide them with another campaign at no cost. While it resulted in a short-term loss for the company, the client appreciated our honesty and booked an annual campaign that exceeded their typical spending. My colleague and I were also recognised for our teamwork and ended up counselling other client teams on conflict resolution."

Related: 40 Top Behavioural Interview Questions (with Example Answers)

Tell me about a time you learned a new skill. How to did you apply it to your work?

Here's an example answer to this question:

"In my previous role as a marketing intern, I worked for a very new and small floral arrangement business. As I was responsible for creating marketing content to attract new customers and maintain current ones, I felt it was important for me to build the shop's online presence. I believed this would enhance the ability of customers to access information about our products and services.

For this reason, I conducted extensive research into the best ways to create a business website and, upon getting approval from management, learned how to build one using a popular application. I also improved the social media profiles of the company and fostered more activity on them. Gaining these new skills helped increase customer traffic in the store by 10%. It also impressed my employer and helped them better promote their business."

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