How to Prepare for a Behavioural Interview

What is a Behavioural Interview?

A behavioural interview is a little different from a standard traditional interview in terms of the questions being more competency based. This form of interviewing has gained great popularity in recent years and is otherwise known as the STAR interview. The format is a technique used by recruiters to gather all the relevant information about a specific capability that the job requires.

The objective of this interview technique is to ensure the candidate will be the best fit for the team they are joining and the role that they will be undertaking. Behavioural interviews can help to determine the on-job behaviour that an applicant may display when placed in certain situations. 

Companies frequently combine this technique with more traditional questions to determine how applicants approach complex situations and to help determine the extent of their problem-solving skills. Interviewers then reserve the more traditional questions, such as, ‘How would your teammates describe you?’ to determine how candidates view themselves. 

The reason why this technique of behavioural interview questions is popular with recruiters is because candidates give the panel an inside look at their past professional behaviour. A perfect method for assessing the applicant’s ability to collaborate and adapt to new teams, situations and more.


How to Prepare for a Behavioural Interview

It is important for candidates to understand what kind of questions they may be coming up against. Unlike traditional interview questions the wording of behavioural questions can be a little more ambiguous. The perfect candidate will answer the question with specifics and depth. These types of interviews aren’t the kind you can walk straight into and begin talking. Some companies will even let you know that this will be the interview style so candidates can better prepare themselves. 

Interview Preparation: The Basics

Research the Company

Do as much background research as you can on the company where you are being interviewed. Even behavioural interviews will focus on what you can bring to the company and if you can fit in with the ethos of the organization. So you must expect some value based questions during the interview. It also allows you to tailor your answers to the companies’ needs. Most companies will ask you why you want to work there and if it is evident that candidates haven’t done their homework it will be taken as a sign of indifference to securing the role. 

Make Note of the Skills Required

A great behavioural interview tip is that your answer should be perfectly candid and natural. By giving specifics about skills you have already put into practice in your professional career, your answer should sound organic. 

Job descriptions in advertisements give a wealth of information that can be adopted into your answers for the behavioural interview questions. Place emphasis on the employer’s desired skills when you approach each scenario presented to you and stress your experience, especially when it corresponds with the attributes the recruiters are seeking.


The key to shaking off interview nerves is through practice. Many Interviewees think practice means writing notes and questions on what they expect to be asked and then writing their answers.

Practice your answers with someone who is happy to offer constructive criticism and can give professional guidance if required. Completing practice runs before your job interview will help to get your skills up to speed and help you to effectively convey exactly what you have intended to say. 

Have Questions for the Panel

Career guidance professionals recommend crafting a number of questions that you can ask the hiring manager at the end of the job interview. If you are stuck you can always ask what the next steps are in the hiring process and when you will be likely to hear back.

However, it is much more interesting to have a few questions about the company ethos and culture or the role you are applying for. Turning up with no questions at all suggests a lack of interest and will often be taken as such. 

Have a list of References

Having references on your resume or a list to pass on in an interview can be useful as it means this step can be completed quickly and the recruiter can move forward with the hiring process should you be chosen for the role. Choose at least two references from two different roles so the employers can speak to whoever they consider the most relevant contact. Also consider that the recruiter will follow up on the claims you have made in your answers to their questions so try to be candid in your responses.

What kind of questions might be asked in a Behavioural Interview?

These questions vary in terms of difficulty and depth, some can be very specific, and others leave room for the interviewee to talk about a range of skills and attributes they have. Most employers will pick questions with the desired response in mind.

Questions you may be asked:

Tell us about a time you had to deal with a difficult customer and how you resolved the situation.

This question is designed to gauge problem-solving and customer service skills as well as how well the candidate performs under pressure and main respectful communication with the customers. The recruiter wants to understand how well applicants can manage a hostile environment and if they know when they should defer the issue to their superior. 

Tell us about a time when you have failed and how you handled it.

This question can help the company gauge how well the interviewee deals with underperforming or how they react when things aren’t going right for them. It helps employers gain an understanding of the applicants’ personality and how ambitious they might be, as well as what their own definition of failure might be.

This question gives insight into how quickly candidates can bounce back from stressful situations and whether or not they learn from their mistakes. It is a very personal question and only a candidate can assess what they consider to be a failure. 

Tell us about a time you took a leadership role. What was the end result?

These types of questions assess leadership capabilities and style. The candidate’s answer will help the panel determine what kind of leadership style the applicant uses and whether that will fit in well with the company’s ideals and practices. It also determines if this style worked for the candidate in the past and in what way it was successful. This is the opportunity for applicants who wish to take another step in their career showcase their leadership qualities.

Tell us about a time when you went above and beyond.

The panel wants to hear how dedicated candidates are to their role and how they will stand out within the organization for their career development. This is also a good way to get an idea of the interviewee’s personality and how prepared they are to go the extra mile to please the company’s clients or customers. Examples from volunteer work and other personal projects are often deemed as acceptable answers to this question. 

Describe a project you worked on as part of a team.

This is a question that appears in most interviews to determine if the applicant is a team player or if they work better autonomously. Often employers want someone who can do both. Recruiters want an in-depth example of how the team operated and the candidate’s role within that team, whether they displayed leadership qualities or were able to follow directions and collaborate with their team members.


How to answer Behaviour based Interview Questions

The only way to truly ace a behaviour based interview is to prepare for it. Maintain positive body language while you face the hiring manager for an interview. There are a variety of ways to prepare yourself, but a proven method is by practicing answers in the STAR format. By doing so, the candidates’ responses answer every aspect of the question but with depth, highlighting their experience and skills along the way. 

What does STAR stand for?

S – Situation

The hiring manager will expect to hear about specific situations the applicant has previously faced.

T – Task

Describing the task helps the interview panel to understand the applicant’s responsibility in that situation. Giving them an idea of what the interviewee’s duties were in their previous role.

A – Action

By explaining the action, the candidate is discussing which steps they took throughout the situation. This helps employers understand applicants’ concept of procedures and their thought processes when faced with certain circumstances.

R- Result

By sharing the outcome, the panel gets an idea of what impact the interviewee’s actions had on the overall situation. 

Adopting this method brings shape to the answer providing a narrative that is easily followed but also compelling. Setting the scene allows the recruitment team to put themselves in the same position and makes them think if they would respond to the situation in the same way. It helps determine if candidates are a good fit in the company and help the interviewee to remain on track.


Answering Behavioural Interview Questions Using STAR

Choose the Right Situation

The starting point for answering these questions with the STAR methodology is by ensuring the anecdote you select is an appropriate scenario that has taken place in your life. It will likely be evident to employers if candidates are making the situation up. By choosing something from your professional history you will be able to elaborate easily, should the panel ask for further details. 

Pick a scenario that had a positive outcome. If you do get asked about a project that resulted in failure, be sure to end on a high note. Talk about what you learned from that experience and the changes you would make should you find yourself in the same situation. 

Behavioural questions are completely unpredictable but if you practice enough using the STAR method, you will be able to adapt the structure to any scenario to shape your answer. It’s smart to have a few scenarios that you can easily shape to several questions. That way you aren’t completely blindsided by every question. 

If you need to take a few seconds to gather your thoughts so you can give a good answer, do not be afraid to ask for a moment to think. Interview panels would rather applicants consider their questions and develop an answer instead of going off on a tangent and not answering the question at all. 

Be Concise When Discussing Your Task

With these kinds of questions, it is very easy to veer off track but by adopting the STAR method you can answer the question in depth and leave out all the unnecessary details that you might otherwise include when telling a story. 

Paint a clear picture of the scenario you were in and emphasis the role you played that helped to achieve the result. You should focus on having one or two sentences for each point of your STAR answer.

When it comes to discussing your task, highlight your responsibilities at the time to let the employer know exactly where you fit in within the scenario. 

Highlight Your Actions

By highlighting the actions you took specifically, the panel will get a sense of how your mind works and the go-to processes you use in certain scenarios. This is the point where applicants can really showcase their skills and attributes by highlighting the role they played to help achieve the outcome.

Discuss your problem-solving skills and the steps you took to get there. Be precise about the methods or strategies you devised to ensure you reached your target. Or which software you used to help develop a plan.  

Emphasize the Result

Emphasize your part in the end result of the situation you presented. Be specific, even adding in key facts and figures to highlight how much of an impact you truly made. 

Rather than saying, ‘Sales increased because of the changes I made,’ you could say, ‘Sales increased by 23% over that financial year due to the social media program I implemented

This is because we managed to reach 2,000 more potential clients than the previous year.’  

Guidance states that hiring managers are exceptionally fond of this method of questioning, so you have likely come across it before. Avoid giving vague answers or fabricating stories altogether as it will often be picked up on.

They will keep asking you for specific details on your approach to past situations and the results of your efforts until they feel they have heard all there is to hear. Questions, such as:

  • What were you thinking at that point?
  • What was your next step?
  • Give us more details on that, please.
  • How did you manage to get the support?
  • How effective was the process of decision-making?
  • How did you achieve the goals?


Examples of STAR Answers

Diverting back to the ‘Questions you may be asked,’ section here are a few examples of good STAR answers to some of those questions. 

  • Tell us about a time you had to deal with a difficult customer and how you resolved the situation.

Situation – It was Christmas and we were very busy at the café. An angry customer wanted to use two different sets of vouchers for their purchases and they were becoming irate at a team member.

Task – As a team leader, I had to point out the clear company policy printed on the vouchers that stated they could not be used in conjunction with another offer.

Action – Using my communications skills, I interjected before the exchange became too heated and calmly made the customer aware of the policy printed on the vouchers. I informed them that they would not be able to use both vouchers at the same time.

I empathized with them that this was inconvenient but explained why it was the company policy. I let the customer know that although they couldn’t use both vouchers on their café purchase that one of their vouchers could be used in our clothing section instead, giving them a discount on the gifts they were shopping for. 

Result The customer left happy as they weren’t aware that one of the vouchers would give them a discount on their shopping. They explained that they were just stressed because of the holidays and pressure to spend money. The customer thanked me for doing such a good job at a difficult time of the year and left a great review online praising the customer service in our café. 

  • Tell us about a time you took a leadership role. What was the role and the end result?

Situation – I got asked to participate in a new project as a team coordinator which was a step up from my usual role. 

Task My task was to give support and guidance to a team of twenty people who were conducting audits throughout our business. 

Action – I drew up a OneNote which was a one stop shop for my team to get all the answers they would need for frequently asked questions. I fielded questions from my team and was in constant contact with my team members. I checked in throughout the day with those who found the task a little more daunting than others. I also requested that each team member send me daily statistics updates at the end of every day so I could see how we were tracking, which I consolidated into a report for the project manager. 

Result We finished the project in record time, by completing 230 audits in under two weeks. I received special recognition from the project manager who was thankful for my contribution. My team completed the most audits and even though they faced challenges throughout the task they felt supported and valued because of my efforts. The task helped me to discover leadership qualities I didn’t know I had which have led me to apply for this role. 

  • Tell us about a time when you went above and beyond.

SituationI was helping a colleague organize a workshop and the staff member had a lot of admin tasks to complete for the day.

TaskI volunteered to help any way I could, and they asked if I could do the tedious task of making the name badges for the 120 attendees.

ActionI made the name badges within a few hours through Microsoft Word but I also colour coordinated them so they were grouped into the tables they would be sitting at throughout the workshop.

I then arranged them alphabetically so they would be easy to find when laid out on the table. I packed them into easy to carry boxes so they could be transported to the venue.

ResultMy colleague was really grateful for the help and was so thankful that I helped with the time-consuming task. Our management loved the color-coded labels for each table and expressed delight at the level of organization.

Everyone found their seat quickly because the badges were in alphabetical order. Such a small gesture made the simple process of attendees finding their seat and name tags so much more efficient. 


Master the Technique

As you can see from the above examples the STAR method is a really effective way of answering behavioural interview questions in a concise and structured way.

The Situation and Task points are often brief with the Action and Results points giving the recruiter a more detailed insight into the scenario.  

Preparing for interviews is a great method of self-assessment. Even if you are only considering applying for a new role, think through how you would answer behaviour based interview questions to get the role. It is a great form of introspection and will leave you well prepared for the more traditional job interview formats. 

Most high-profile recruitment companies will use this form of interviewing if you are applying for a big organization through them so you can expect a few of these questions from the panel.

The rise of the behavioural interview is largely due to a shift in what companies’ value in today’s society.

Nearly anyone can learn how to run a computer program and craft an email but not everyone has the soft skills to work well under pressure, work with diverse groups of people or prioritize tasks to meet deadlines.