Behavioural interview questions, otherwise known as competency based interview questions are the most common type of interview question. The rationale is that if the interviewer knows how you performed in interviews in the past, it will help them to understand how you will perform in the future.
How to answer Behavioural Interview Questions?
Behavioural interview questions require you to demonstrate the skills which the employers are looking for through examples. They generally sound like this. “Tell me about a time where you…” OR “Give me an example of a time where you….”. The skill they are asking you about is clearly stated in the question. To respond, you must do this by following a particular method which is called the SAO method.
The SAO method is the correct way of responding to behavioural interview questions. The interviewers are likely to be aware of it but most importantly they are looking to see that you deliver a response which gives a thorough example which includes a Situation, an Action and an Outcome.
Situation: You describe the situation where the example took place.
For example: “In my last job at a financial company, I was working with a group on a project with a very tight deadline.”
Action: You describe the action you took to handle the problem which shows your skill.
For example: “I assumed a more leadership position with the group and organised team meetings to make sure that we were all up to date with our work. I finished my part early so I helped others who were struggling with their part of the project.”
Outcome: You describe the outcome of the action that you took.
For example: “As a result, the team completed the project on time and my boss congratulated me for going over and above my standard responsibilities.”
The most important thing to know when answering behavioural interview questions is that you need to give an example for the point that you make and then explain what impact that had. Think about the skill that the interviewer is looking for and give the best example which makes you shine with that skill.
What to avoid answering the Behavioural Questions
Try to avoid saying “We” instead of “me” in your examples. You can use “we” to describe the situation if you were working with others but the action part should be focused on what YOU personally did. The interviewer wants to know specifically what you did and if you continue to say “we” they will not be able to see your skills as separate from the team.
Another way you can strengthen your responses is to display the use of more than one skill in your examples, such as leadership, organisation, initiative etc.
Example of Behavioural Interview Questions
Situation: “When I was working for a logistics company 2 years ago, I was required to step into my manager’s position while he was away for 2 weeks.”
Action: “One of the more junior team members accidentally sent a large shipment to the wrong country. I realised this after following up when our client had informed us they had not received it their package. After investigating I called the client immediately to apologise for the issue and let them know that I had already re-directed to the package to them and they would receive it within a week.
As for the employee, she was new in the company and I didn’t want to upset her. I just spoke with her to find out why the mistake happened. I found that she just needed some more training and caught up with her to see if she felt more confident with processing the following shipments.”
Outcome: “From then on there was never an issue. When my manager came back I explained the situation and he said that he was very happy with the decisions that I made. He had also spoken with the newer employee and said that she had spoken highly of me as a manager.”
In this example, the candidate has displayed a variety of skills including, leadership, empathy, initiative, responsibility, prioritisation and customer service.
How to prepare behavioural interview questions for your next interview?
- Look at the skills that are required for the job on your job description. Those are the skills which the company will be basing their questions on.
- Think of questions that you are likely to be asked and responses you can give to them using the SAO method. For help with this, see our list of common interview questions.
- Practice your responses to these questions. Remember, practice makes perfect. Find a friend you can practice with or you could try recording your answers and playing them back to hear how you sound.
- To further strengthen your responses, see if you show off more than one skill in your examples.