Two people shaking hands in job interview

Have you ever sat in an interview and received a question like this..

“Tell me about a time when you were particularly overwhelmed at work. What strategies did you use to deal with this pressure?”

And thought to yourself..

“This question itself is overwhelming me!”

The question above is a perfect example of  Behavioural Interviewing and is one of the many interviewing techniques employers have in their arsenal.

What is Behavioural Interviewing?

Behavioural interviewing is based on the premise that relevant past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. So instead of asking how candidates would behave in a particular situation, a behavioural interview question will ask how they did behave.

For example, instead of asking “How would you resolve a conflict with a co-worker?”, the behavioural question would be, “Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a conflict with a co-worker. What was the issue and how did you resolve it?”

Behavioural questions require candidates to provide a specific example of how they handled a past situation which provides insight into how they would likely handle it in the future. The interviewer will often ask probing questions to find out if the candidate’s past behaviours matches the job.

How to Give the Perfect Answer

When faced with a behavioural interview question, all you have to remember is it’s as easy as driving a CAR.

C = Circumstance. Describe the circumstance surrounding the situation and the goals you were working towards.

A = Action. Walk through the steps you took to deal with the above circumstances.

R = Result. Explain the impact of your work. Was the problem solved? How did others react? What feedback did you receive from your supervisor? What did you learn or accomplish?

With each question be clear and concise about the Circumstance involved, Action taken and Results achieved. Driving your answer through the CAR framework will ensure you give a succinct answer that stays on topic.

Question: “Tell me about a time where someone you managed was underperforming. How did you address it, and what was the outcome?”

Circumstance — While working for Example Company, I oversaw a team of five sales representatives. One rep had been there for three years with good performance, but I had noticed a decrease in billing over the past few months.

Action — I believe strongly in the benefits of ongoing open dialogue and conduct weekly one-on-one meetings with each of my reps. In one such meeting I broached the rep’s recent underperformance and was pleased to find that he was willing to acknowledge the change in his work. After discussing possible causes we found that he was having difficulty adjusting to a new web-based sales system we had recently implemented. Over the course of two weeks we conducted additional training sessions for him and any other sales reps who wanted extra guidance on the system. I also implemented ongoing monthly sessions run by the reps as a group to share tips and shortcuts for using the system.

Result — Within four to five sessions the rep showed a marked increase in job confidence and over the course of five to six months recovered to some of the highest billing levels achieved. Overall the training session received extremely positive feedback from the team and enjoyed the collective learning.

Preparation for Behavioural Interviews

Many candidates find behavioural interviewing tricky as it can be difficult to determine what the employer is looking for, but here are some tips to help you prepare:

  • Read over the job description carefully for any highlighted skills and behaviours.
  • Try to recall any situations and run through the ‘story’ that relates to those skills, make sure to mention any quantifiable measures of success i.e. Reduced turnover by 15%.
  • Be clear about how YOUR actions influenced the situation, use “I” instead of “we”.
  • Use education or volunteer/community situations if you don’t have any relevant work examples.
  • Don’t forget to prepare for traditional interview questions as well. You won’t know whether it will be a behavioural interview before you enter the room, so don’t neglect to prepare for standard questions like “What are your strengths?”
  • If questions are negatively phrased, i.e. “Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a deadline,” answer it in an honest way that demonstrates ability to overcome weaknesses and lessons learned.

As with any interview, try to be as open as possible while remaining relevant to the position at hand, you’re looking for ‘company fit’ just as much as they are looking for ’employee fit’.