Behavioural interviews are becoming more and more almost all industries. Employers use the behavioural interview method in order to assess their prospective employee’s potential for success by considering his or her past experiences and actions. The person conducting the behavioural interview will have already identified what skills and qualities the company seeks in an employee and will ask open-ended questions to determine whether or not the potential employee embodies those qualities. The behavioural interview is more in-depth than the traditional in that it goes beyond telling the interviewer why you want to work for his or her company. As such, you should expect this type of interview to be slightly more challenging than the traditional interview since you are expected to be able to relate past experiences to the job interview.

For example, if the company you hope to work for seeks an individual with leadership skills, you should expect the interviewer to ask you about any leadership experiences you may have had in the past. Expect questions along the lines of:

  • “Tell me about a situation when you were in charge of leading a team.”
  • “Describe to me a time when you led a group to success.”
  • “Give me an example of when you were in a leadership position during college.”
  • “Please describe how you exhibited leadership in an informal setting.”
  • “Have you ever had a leadership position you struggled with? Tell me about it.

At times, you may be asked follow-up questions to elicit further details about your experience, which allows the interviewer to further determine how well you fit the job description.

Answering Behavioural Interview Questions

Many interviews conducted in this way are meant to gauge your leadership, communication skills, critical thinking ability, integrity, adaptability, and motivation, and segments of these interviews are generally structured so that the interviewer will first ask you about a situation, the task or goal you were working towards, what actions you took to achieve your goal(s), and the outcome of your action(s). Regarding the ‘outcome’ part of that set of questions, it is not necessary to always indicate your ‘success’ for each situation; sometimes your lack of success in the past can demonstrate your ability to lear and adapt. Show how any negative outcomes may have benefited you in the long run if it further motivated you to achieve your goals or if it motivated you to improve certain skill sets.

Preparing for Behavioural Interviews

In order to prepare for a behavioural interview, you should recall instances in which you demonstrated any admirable qualities related to your professional, educational, and if applicable, personal, experiences. You should be able to give brief summaries of these experiences, and these summaries should indicate a situation, the goal you worked towards, how you worked towards that goal, and what the end result was. It is also important that you are specific when describing your experience. Try not to be vague about how you contributed to certain outcomes, e.g. avoid using “we” and “my team” too much. This way, you avoid possible misconceptions or misinterpretations regarding your experience. As long as you come into the interview with past experiences in mind, you should not struggle during the interview.

Lastly, remember that the behavioural interview is still an interview, not an entirely different experience from the traditional interview. As such, you should exhibit mannerisms not unlike how you would during a typical interview: dress conservatively, be on time (preferably early 5 minutes early) to your interview, have a strong, confident handshake, maintain adequate eye contact with your interviewer, and act pleasantly and professionally throughout the interview.

Best of luck!