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10 Common Behavioural Interview Questions and Answers

Published March 23, 2021 Author: Employsure
A Business Owner interviewing a  new Hire.

What Are Behavioural Interview Questions?

Behavioural interview questions are questions commonly asked in job interviews, which are designed to tap into the candidate’s past experiences to understand how they approach and respond to various situations, as well what areas they might find particularly challenging.

Behavioural interview questions require candidates to share information about how they have behaved in a previous scenario, and typically start with ‘tell me about a time when…’.

Why Employers Should Consider Asking Behavioural Questions

Compared to unstructured interview questions, structured behavioural interview questions have been shown to provide interviewers with richer information which may be more predictive of a prospective employee’s future job performance than an unstructured interview.

Using behavioural questions in an interview can help employers understand how candidates have previously responded in specific situations and identify where they might struggle. Previous behaviour can be strong predictor of future performance, meaning that the answers given can help an employer understand how well a candidate is likely to perform in the role they are hiring for.

Behavioural questions can therefore help employers assess if a candidate is likely to meet the competencies and soft skill requirements of the role.

Behavioural questions can also help employees short-list potential candidates if the same question is asked of all candidates. The employer can compare the responses given by the different candidates to determine the candidate most likely to succeed in the role.

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10 Common Behavioural Interview Questions and Sample Answers

Tell me about a time when…

Problem Solving

1. You Had To Come Up With A New Solution To A Problem

This question allows you to tap into whether the candidate can show initiative in their role, and how creatively they can identify ways to solve a problem.

Follow up questions:

  • How did you come up with the solution?
  • What other options did you have? Why didn’t you choose those?
  • What was the outcome?

2. You Made A Mistake

This question allows you to assess taking ownership for mistakes, and whether the candidate has the required resilience to be able to dust themselves off and move forward afterwards.

Follow up questions:

  • Whose fault was it?
  • How did you correct it?
  • What did you learn from the situation?

3. You Were Faced With An Unexpected Challenge

This question helps you understand how adaptable the candidate is and whether they can cope well with change or challenges that are thrown their way.

Follow up questions:

  • How did you overcome the challenge?
  • What did you learn from the situation?

Communication Skills

4. You Had To Give Someone Constructive Feedback

This question will help you assess whether the candidate is comfortable having difficult conversations, but also whether they can do so tactfully.

Follow up questions:

  • How did you deliver the feedback?
  • How did they respond to the feedback?
  • Did they change their behaviour after receiving the feedback?

5. You Disagreed With Someone On A Way To Solve A Problem

This will help you identify how the candidate manages conflict, and how cooperative they are in working with others to find a solution.

Follow up questions:

  • What decision did you eventually make on how to solve the problem?
  • How did you make the decision?
  • What was the outcome?

6. You Had To Display A High Level Of Attention To Detail In Completing A Task

This question will help you assess whether someone has a good eye for detail, and what methods or strategies they use to ensure their work is of a high quality.

Follow up questions:

  • What method(s) did you use to focus your attention on the detail?
  • Did you miss anything?
  • What was the outcome?

Teamwork

7. You Had To Lead A Team Or Take The Lead On A Project

This question can help you assess leadership skills and determine how comfortable the candidate is in a leadership position.

Follow up questions:

  • How did you find taking the lead?
  • How did your team react to your leadership style?
  • What was the outcome?

8. You Had To Work As Part Of A Team To Complete A Task

This question can allow you to explore how well the candidate works alongside others.

Follow up questions:

  • What was your role in the team?
  • How well did you work together? Why?
  • What was the outcome?

9. You Had To Delegate Work To Others

This is another great question if you are looking to assess leadership capabilities. Good delegation requires a mix of strong communication skills, motivational skills, and the ability to empower others.

Follow up questions:

  • How did you explain what needed to be done?
  • Did you encounter any issues?
  • What was the outcome?

Time Management

10. You Had To Work Towards A Tight Deadline

This allows you to assess the candidate’s ability to work towards a goal, or under pressure.

Follow up questions:

  • How did you manage your time to meet the deadline?
  • What was the outcome?

11. You Had Two Or More Competing Priorities

This allows you to assess whether someone can juggle multiple responsibilities or competing priorities. It can also be a way of assessing how comfortable they are with pushing back in situations where they need to prioritise one thing over another.

Follow up questions:

  • How did you manage your time?
  • Did you have to push back on either priority?
  • What was the outcome?

The S.T.A.R. Method – A Behavioural Interview Technique

The S.T.A.R. Method is a framework that can be used to provide structure to behavioural questions and answers. It can be used by interviewers to ensure the candidate provides rich responses to behavioural questions.

The S.T.A.R. method comprises four steps in explaining a previous experience:

  • Situation: An explanation of the context, for example what was the problem to be solved.
  • Task: Outline of the task that needed to be completed in responding to the situation.
  • Action: What action was taken to respond to the situation and achieve the task at hand. Candidates should ensure that they cover off what they personally did in the situation.
  • Result: What the outcome was of the action taken. If possible, to include quantifiable outcomes – e.g. were you able to save money or reduce incidents as a result?

An example of the S.T.A.R. method in action:

Interviewer:
Tell me about a time that you had to give someone constructive feedback.

  • Situation: What was the situation?
  • Task: What was feedback you needed to give?
  • Action: How did you give the feedback?
  • Result: What was the outcome?

Candidate:

  • Situation: A member of my team completed a piece of work that was full of spelling and grammatical mistakes – it was clear that they had not proofread the document and had not taken the appropriate amount of care to make sure it met the required standards before sending it to me.
  • Task: I wanted to provide the employee with feedback so that they would be more diligent the next time and proofread and correct their work before submitting it.
  • Action: I found an appropriate time and place and stated that I wanted to share some feedback on a recent piece of work. I explained the impact correcting the spelling and grammar had on my time and that it implied a lack of pride in their work. I stated I knew they were capable of better quality content and presentation, and suggested they spend more time proofreading before sending completed work to me.
  • Result: My team member agreed that they rushed the work and that they are capable of more. We agreed that they would take more care next time. Since then, there has been a significant increase in the quality of their work, and I have saved time spent in reviewing.

This blog has been compiled on the basis of general information current at the time of publication and reflects an opinion only and is not intended to provide anything other than an opinion at any time. Your specific circumstances as well as any changes in circumstances after publication may affect the relevance, completeness or accuracy of this information. To the maximum extent permitted by law, we disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions contained in this information or any failure to update or correct this information. It is your responsibility to assess and verify the accuracy, completeness, currency and reliability of the information on this website, and to seek professional advice where necessary. Nothing contained on this website is to be interpreted as a recommendation to use any product, process or formulation or any information on this website. For clarity, Employsure does not recommend any material, products or services of any third parties.

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Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small- and medium-businesses, with over 5,000 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Are The Benefits Of Behavioural Interviewing?

    Using behavioural questions in an interview can help employers understand how candidates have previously behaved in various situations and why. 

    Behavioural questions can therefore help employers predict if a candidate is likely to meet the requirements of the role.

    Behavioural questions can also help employers compare candidates for the role. If the same question is asked of all candidates, it is easier to compare responses, as opposed to when different questions are asked of different candidates.

  • What Is A Behavioural Interview Question?

    Behavioural interview questions are questions commonly asked in job interviews, which are designed to tap into the candidate’s past experiences to understand how they approach and respond to challenging situations.

    Behavioural interview questions require candidates to share information about how they have acted in a previous situation, and typically start with ‘tell me about a time when.’

  • How Do I Prepare Questions For A Behavioural Interview?

    Consider what competencies and soft skills are necessary for the role you are hiring for and prepare probing interview questions that will help you assess whether the candidate possesses them.

    For example, if you are hiring a receptionist, prepare behavioural questions about their previous customer service experience or ability to multitask (e.g. ‘Tell me about a time you have had to deal with a difficult client’, and ‘Tell me about a time you have had to manage tasks with conflicting priorities.’).

  • When Should Interviewers Ask Behavioural Questions?

    Structured Behavioural Interview Questions should form part of all hiring interviews as research has found that they are a valid way of predicting performance. Behavioural questions are used to tap into the candidate’s past experiences to understand how they approach and respond to various situations.

  • How Do You Evaluate A Behavioural Interview?

    • Consider the competencies and skills required for the role;
    • Consider how well the candidate demonstrated possession of those competencies and skills in their responses;
    • Review candidates and determine who provided the strongest demonstration of those skills and competencies in their responses;
    • Consider the quality and clarity of the delivery of the chosen examples. This is also a way of assessing how candidates think and communicate.
  • What Is The Difference Between Situational And Behavioural Interview Questions?

    Situation interview questions provide candidates with a hypothetical situation to respond to, whereas behavioural interview questions ask candidates  to provide examples of how they have previously behaved in certain situations.

    Situational interview questions often begin with ‘what would you do if…’ whereas behavioural interview questions often begin with ‘tell me about a time when…’.

  • Are Behavioural Interview Questions Effective?

    Yes, research has shown that structured behavioural interview questions can be strong predictors of future performance if asked correctly and that overall they are better indicators than unstructured interviews.

  • What Are Some Unique Interview Questions?

    • Tell me about a time you made a mistake at work. What happened and why? What did you do to correct the mistake? What was the outcome?
    • Tell me about a time you disagreed with someone on a way to solve a problem. How did you reach a solution?
    • Tell me about a time when you were faced with an unexpected challenge. What happened and how did you overcome it?
    • Tell me about a time when you had to work as part of a team to complete a task.
  • What Is The Star Method When Interviewing?

    The S.T.A.R. Method is a framework that can be used to provide structure to Behavioural Questions and answers and to ensure the candidate provides rich responses.

    The S.T.A.R. method comprises four steps in explaining a previous experience:

    • Situation: An explanation of the context, for example what was the problem to be solved.
    • Task: Outline of the task to be completed in responding to the situation.
    • Action: What action was taken to respond to the situation and achieve the task at hand.
    • Result: What the outcome was of the action taken.

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