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Behavioural Interviewing

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Applicant's Potential for Success



Behavioural interviewing is one of the most common forms of interviewing and you are guaranteed to be asked a good number of these, tell me about a time, give me an example, questions. These stories are opportunities to sell yourself and your qualifications in an authentic way, so you don't want to just wing them.


Interviewers use the Behavioural interview technique to evaluate a candidate's experiences and behaviours, so they can determine the applicant's potential for success. The interviewer identifies job-related experiences, behaviours, knowledge, skills and abilities that the company has decided are desirable in a particular position.


  • Critical thinking
  • Being a self-starter
  • Willingness to learn
  • Willingness to prospect
  • Self-confidence
  • Teamwork
  • Professionalism

The interviewer then structures very pointed questions to elicit detailed responses aimed at determining if the candidate possesses the desired characteristics. Questions (often not even framed as a question) typically start out: "Tell about a time..." or "Describe a situation..." Many employers use a rating system to evaluate selected criteria during the interview.


As a candidate, you should be equipped to answer the questions thoroughly. Obviously, you can prepare better for this type of interview if you know which skills that the employer has predetermined to be necessary for the job you seek. Researching the company and talking to people who work there will enable you to zero in on the kinds of behaviours the company wants.

To assess which skills the employer seeks, review the employer’s website, speak with their customers or associates who work in similar industries.


Examples of a Behavioural Questions


Behavioural questions can be difficult if you are not prepared. Always try to be conscious about what the interviewer is trying to find out about you by asking you a particular question. Setting up a mock interview with an experienced salesperson is an excellent way to practice.


Common Behavioural Interviewing Question examples:



Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.


Describe an instance when you had to think on your feet to extricate yourself from a difficult situation.


Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.


As in most sales positions, your ability to persuade a customer that we have the best solution will play an important role in your success; can you give me an idea of how you would typically persuade a customer of your ability, to provide quality solutions and service?


By providing examples, convince me that you can adapt to a wide variety of people, situations and environments.


What I would like to discover now is how you would normally spend the day in your current position. Imagine that you have just completed a productive day selling, how would you describe your activities in that day?


Give me an example of an important goal that you had set in the past and tell me about your success in reaching it.


Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.


Negotiating a win-win partnership with our customers is extremely important. Tell me how would prepare prior to going into a negotiation?


Discuss how you would


Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.


Tell me about how you typically prioritise your daily schedule.


Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to solve a problem.


Are You Prepared For Tricky Behavioural Interview Questions Like These?


  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Have you ever been fired or forced to resign?
  • Why have you had so many jobs in such a short period of time?
  • Can you explain this gap in your employment history?
  • Exactly why do you want to work here?
  • Why should we hire YOU? What can you do for us that someone else can not?
  • Have you ever had problems with a supervisor or a co-worker? Describe the situation for me.
  • Describe occasions when you were not very satisfied with your own performance. What did you do about it?
  • Give me an example of a problem you faced on the job. Tell me how you solved it.
  • Give me an example of an important goal you had to set and tell me about your progress in reaching that goal. What steps did you take?
  • What was your role in your department's most recent success?
  • What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • What have you learned from your mistakes?
  • What was the best decision you ever made?
  • Describe a time when you were faced with problems or stresses at work. What did you do?
  • How do you deal with competition? Are you a competitive person?
  • What would you consider an ideal work environment?
  • What are your long-range career objectives, and what steps have you taken toward obtaining them?
  • How well do you work with people? Do you prefer working alone or in teams?
  • Describe a situation when working with a team produced more successful results than if you had completed the project on your own.
  • What do you do when people disagree with your ideas?
  • Describe a situation where you found yourself dealing with someone who didn't like you. What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone's opinion.


How to respond to Behavioural Questions.


During a Behavioural interview, always listen carefully to the question, ask for clarification if necessary, and make sure you answer the question completely.


Your interview preparation should include identifying examples of situations from your experiences on your resume where you have demonstrated the behaviours a given company seeks. During the interview, your responses need to be specific and detailed.


STAR Method

Tell them about a particular situation that relates to the question, not a general one. Briefly tell them about the situation, what you did specifically, and the positive result or outcome. Your answer should contain these four steps (Situation, Task, Action, Result or "STAR") for optimum success.

Situation or

Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.

Action you took

Describe the action you took and be sure to keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did -- not the efforts of the team. Don't tell what you might do, tell what you did.

Results you achieved

What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn?


Sample STAR story:

Situation / Task (S T):

Advertising revenue was falling off for my newspaper, the Weekly News, and large numbers of long-term advertisers were not renewing contracts.

Action (A):

I designed a new promotional packet to go with the rate sheet and compared the benefits of Weekly News circulation with other ad media in the area. I also set-up a special training session for the account executives with a marketing consultant who discussed competitive selling strategies.

Result (R):

We signed contracts with 15 former advertisers for full page ads and five for special supplements. We increased our new advertisers by 20 percent [quantities are always good] over the same period last year.


LARQ Method


L.A.R.Q. is an acronym representing

L Listen

A Acknowledge

R Respond

Q Question


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11 Crucial Behavioural Interview Do’s and Don’ts


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DO familiarise yourself with behavioural interview questions. When you take the time to study the most commonly asked behavioural interview questions, you will inevitably feel calmer and more composed during your interview. In addition to committing the most frequently asked questions to memory, make sure you prepare for some less common questions as well.  

So, in addition to preparing answers to questions like “How would you solve ____ problem?” you should also prepare to answer odd questions like “˜Who do you admire most and why?’ 


DO practice interviewing with someone else. Interviewing in front of a mirror can help you analyse your facial expressions, but it won’t give you a good idea of how it feels to answer questions under pressure. The most effective interview run-throughs are those done with someone else. Recruit a family member or close friend to carry out a few mock interviews with you so that you feel better prepared for the real deal.  


DO study and master the S-T-A-R technique. When it comes to behavioural interviews, the S-T-A-R technique should become one of your favourite tools. Utilizing this well-known method will help you gather your thoughts and come up with impressive, interesting answers to some of the most difficult questions your interviewer will throw at you. The first step in the S-T-A-R technique is to come up with a Situation or Task that you were given in the recent past. Next, tell the interviewer what Action you took to resolve the situation, and discuss the end Result.  


DO identify at least five to 10 examples of top behaviours you exhibited in past experiences, such a stellar communication or great conflict resolution skills. When you are brainstorming S-T-A-R scenarios, make sure you come up with at least five different examples that showcase some of your top skills or characteristics.  


DO prepare answers that include both positive and negative scenarios. While your interviewer will want to see how you have achieved positive outcomes from negative situations, he or she will also want to see how you perform in positive scenarios. In addition to relating a time when you solved a difficult problem, prepare to discuss how you met or exceeded a positive sales or productivity goal as well.  


DON’T use old examples. Your interviewer is not going to be interested in how you solved a problem as a kid. Instead, stick to examples from your recent work history.  


DON’T get defensive if asked about a time when you failed. Remember, it is the interviewer’s job to analyse your responses to a wide variety of situations. If you are asked to talk about a time when you failed, don’t get defensive or try to make up excuses for your failure. Instead, own up to the failure and talk about how you turned the situation into a learning experience and used it to improve your future performance.  


DON’T ever lie about your past experiences or how you handled them. Never fib about your past experiences in order to impress a hiring manager. Since behavioural interview questions are based on minute details, you will most likely get caught if you attempt to lie. Always answer honestly and genuinely.  


DON’T answer particularly difficult questions without first taking a moment to collect your thoughts. There is no need to feel rushed into answering an unusually difficult question. The hiring manager will expect you to answer thoughtfully, so feel free to take a (brief) moment to collect your thoughts before responding.  


DON’T try to lighten the mood with jokes and laughter. No matter how uncomfortable or nervous you may be, don’t try to lighten the mood with excessive laughter or jokes. It is ok to have a sense of humour and let your personality shine through, but always be tasteful and respectful.  


DON’T chew gum. Never arrive at your interview with gum in your mouth. Spit it out before entering the building and opt for a breath mint if your breath is less than fresh.