How to prepare for behavioural-based interviews

Two business men conducting a job interview

As employers refine their recruitment processes, behavioural-based interviews are becoming an increasingly popular technique used by employers to identify suitable candidates for roles.

But what is a behavioural-based interview?

A regular job interview like all any other, you will meet with your interviewer and respond to interview questions. But the difference will lie in the type of interview questions that you will be asked.

During a behavioural-based interview, the applicant is asked to describe past behaviour in order to determine whether he or she is suitable for a position. In these types of interviews, you will for example be asked questions that begin with phrases like "tell me about a time when" or "give me an example of."

While these interviews can be challenging, they also provide candidates with the chance to talk about their accomplishments, using real-life concrete examples of how they have been able to succeed in certain areas, highlighting their key strengths and competencies.

After all, if you did it somewhere else yesterday, you can do it for this company tomorrow.

Özlem Simsek, Director of Walters People Belgium, gives us 5 tips on how to prepare and master behavioural-based interviews.

1. Prepare examples

As before entering into any job interview – behavioural or otherwise - preparation is key. Refresh your memory and consider some special situations you have dealt with or projects you have worked on.  Identify specific examples (basically “short stories”)that illustrate times when you have successfully solved problems or performed memorably and highlight the different skillsets the employer is looking for. Review the job description for clues as to the type of questions and that will be asked and they type of behavioural characteristics the employer will be seeking.

"Employers want to know how you handled a situation, instead of what you might do in the future. Prepare stories that illustrate times when you have excelled and which demonstrate the skills the employer is looking for, and identify how you can transfer your skills and experience into the new role."

2. Practice your answers

Behavioural-based interview questions will require you to deliver articulate, detailed and structured answers. When providing your interviewer with your examples, briefly describe the situation, what specific action you took to have an effect on the situation, and the positive result or outcome.

 “Many roles for example require excellent organisational and time management skills, along with the ability to handle multiple tasks efficiently and effectively. Provide success stories which highlight these skillsets prior to the interview. If your examples do not highlight the key skills you may need in order to succeed in the role, try and pick a different example that will be more relevant” advises Özlem Simsek.

3. Take your cues from the interviewer

It’s often hard to tell what employers are looking for when they ask behavioural interview questions. Listen carefully to your interviewer and study their body language for clues as to what they are looking for and whether their behaviour is suggesting a positive response.

Candidates who can adapt and tailor their stories to the competencies and behavioural characteristics the employer is seeking for  will be far more effective and successful.

By taking your cues from the interviewer’s level of formality, you can demonstrate that you are paying attention to the situation and positioning yourself in a way to help in whatever way you can.

4. Common behavioural-based questions

Knowing what kinds of questions might be asked will help you prepare an effective selection of examples.

Common behavioural-based questions include:

  • Provide an example of an occasion when you had to work to a tight deadline, while still managing your normal workload.
  • Tell me about a complex project or task and how you made sure to see the task through to the end.
  • Describe a time when you developed a strategy to stay organised and ensure you got all your work done under pressure.
  • Have you ever had to manage multiple projects? How did you manage your time effectively and prioritise your tasks?

5. Be yourself

It's important to keep in mind that there are no right or wrong answers. The interviewer is simply trying to understand how you behaved in a given situation.

 “Although part of a behavioural-based interview is selling yourself, you don’t want to come off as fake or insincere. Be honest. If you don’t have an example for a question you’re asked, don’t try to make something up” says Mrs Simsek.

Make sure your answers are relevant, honest and structured to showcase your past work experience while still letting your personality and core character shine through. Employers aren’t looking for the “correct” textbook answer; they want to see the way you interact and how you present your information.

Interested to know more?

Get ready for your job interviews and check out the 7 most common interview questions and how to best answer them.


Scale of justice against blue background

check your salary 

Read more »

Latest jobs