Job interviews can be a nerve-wracking experience. You want to impress, yet you’re not sure what you’ll be asked by a hiring manager. One set of questions you’ll need to be prepared to answer are behavioural-based interview questions. We explain what they are and how to answer them with confidence.

What are behavioural based interview questions?

Behavioural interview questions are commonly asked by hiring managers in job interviews. These questions are designed to inquire about your past actions in a given situation. An example might be: “Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a colleague. How did you resolve it?”

There are no right answers to behavioural-based interview questions. However, how you answer gives insight into your skills, capabilities and personality. As the saying goes, the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.


How to answer behavioural questions

You can prepare for an interview by reviewing the list of desired skills – that will give you an idea of the types of skills a hiring manager will ask about. For example, a data analyst can expect questions about problem-solving, while a communications officer will likely have to demonstrate their communication skills. 

As we mentioned, there are no right answers to behavioural-based interview questions. But there is a technique you can use to give your best answer.  The STAR response is an easy to follow four-step technique for answering behavioural-based questions in an interview. When using the STAR method, you can use examples from previous work, volunteer, community, school, or personal experience. 

Breaking down the STAR method in simple terms  

Situation – Provide context on the situation that relates to the question you were asked.

Task – Describe the problem or situation you faced.

Action – Describe the action you took to resolve a situation or solve a problem.

Results – Explain the results your action generated.

The beauty of responding using the STAR method is it’s geared towards storytelling. The Prepped Learning Library gives you access to learning modules that are handcrafted by industry professionals. Discover how to answer interview questions using the STAR method by logging into your Prepped account, then head the interviewing section in the Learning Library.


5 examples of behavioural interview questions and answers

While questions such as “What are your greatest skills?” as easy to rehearse, behavioural-based questions necessarily aren’t. After all, you’re not exactly sure what a hiring manager is going to ask.

Let’s put it into practice. Here are five common skills an employer is likely to assess by asking behavioural-based questions.

 

1. Communication 

Being able to communicate effectively, both written and verbal is a vital skill in the workplace.

Sample question: Tell me about a time when you had to raise an uncomfortable conversation with a boss or work colleague. 

Sample answer: Working retail, I had to talk to my supervisor about requesting time off on Boxing Day, so I can spend time with my family. I was nervous to talk to her because I know it’s a busy time for retail. I raised the conversation three weeks before the holidays, so there was enough time for my supervisor to consider my request and schedule around it. When I spoke to her I acknowledged it was a busy time of year and understood if my request was not possible.

2. Customer service 

Being able to interact with customers and clients (especially when situations get tough) is another important skill hiring managers will inquire about.

Sample question: Tell me about a time you didn’t meet a client’s expectations.

Sample answer: Working in a local café over the summer, I messed up a large coffee order for one of our regular customers. I took responsibility for the mistake and apologized. I remade the order correctly and asked my boss if I could provide some complimentary muffins. The customer accepted my apology and was happy with their treat.

3. Teamwork 

Employers want job candidates who are team players. Being able to collaborate and influence others is a skill that’s required in almost every industry.

Sample question: Tell me about a time when you needed to motivate other people to follow your direction.

Sample answer: Working as a camp counsellor, I was responsible for the younger children. At the end of summer, the children put on a play. I suggested to the other counsellors that the younger children and older children work together this year. I arranged a meeting after camp with the other counsellors and had prepared a list of roles, like costumes, dancing, and music. Working together as a big group was more fun, and the older children had the chance to help mentor the younger ones.

4. Time management 

Behavioural-based questions about time management examine your ability to prioritize, juggle multiple tasks and still have an impact in the workplace.

Sample question: How did you prioritize when working on multiple projects?

Sample answer: While on an internship at a public relations firm, I was asked to support three different account managers. They all worked on different projects with a heavy workload. In order to accomplish the different tasks they set me, I created a google sheet, colour-coded each project and added a column for the due date of each task assigned and the date it was completed.

5. Problem solving 

Effective problem-solvers can use analytical thinking to determine a problem and find an effective solution.  

Sample question: Tell me about a time when you had to think on your feet to solve a problem quickly? 

Sample answer: When I was working as a server at a restaurant, one of the diners appeared to be choking. I had learned CPR when I did my lifeguard training and knew how to perform the Heimlich maneuver. I was able to clear the man’s windpipe from the food that was stuck there. The diner recovered quickly and continued on with his meal, and the restaurant manager thanked me for my quick thinking. 

Looking for more examples of interview questions? Read more about the most common interview questions.

 

The best job candidates prepare for the interview

Dedicating time to prepare ahead of the in-person or virtual interview will help build your confidence during the process, allowing you to handle behavioural-based questions with ease. You can apply what you’ve learned in this article by recording yourself reading the behavioural interview questions out loud and responding to them. Learn from your recordings so you can improve your responses, and don’t forget to send them to family and friends for feedback.

If you get stuck along the way, remember that Prepped is here to help support you in your journey towards the job of your dreams. Sign up for Prepped today and gain access to the tools and resources you need to succeed in the next step of your career.


This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.

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