Interviews are tough.  Whether you’re the interviewer or interviewee, they can cause a lot of stress and anxiety.  The object of the exercise is to find a great fit for both parties.  Nobody wants a square peg in a round hole.  But in a 30 minute interview it can be tough to drill down to those behavioural attributes that will ensure the right cultural fit.

This is where Behavioural Interview Questions will help take some of the guesswork and angst out of the process, and leave both parties feeling confident – which is more likely to lead to a successful outcome.

What are Behavioural Interview Questions?

As the name suggests, Behavioural Interview Questions are designed to help the interviewer understand how a candidate will behave in a given set of circumstances, and don’t generally relate specifically to the job.  They are likely to include questions that focus on the candidates’ ability to:

  • problem-solve
  • resolve conflict
  • bounce back from failure
  • cope with pressure and stress
  • set and achieve goals
  • communicate effectively
  • multitask and prioritise
  • motivate themselves, and others
  • act ethically and with integrity
Job Interview Questions


How to Ask Behavioural Questions

Behavioural Interview Questions need to be open-ended, and the interviewer needs to allow plenty of time for the candidate to give a full response.  Beyond that, there are a few important points to remember:

  1. Think carefully about the role you are interviewing for. There is little point in asking about how a candidate coped with having to make an unpopular decision if it is not a managerial role.  Think about what soft skills are most important to the job and focus on those.
  2. If there are likely to be multiple interviews or interviewers, consider when and who is best suited to ask specific questions.
  3. Be consistent in the questions asked and the way they are asked so you are not comparing apples to oranges in the answers of the candidates.
  4. Develop a scoring criteria so that you can evaluate the answers of multiple candidates fairly.

If candidates are vague in their answers, probe a little to get the information you need.  [Click here]* for ideas and suggestions on questions to use in your interviews

behavioural interviews


Preparing for Behavioural Interview Questions

The key to performing well in any interview is preparation, and nowhere is this more important than in answering Behavioural questions.  Your interviewer is looking for someone whose attitude to work matches the culture of the organisation.  This is your opportunity to shine, particularly if you have any gaps in the ‘hard’ skills required from the job.  Hard skills can be taught, but your attitude and approach to work can’t!

So how do you prepare when you don’t really know what the interviewer is going to ask?  Firstly, while the way the questions are phrased might differ, interviewers are essentially going to be looking for answers that demonstrate your ability to handle the situations we talked about earlier under What are Behavioural Interview Questions.  From there it just requires some thinking:

  1. Look at the job description. Write down the key skills they are looking for and think about what challenges the role might present.
  2. Write down situations you have experienced which demonstrate when you have put those skills to use in the past. In writing these scenarios down you can use the SAO Method, which we will get to in a moment.
  3. Practice talking through those answers. You don’t want to be tripping over your tongue, and working through them out loud will help you be succinct and clear.

The SAO Method

There are any number of different techniques for answering Behavioural Interview questions.  Many Recruitment Consultants recommend the STAR technique, which as you may have guessed, is an acronym for: Situation, Task, Action and Result.  This can sometimes be a little clunky, and hard to remember.  Less well known, but simpler and more direct is the SAO method – Situation, Action, Outcome.

  1. Situation – what was the situation you found yourself in?
  2. Action – what was the action that you took as a result?
  3. Outcome – what was the outcome of your action?

How to Use SAO to Prepare for Behavioural Questions

Once you have identified which soft skills you are likely to be asked about – whether it is conflict resolution or the ability to communicate – think about a scenario in which you have had to use those skills.  Use the SAO method to identify the situation, what action you took, and what the outcome was.  Be honest and if you don’t have a positive example, don’t be afraid to use a negative one, but try to put a positive spin on it.  For example, highlight what you learned from a conflict in your workplace, or how you changed your communication style as a result of a communication breakdown.  There is almost no situation that cannot be presented as a learning and growth opportunity.

More Information

Katz Recruitment is a full- service boutique recruitment agency located in North West Sydney. We recruit for clients Australia and New Zealand wide. Please contact us if we can assist you with your current vacancies or support you with your job search.

Please contact us on 0405 499 228 if we can assist you with your current vacancies or support you with your job search.