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Your Guide to Answering Behavioural Questions

Some tips and tricks to help you ace your next interview.

It is no secret that the job market is flooding.

On LinkedIn alone, more than 55 million companies are listed on the site with 14 million open jobs. Whether you are looking to work at a startup or a big industry player— your skills are in demand.

While behavioural questions are one of the more popular interview question types, they are also one of the trickiest.  

Examples of behavioural questions include:                                                                          

  • Tell me about a time you had a conflict with someone within the organization.                
  • Tell me about a time you worked on a challenging team project.                                          
  • Tell me about a time you took a leadership role. What was the role and what was the outcome?                                                                                                                              
  • What’s the most difficult problem you had to solve? How did you navigate it?

Now, let’s get into how to not only answer behavioural interviews—but how to master them.

  1. Keep your eyes on the prize

The first and most crucial step in your interview preparation process is to do your research. Dive deep into the role’s requirements, the company’s vision, operations, etc.

This way, you will be able to extrapolate key themes to integrate into your responses. For example, if a job posting at a tech startup indicates that they are looking for “motivated self-starters,” your responses should revolve around situations in which you were self-reliant, willing to help others, and had a growth mindset.

In other words, your responses need to be woven with intentionality. Although, remember to balance merit with humility and to keep things realistic.  

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 2. Be a STAR

Documented as the best way to answer behavioural questions, the STAR method is an all-encompassing tool that can be used to reframe your work experience, moving past your day-to-day responsibilities.  

Think about the following questions: What were the wins/successes that you achieved? What projects would have crashed and burned without your efforts? How did you better things for your team/colleagues/organization?  

Now break those thoughts down into the STAR framework:

  • S = Situation. What was the problem you were trying to solve/event that occurred? Be as specific as possible, making a clear parallel to the behavioural question asked.
  • T = Task. Then, determine what the goal was. Identify: what did you need to do?
  • A = Action. Clearly articulate the specific steps you took to reach the goal. Caution: do not make the mistake of narrating the actions taken in the situation, instead of outlining what you specifically did or achieved.
  • R = Result. What was the final outcome? Take credit for what you accomplished by highlighting your objective wins.

Let us put this framework into action. Say that your interviewer asks,

“Tell me about a project you completed successfully, despite challenges that may have occurred along the way. What did you do and why do you consider it a success?”

Situation  Our team had to complete a project for a client but one of the developers got sick and was unable to work for the week.

Task | The other developer on the team and I took the initiative to assume their role/responsibilities of the developer who was out sick to ensure that the project was completed on time and met the quality expectations outlined by the client.

Action |  We looked at our other responsibilities and figured out how to prioritize and get the project done in time, which involved speaking to our manager and pushing back a couple internal deadlines that could be done without consequence, as well as delegating some tasks to more junior coworkers. Individually, I made sure to organize my time and tasks, as well as put in a couple of extra hours to ensure that the client's expectations would be thoroughly met.  

Result | Together, we were able to complete the project on time and the client was extremely happy with our work. It was a success because my manager was very content with my work, and my ability to take lead and collaborate with the other developer to think fast and prioritize my responsibilities to ensure the client was happy.

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3. Preparation is key for both your mind and body. Whether that means working through the STAR framework on paper beforehand, having a cup of coffee or doing breathing techniques, do what it takes to prepare yourself and make you feel as confident as possible going into the interview.


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