The Interview (Part 4): Behavioural interview questions

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We will take a step further in this series to focus on the behavioural interview questions you’d possibly get and how to prepare for them.

Behavioural interview questions are used by hiring managers to understand how you react to every-day work scenarios and handle situational circumstances.

As the name suggests, it is about your past experiences and how they influence your behaviour in the future.

It is all about finding candidates with the right qualities to fill the roles they want.

Be it strong leadership skills, or commendable problem-solving abilities, the answers are not fixed.

You will also know by now that behavioural interviews involve a great deal of preparation.

You need to think about the success stories you want your interviewer to know about.

These stories need to demonstrate your relevant skills and aptitude for the position.

Obviously, behavioural questions are likely to come in many different forms.

Knowing what to expect will enable you to prepare the best success stories.

Here are 4 types of behavioural interview questions and what could possibly go wrong and how to avoid them.

Behavioural Question #1: Accessing teamwork competency

The role you may be interviewing for may call for the ability to be a good team player.

In this situation, interviewers will get you to explain to them how you have handled working as part of a team.

Some teamwork-based behavioural questions will be easier to spot than others, but they all ask the exact same thing.

How well do you work with other people?

Here are a few examples of questions about teamwork:

  • Give me an example of how you have worked on a team project?
  • Share a rewarding team experience?
  • Describe a project you worked in that required input from people at different organisational levels?
  • Tell me about a time when you worked with a difficult team member?
  • Tell me about a time where you were in charge of delegating tasks during a project?

Basically, hiring managers may be looking for a number of qualities ranging from the ability to work well with others to your ability to mediate disagreements.

Reviewing the job description will help you understand what the company means when they talk about teamwork.

Prepare your answers based on what seems to be most relevant to the position.

Behavioural Question #2: Assessing leadership competency

In the professional world, ‘leadership’ may seem like an ambiguous word.

It may encompass many skills, including taking initiative, inspiring others, making tough decisions, and communicating corporate visions.

The aim of leadership-focused questions is seeing whether candidates have the potential to be good leaders.

This is true both at a senior level and at an entry-level position.

In a competitive job market, showing hiring managers you are able to lead and influence is a much sought after asset.

That is why, when focusing on leadership, interviewers will ask some of the following behavioural questions.

  • Tell me about a time you had to lead a crisis management team.
  • What was it like the last time you took the lead on a difficult project?
  • Tell me about an important meeting you have led?
  • Give me an example of a time you have motivated others?

Leadership questions are commonly asked for roles where have people will be reporting to you.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare leadership-based answers if your role is not explicitly entailing this.

Remember those keywords: leadership potential.

Behavioural Question #3: Accessing conflict handling competency

A hiring manger’s favourite, this type of question allows the interviewer to identify candidates’ interpersonal communication skills.

This is also a type of question that may catch people off guard.

That is why preparing good answers about workplace conflict is just as crucial as reflecting on your career successes.

You need to think about a situation, your approach, and the results that came from your strategies.

Not sure where to start? Reflect on situations that best answer these common conflict handling questions:

  • Tell me about a team project where you had to work with someone difficult?
  • Tell me about a time where you had a conflict at work?
  • Give me an example of a time you had to respond to an unhappy customer/colleague/team member/manager?
  • Tell me about a time you disagreed with a set rule or approach?
  • Describe a situation where you disagreed with a supervisor?

Remember to focus on specific details like the roles you played, the team members involved, the approaches and initiatives are taken, and how the matters were resolved.

Your aim is to show the interviewer that you are able to solve problems in a productive manner.

Which brings us to the next type of behavioural question to look out for.

Behavioural Question #4: Your problem-solving skills

A type of question that is popular in roles that require innovation and the ability to think outside the box.

All roles have some type of problem-solving component attached to it, so this type of behavioural question is pretty much inevitable.

In fact, you are likely to recognise the questions asked straightaway. They come in many variations, but here is a brief overview of what to expect:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a difficult problem?
  • Describe a situation where you creatively overcame an obstacle?
  • Give me an example of a situation where you devised a new approach to a problem?
  • What has been the most innovative idea you have implemented?
  • What was the best idea you came up within your previous role?
  • Describe a time when you anticipated a problem and developed preventive measures for it?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to analyse information and make recommendations?

As you can see, problem-solving questions can be quite diverse.

You need to reflect on your personal inputs in your previous roles and try to think of problem-solving examples that are most relevant to the position you are applying for.

Go for your most impressive examples of overcome challenges, creative approaches, and solutions that made a difference to your organization.

That should cover all bases.

Your biggest failure in answering behavioural questions

More and more recruiters are opting for these types of questions.

Talking about personal failures may seem like an unpleasant exercise, but you should prepare great answers to these questions anyway.

The interviewer wants to know if you are someone who can learn from their mistakes.

That is why answering this question well is crucial.

A strong answer will show a good sense of self-awareness, a weak answer will lead the interviewer into thinking there is no room for personal growth.

Examples of questions to expect (though these tend to be quite straightforward):

  • Tell me about the biggest mistake you have made in your previous position?
  • What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
  • Tell me about a decision that you regret making in your previous workplace?
  • Have you ever made a mistake? How did you handle it?

Think of a real example of professional failure you have experienced.

  • Did you fail to land a large project when you were managing a big consulting company?
  • What led to this failure, and how were you personally responsible?
  • What did you learn from it, and how have you/will you do things differently since that experience?

Now that you know the types of questions to expect, you can prepare for them.

Keep reflecting on your experiences, and you will be able to ace all behavioural interview questions.

Now, it’s time to work on what you will ask the interviewers in our Part 5: Questions to Ask Interviewers.

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Amos Tay

Amos Tay

Amos Tay is the Senior Partner of Hatch Asia. He is a Gallup-Certified CliftonStrength Coach and lead our executive search, coaching and expand our partnership development across the region.

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