How to prepare for a behavioural interview

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Careers / CGA / Mid-Career Alumni / Young Alumni

How to prepare for a behavioural interview


Behavioural interviews, also called competency-based interviews, have been used  in both the public and private sector to assess candidates for position ranging from graduate right through to executive level.  Unfortunately, any candidate without a thorough understanding of how to prepare for these interviews will be greatly disadvantaged when applying for internships, graduate programs or more senior professional positions.

So what is a behavioural interview?

A behavioural interview is an interview that may include a number of different styles of questions including general questions, motivational questions and behavioural-based questions.

General questions are the type of questions that you may get asked regardless of the position or industry that they you are interviewing for. These include questions that are more ice-breaker questions such as; “Tell us about yourself?” or “What are your key strengths?”.

Motivational questions are asked to understand your reasons for applying for the role and may include questions such as ‘Why did you apply for this role?’ or ‘Why did you choose a career as an engineer?’. They are designed to understand if you are applying for the right reasons.

However, the questions that candidates usually find most difficult are behavioural-based questions.  These questions are designed to elicit an evidence-based response by asking the candidate to describe a very specific example of when the candidate has previously demonstrated one of the key competencies or skills required to be successful in the role. Behavioural questions are questions that are asked to test whether you possess the key competencies required for that particular position and may include competencies such as communication skills, teamwork, resilience, accountability or problem-solving skills. Behavioural-based questions may also be used to assess whether a candidate demonstrates core values of the organisation such as integrity, inclusion or collaboration.

How to identify a behavioural interview question?

 Behavioural questions can be identified, as they will ask the candidate for a specific example that demonstrates the competency and how effective they have been.  A behavioural question can be identified easily, as the question will ask for a specific example or story as follows:

Tell us about a time when you made a positive contribution to a team?

Give us an example of when you resolved a conflict? (this is always a tricky one!)

Describe a situation when you demonstrated resilience?

Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

How do I answer such a question?

 To succeed in a behavioural interview, it is absolutely vital that you understand the correct way to answer these questions.

Behavioural questions require a very specific response using a structure that we call the ‘STAR’ method (S = Situation,  T = Task, A = Actions R = Result), with recruiters and hiring managers expecting you to respond using this method.

Be careful not to give generic responses as you will be marked down for this in the interview.

 How to prepare for a behavioural-based interview?

 If you have an interview scheduled, then read the instructions from the recruiter carefully. If they don’t provide detail about the interview it is perfectly fine to ask whether the interview will be behavioural-based. Next, review the position description carefully and get an in-depth understanding of the key competencies required for the role.  The next step is to brainstorm what examples you have from your paid or unpaid work that demonstrate these competencies.  Then describe your example using STAR as a basic structure whilst trying to make it as natural as can be (it does take practice!).

If you can arrive at the interview with specific examples that you have drafted and rehearsed, then you are going to be way ahead of other candidates who are not so well prepared.


After the panel have asked you their questions, then is your turn to assess whether this role and company is right for you. Always have a few good questions prepared to ask the panel and also practice what you are going to say at the end  to close the interview.  Thank the panel for their time, reinforce your interest in the role and state three reasons you believe that you are the right candidate for the role!

Remember, “the more you sweat in peace, the less you sweat in war’!

Written by CGA Careers Expert – Leah Lambart

Leah is a Career & Interview Coach, Founder of Melbourne-based career coaching business, Relaunch Me and host of the Relaunch Your Career podcast.

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