The behavioural interview is tricky – Here’s how to prepare for it!

by Sirius People

Behavioural Interview
Estimated Reading Time: minutes

Behavioural interviewing is a common technique that many interviewers will choose to conduct a job interview.

In brief, interviewers use these types of questions to determine your potential performance by learning more about how you behaved in previous, similar situations.

It can be a stand-alone interview (typically performed by someone in your potential future employer’s human resources department) or part of a technical interview. Regardless — it’s important to always be prepared for this style of interview, no matter what stage of the interview process you’re in.

Although you can never be sure what questions an interviewer may ask you on the day (unless they’ve given you questions or presentations to prepare), you will need to mentally prepare for the structure, quality and type of response an interviewer is looking for.

Some questions may seem quite simple on the surface, but the more open-ended the question, the more variations you may give your interviewer.

Once you’ve homed in on your interview skills, you will find that any question can be used as a launching pad for a particular topic, compelling story, or as a vehicle to push the conversation toward your strengths.

We’ve put together our top tips to ensure you understand how to best structure your responses, show that you’re the most qualified candidate and some of the most common behavioural interview questions for you to use as practice before your interview.


STAR Interview Technique

The STAR model can be used to answer behavioural interview questions in written applications or in interview settings. It provides a framework for talking about an experience, which illustrates the competency being assessed by a particular behavioural question.


STAR is an acronym for:






Essentially, a behavioural question will ask for one example of a time when you demonstrated a particular skill or competency.

The example will need to have happened in real life and be described in detail to explain the context and process of how you accomplished the skill or competency. This enables the employer to understand how you think and act, and how they can expect you to react in similar situations in their workplace.

Keep the responses recent and relevant — ideally in your most recent role, or within the last 1-2 years.

To ensure your responses are clear and succinct, follow the following anecdote structure to ensure your interviewer has a clear picture of your example:


Situation: Describe the situation/environment you were in. Include context, details and time.

Task: Describe the event/task that required resolution or accomplishment.

Action: Describe what happened including a particular focus on the actions YOU took. Focus on the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what.’

Result: What happened? What did you accomplish? What did you learn? Think about the relationship outcomes, as well as the task outcomes — try to include numbers to back up your statements.


What the interviewer is NOT looking for

The interviewer wants an actual example from your past. What they are NOT looking for is any of the following:

  • Vague responses — These include generalisations that do not provide the full picture. Avoid using phrases, such as:
    • Most of the time...
    • Usually…
    • Sometimes…
  • Opinions — The interviewer is not asking for your opinion. They want a factual, real-life example of what you did in a certain situation. Avoid phrases, such as:
    • I believe…
    • I think…
    • In my opinion…
  • Theoretical responses — These answers indicate what you would rather have done rather what you did do. Avoid phrases, such as:
    • If I had…
    • I would have…
    • I might…

Criticism of former colleagues, managers and companies is also poor form. It’s important to be straightforward in your account of what you did, not what anyone else did. We only have the ability to control our own actions and reactions; badmouthing other people in your answer will only detract from its validity.


What the interviewer is listening for

Planning and Organising

In questions regarding planning and organising, the examples that you present in your answers should demonstrate these particular abilities and should include the following actions:

  • Establishing clear and realistic objectives,
  • Scheduling activities, and time parameters to get the job done,
  • Setting priorities,
  • Knowing what resources are needed and making best use of them, and
  • Monitoring your progress and adjusting your activity where necessary.

Click here to read a sample behavioural answer.


Decision Making

When answering questions with regards to using your judgement and making decisions, they should include the following steps in the decision-making process:

  • Gathering the necessary information and facts,
  • Using this information to work out possible courses of action to take,
  • Considering alternative courses of action,
  • Considering the implications and consequences of different courses of action,
  • Carrying out the most appropriate course of action,
  • Involving the necessary stake-holders in the process, and
  • Monitoring your progress and adjusting your activity where necessary.

Click here to read a sample behavioural answer.


Problem Solving

Use past examples that demonstrate the following key elements to successful problem analysis and problem solving:

  • Finding and gathering all the relevant information from the right sources,
  • Organising and sorting the information to identify the reasons for the problem,
  • Involving the necessary stake-holders in the process, and
  • Coming up with potential solutions for the problem.

Click here to read a sample behavioural answer.



Behavioural interview questions regarding adaptability should contain these elements:

  • Adjusting your behaviour, communication style and your approach to match changing tasks, work demands or different people,
  • Adjusting priorities to meet new deadlines and information,
  • Adjusting activities and attitude to work effectively in a new environment,
  • Willing to try new approaches for changed situations, and
  • Attempting to understand and embrace change positively.

Click here to read a sample behavioural answer.



Your choice of behavioural answers to demonstrate your use of initiative should show you to be a person who is able to be proactive and seek out new opportunities, to capitalise on opportunities and come up with new ideas. The interviewer is looking for an individual who is able to:

  • Solve problems without being asked,
  • Come up with new ways to apply existing information and knowledge
  • To anticipate problems and challenges rather than just reacting to them,
  • To work independently, and
  • Who is willing to look for ways to improve oneself and one’s environment.

Click here to read a sample behavioural answer.



Answers to behavioural interview questions that explore your ability to work as part of a team would focus on examples that show how you exchange information freely and openly and offer information and ideas to other teammates. To showcase this, highlight how you were able to: 

  • Listen and acknowledge the input of others,
  • Use empathy when dealing with team members,
  • Ask for and encourage feedback and help,
  • Support team actions and decisions, and
  • Put the team objectives ahead of your own goals.

Click here to read a sample behavioural answer.


Work Standards

Examples of past behaviour that indicate high work standards should include these elements:

  • Setting high goals and standards for performance,
  • Imposing standards of excellence on oneself,
  • Not being satisfied with average performance, and
  • Assuming responsibility and accountability for one’s own successful performance and work outputs.

Click here to read a sample behavioural answer.



When it comes to your communication skills, use examples that demonstrate your ability to:

  • Listen with empathy and respect,
  • Avoid interrupting and hearing the person out,
  • Receiving the right message by asking appropriate questions and clarifying details,
  • Expressing oneself effectively and clearly, and
  • Using the appropriate language and communication style to match the individual(s) you are communicating with.

Click here to read a sample behavioural answer.



Creativity isn’t just about creating art. It’s about generating new ideas, approaching tasks and processes differently, and coming up with non-traditional solutions to problems. It is a highly valued competency and employers are more and more aware of the need for creativity in their workforce in order to be competitive and successful.

Click here to read a sample behavioural answer.

Now that you understand how to structure your responses — give it a go with any of the following common behavioural interview questions.


25 Common Behavioural Interview Questions

  1. Describe a time when you were faced with problems or stressed at work that tested your coping skills. What did you do?
  2. Give an example of a time when you could not participate in a discussion or could not finish a task because you did not have enough information.
  3. Give an example of a time when you had to be relatively quick in coming to a decision.
  4. Tell me about a time when you had to use your spoken communication skills in order to get a point across that was important to you.
  5. Can you tell me about a job experience in which you had to speak up and tell other people what you thought or felt?
  6. Give me an example of when you felt you were able to build motivation in your co-workers or subordinates.
  7. Tell me about a specific occasion when you conformed to a policy even though you did not agree with it.
  8. Describe a situation in which you felt it necessary to be very attentive and vigilant to your environment.
  9. Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to gain the information needed to solve a problem; then tell me about how you analysed the information and came to a decision.
  10. Give me an example of an important goal you had to set and your subsequent progress in reaching that goal.
  11. Describe the most significant written document, report or presentation that you’ve completed.
  12. Give me an example of a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  13. Give me an example of a time when you were able to communicate successfully with another person, even when that individual may not have personally liked you.
  14. Describe a situation in which you were able to read another person effectively and guide your actions by your understanding of his/her individual needs or values.
  15. What did you do in your last job in order to be effective with your organisation and planning? Be specific.
  16. Describe the most creative work-related project you have completed.
  17. Describe a time when you felt it was necessary to modify or change your actions in order to respond to the needs of another person.
  18. Give me an example of a time when you had to analyse another person carefully or a situation in order to be effective in guiding your action or decision.
  19. What did you do in your last job to contribute toward a teamwork environment? Be specific.
  20. Give me an example of a problem you faced on the job and tell me how you solved it.
  21. Describe a situation in which you were able to positively influence the actions of others in a desired direction.
  22. Tell me about a situation in the last year in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker.
  23. Describe a situation in which others within your organisation depended on you.
  24. Describe your most recent group effort.
  25. Describe the worst customer or co-worker you have ever had and explain how you dealt with him or her.



Now that you’ve prepared yourself on how to best answer your interviewer’s questions and have tested out a couple of the most common behavioural interview questions — it’s time to put them to use!

Your Sirius Recruitment Consultant will interview you before sending you in for an interview in front of one of their clients and will be able to provide you with customised feedback and company insights before you go into your interview.

We also recommend reading our blog post about the 10 job interview tips that will help you get hired, according to our recruitment consultants, which includes how to prepare yourself for the interview and what to do during the interview.

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