Behavioural Based Interviewing

The interviewer does not want to hear what you think you can do in the future; they want to know what you have done and how you did it.

Interviewing for a job can be nerve-wracking – even for experienced Managers. You may feel uncomfortable “selling” yourself or fielding unexpected questions. Or the prospect of having to meet and impress new people may be enough to trigger anxiety. However, interviewing is a skill you can learn. With the right tips and techniques, you can become a master at sharing your value with potential employers, presenting yourself effectively at interviews, and getting the job you want.

However – unlike traditional interviewing techniques that are based on asking open questions to the candidate, behavioral interviews focus on past performance and behaviours. Developed three decades ago by industrial psychologists, behavioural (also known as competency based) interviews have rapidly grown in popularity and most organizations now use them to some extent. The behavioral interview will give you the chance to showcase your competencies such as skills, abilities and knowledge through specific examples from your experience.

The interviewer doesn’t want to hear what you think you can do in the future; they want to know what you have done and how you did it. It’s all about how your past performance being the guiding light for your future performance.

In a traditional interview, it’s easy for the candidate to let their imagination run wild and say exactly what the interviewer wants to hear: “Work late nights and some weekends? Yes, No problem… Increase my travel to 100%? Yes of course…..”

In the behavioral interview, you will have to back your work ethic with real-life examples, detailing how you handled specific situations. You will most likely be asked to specifics and quantify your answer as much as possible, allowing the interviewer to check your facts with referees, should it get to that stage.

The bottom line is that the behavioral interview is not about potential scenarios. It’s about what you have done and how you did it, making it very tough to fabulate any answers in the interview.


How to prepare for a behavioral interview

Before you start preparing you answers, you have to determine what competencies you think the employer is looking for. Do your research. What does the job specification say?

Any company is likely to look for a combination of the following skills:

  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Attention to detail
  • Management material
  • Action orientation
  • Loyalty
  • Ability to make/save money
  • Team player
  • Enthusiasm
  • Flexibility


Identify and rank these based on the job you are interviewing for. Prepare to come up with specific examples where you have demonstrated these competencies.

Whatever the question and answer may be, there is a useful tool for your delivery. The best way to tell someone about a specific event and how it went is to employ the STAR model:

Give the interviewer the Situation or Task that you had to resolve. Then describe the Action you took and what Result or outcome you achieved.

Be as specific as possible; add any relevant components to your answer such as the people, environment, scale and scope. Be open about the outcome, whether it was a complete success or a result that you could learn from in order to do things better next time.

You now have to practice, and turn your real-life competencies into interesting stories.


The article was inspired by Pamela Skillings, Co-Founder of Big Interview

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