Tell Me About a Time When…

                                                                              Describe your leadership skills.  How do you handle stress?  Tell me about a time when you dealt with a conflict.  These are behavioural interview questions.  They are based on the premise that past behaviour predicts future behaviour.  Interviewers love them because they reveal more about the candidate.  Since they are asking about your unique experiences, it is more difficult to provide a prepackaged response.

When handled poorly, your behavioural interview could leave the employer with concerns about your professionalism, experience, and fit for the job.  However, when questions are answered effectively, the behavioural interview can reveal that not only do your skills and experience make you uniquely qualified for the position, but your personality is also a good match for the organizational culture.

A popular method to use when answering behavioural interview questions is the STAR method. 

Situation:  Tell the interviewer about the situation.  Paint a picture of the scene.  What challenges were you facing?  (For example: We had an event in two weeks, we had no location and we were working under a strict budget.) 

Task:  What were you trying to do?  What was the task?  (For example: We needed to find a location within our budget for the event.) 

Action:  What did you do?  What action did you take?  (For example:  I called several contacts in my network to see if they were aware of any potential venues.) 

Result:  What happened?  What was the end result?  (For example:  My previous supervisor referred us to a venue that was perfect for our needs and we came in under budget.  We have since used that venue several times.)

Many people have trouble handling behavioural interview questions.  Some people ramble on and on, and others provide unrelated anecdotes that may even raise concerns for the interviewer.  In a behavioural interview, it is essential that your answers be direct and focused.  When preparing for a behavioural interview, study the job advertisement to assess what types of skills and attributes that the employer may be looking for, and have some customized STAR stories ready.  Since many people do not handle behavioural interviews well, if you present a strong case, then you can put yourself ahead of the competition.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo From: Master isolated images /


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