Past behavior is the best
predictor of future behavior
Behavioural job interview questions are based on the premise that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour – and that’s why they are so often asked by employers when assessing candidates during a job interview.
These types of competency-based interview questions typically begin with the phrase, “Tell me about a time when…” – and if you’re able to understand the specific requirements of the role before your interview, you’ll be much better prepared to predict these kinds of questions and think about how you’ll answer them.
The CAR principle
The golden rule when you’re answering behavioural interview questions is to adhere to what’s called the CAR principle: Context, Action, Result.
Context is about describing a situation and setting the scene for a relevant example. The key here is to choose your example well – one that clearly demonstrates the quality or skill the employer is asking about.
Action is about explaining what action you took. Be really specific rather than making vague statements and outline your steps and rationale.
Result is about detailing the outcome of your action. Offer specific facts relating to the result. For instance, quote figures and statistics that back up your declaration.
Remember these three steps to answering behavioural interview questions and you’ll be well on your way to thoroughly impressing your interviewer.
CAR in action
Q: Tell me about a time when you helped to turn around your team’s sales performance.
Context: “One of my previous employer’s sales divisions had been experiencing decreasing sales – so I was brought in to help reverse the situation. My challenge was to manage the team effectively so they were able to actually exceed (not just meet) their sales targets.”
Action: “Over a six-month period, I introduced several initiatives within the team, including: setting specific and measurable sales targets for each individual within the team; introducing weekly sales meetings for the team and for each individual within the team; and implementing a structured sales training program.
I also conducted market research to identify what our main competitors were doing, set up focus groups with major clients to establish key goals, and introduced a new remuneration system that linked sales performance to remuneration packages.”
Result: “We lifted sales by 60% and exceeded sales targets by 25% in the first quarter, and continued the upward trajectory throughout the next year.”
Sample behavioural job interview questions
Your ability to answer behavioural interview questions can make or break your attempt to secure that dream job – so we’ve put together some sample behavioural interview questions to help you more adequately prepare.
“Give an example of a time when you were able to build rapport with someone at work, even in a stressful or challenging situation.”
“Tell me about a time when you had to give someone constructive criticism.”
“Give me an example of how you were able to use your ability to communicate and persuade to gain buy-in from a resistant audience.”
“Give me an example of a time when you had to cope with interpersonal conflict when working on a team project.”
“Tell me about a time when your fellow team members were de-motivated. What did you do to improve morale?”
“Describe a situation where others you were working with on a project disagreed with your ideas. What did you do?”
“Tell me about a difficult problem you were faced with, and how you went about tackling it.”
“Describe a time when you proactively identified a problem at work and were able to devise and implement a successful solution.”
“Have you ever faced a problem you could not solve?”
“Tell me about a situation in which you worked with team members to develop new and creative ideas to solve a business problem.”
“Describe the most creative work-related project you have completed.”
“Give an example of when your creativity made a real difference in the success of a product or project.”
Organisation and planning
“Have you ever managed multiple projects simultaneously? What methods did you use to prioritise and multi-task?”
“What specific systems do you use to organise your day?”
“Describe a time when you failed to meet a deadline.”
“Describe a situation where you had to interpret and synthesise a large amount of information or data.”
“Give me an example of a recent roadblock and your logic and steps in overcoming it.”
“What was your greatest success in using logic to solve a problem at work?”
“Give an example that demonstrates your professional integrity.”
“Tell me about a time when you had to stand your ground against a group decision.”
“Have you ever had to work with, or for, someone who was dishonest? How have you handled this?”
“Describe some projects that were implemented and carried out successfully primarily because of your efforts.”
“What are three achievements from your last job that you are particularly proud of?”
“What has been your most rewarding professional accomplishment to date?”
By preparing yourself in advance and familiarising yourself with these and other sample behavioural interview questions, you’ll be primed and ready for any number of behavioural questions that may come your way.
Next, read our top tips to ensure you're at your best during an interview.