Careers advice

The most common behavioural interview questions

There’s no need to fear behavioural interview questions.

Behavioural questions are among the most common you’ll face in job interviews.

The good news? They’re super easy to deal with, so long as you’ve done your homework. Let’s take a look at the most frequently used behavioural interview questions in NZ, and a framework that can be used for answering every single one.

What are behavioural interview questions?

Behavioural interview questions are designed to show the interviewer how you’d act in a certain situation. They work by the logic that if you’ve behaved in a particular way in the past, you’re likely to react similarly in the future.

They’re an opportunity to show how you’ve put your skills into practice with real life examples, and showcase that you’d be a great cultural fit for their organisation.

Behavioural interview questions give the interviewer a rounded picture of you.

What is the STAR method when interviewing?

STAR stands for situation, task, action, result, and is a tried and tested method for responding to behaviour based interview questions.

Here’s an example:

Question: “Tell me about a time you exercised leadership”.

  • Situation: this the context.
    • “I was put in charge of running a group project at uni to gather customer feedback on a new product”.
  • Task: give specifics of what was required, and any challenges you encountered.
    • “We had to survey X number of young professionals on the streets of Wellington. However, some members of my team weren’t confident in talking to strangers”.
  • Action: what you did.
    • “To ensure we got the number of responses required, I divided the team into pairs, and ensured that each pair contained one confident person. I also targeted popular eateries at lunchtime, so we had a better chance of surveying our target audience.
  • Result: how did your actions lead to success?
    • “As well as achieving above our target number of responses, this approach allowed the less confident to learn from their teammates. By the end, everyone was getting involved with surveying.

Depending on the question, don’t be afraid to also include anything you’d do differently in the ‘result’ section. Showing that you’ve self-reviewed, and worked out ways to improve your performance next time, will only go down well.

The STAR method of answering interview questions.

The most common behavioural interview questions

1. Teamwork

  • “Give me an example of how you’ve worked as part of a team.”
  • “Tell me how you deal with personality clashes in the workplace.”
  • “How do you react when teammates disagree with you?.”
  • “Tell me about a time you’ve gone above and beyond to help a colleague”.
  • “How do you react when someone criticises your work?”.
  • “What would you do if you felt a teammate wasn’t pulling their weight?”.

2. Decision making

  • “Tell me about a time you’ve taken the initiative”.
  • “What’s the hardest decision you’ve had to take at work?”
  • “Describe a decision you made that wasn’t popular, how did you get people on side?”.
  • “Have you ever taken the lead on improving processes in your workplace?”.

3. Stress and pressure

  • “How do you deal with tight deadlines at work?”.
  • “Tell me about a time you’ve worked effectively under pressure?”.
  • “How do you handle stress”.
  • “What do you do when multiple stakeholders are putting pressure on you to complete tasks?”.

Draw on real life examples when answering behavioural interview questions.

4. Prioritising

  • “How do you make sure you don’t miss deadlines?”.
  • “What techniques do you use to manage your time effectively?”
  • “What do you do if you know you aren’t going to meet your targets?”
  • “Tell me about a time you managed multiple responsibilities. How did you handle that?”
  • “How do you set yourself goals?”

5. Successes and failures

  • “What’s your greatest professional achievement?”
  • “What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in your professional life?”
  • “How do you deal with setbacks?”
  • “Give me an example of a goal you achieved, and how.”
  • “Tell me about how you’ve dealt with dissatisfied customers.”

6. Managing, and being managed

  • “Tell me about a time you exercised leadership.”
  • “Give me an example of when you’ve motivated others.”
  • “Tell me about a time you’ve been micromanaged, how did you deal with that?”
  • “What management style suits you best?”

How do you prepare for a behavioural interview?

Once you’ve made some notes to answer these key questions, we highly recommend conducting a mock interview. This allows you to:

  • Familiarise yourself with the STAR framework.
  • Practice speaking your answers out loud.
  • Think about your body language – this is especially important when talking about negatives, like your biggest mistakes.