How to answer behavioural interview questions like a pro



There are four major types of interviewing questions that interviewers use:

Closed ended questions, which are used to confirm or verify information:

You have a Bachelor of Business Degree from the University of New South Wales. Is that correct?

Open-ended questions

What kind of work environment do you prefer?

Theoretical questions, which provide hypothetical situations

How would you react if you saw co-worker disagreeing?

Behavioural interview questions, which focus on your past experience and behaviours:

Describe a time when you were under pressure to make a decision. Did you react immediately or take time in deciding what to do?

You are dealing with a behavioural interview question, if the question begins with:

Tell me about a time you….

Give me an example of….

Describe a time when….

Increasingly employers and recruiters are using behavioural interview questions, as they want to draw out clues as to the real you. The theory goes that previous behaviour and performance will predict future behaviour and performance.

Now not all companies/recruiters are experts at interviewing, but generally companies first identify the behaviours important to the job and then ask behavioural interview questions based on this. So for example:

If the job was a leadership position for a project team, they might ask:

Tell me about the last time you took charge of a project that was lacking clear direction. How did you remedy this?

If the job relates to customer service, they might ask:

Tell me about a time when you were faced with an irritated customer? How did you handle the customer?

Preparing for behavioural interview questions

Now the best way to prepare and then answer behavioural interview questions is to use the T-Account and the CAR, or STAR Methodology.

Step 1 – T-Account

The T-Account usually describes the appearance of bookkeeping entries. But for career purposes, the T-Account is a method used by Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters, Jay Conrad Levinson and David E Perry, to describe a method in which you can identify employer needs and match this with the skills and experience that you possess.

After reading the job advertisement and researching the company, simply draw a line down the middle of a page and on one side, list the employer needs and on the other side, list your skills and accomplishments that prove you can do the job.


The employer needs:I’m offering:


Step 2 – Create a list of CARs / STARs

Now if you are not familiar with the CAR, or STAR methodology, welcome to one of the best strategies ever created for addressing behavioural interview questions.

CAR is the acronym for:

  • Challenge you encountered
  • Action taken
  • Result from your action

Example using the CAR technique

Example One:


Poor or non-existent quality procedures in place (The challenge)


Empowered a small team to document the current practices, then the same team wrote procedures to what needed to be done. Each team member then validated the relevant procedure for their machine and implemented the quality procedures. (Actions you took) 


The entire team embraced the procedures. The cost of complaints for that site reduced from an average of 12% per year to 2% for the first year and 1.2% for the balance of the next year. Moved the mindset from quality checking to quality assurance. (The results)

Now the STAR is virtually identical but the C is replace with the S and the T, which represent, Situation and Task. The result is almost identical.

Since addressing behavioural interview questions well involves story telling, the CAR, or STAR methodology is perfect, since it provides this story framework, which will show the exact aptitude, competence or skill they are looking for.

So for example:

  • Give me some examples of how you have used motivational techniques to mentor staff. What results did you get?
C – Circumstances

As Project Manager with DIAC, I was instrumental in the implementation of new job descriptions, as a performance management tool, along with a staff training and development.

A – Actions

During this role, I successfully implemented ITIL and a new software development life cycle methodology, namely Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF), providing a new direction for the ICT section within DIAC. During implementation, I facilitated bi-weekly staff meetings and successfully introduced a staff training and development program, as well as staff satisfaction survey.

R – Results

This enabled me to address areas of performance, including helping allowing staff to take an active role in the process, as well as their own development, and knowing when it was appropriate to confront staff relating to their performance. Within this role, there was a measurable increase in staff satisfaction, resulting in an overall improvement in motivation and performance of staff, including a 100% increase in productivity.

Step 3 – Become familiar with the type of behavioural interview questions that will be asked

It is also helpful to become familiar with the type of behavioural interview questions that will be asked. So below, we have provided a few behavioural interview samples.

Problem Solving

Outline a time when you have used high-level skills to lead the delivery of an improved business solution to a complex problem?


Describe a project in which you were the driving force. What steps did you take to propel the project and what was the result.

Tell me about when you drove a new initiative and change within an organisation? What was the result?


Tell me a time when you had to deliver difficult and impartial advice?

Interpersonal Skills

Describe a time when you had to work with someone who clearly did not like you. How did you deal with this and what was the outcome?

Tell me abut a time when you had to work with a team member you did not get along with. Describe what happened.

Communication Skills

Tell me about a time in which you had to communicate a really complex problem to another person, whose understanding of the subject matter was limited. What steps did you take to communicate clearly and what was the outcome?


Describe when you had to make a decision without all the facts. What steps did you take? What was the result of your decision?

Step 4 – When responding, you don’t have to confess everything

Yes, be honest, but you don’t have to confess to everything. When addressing behavioural interview questions, keep the following in mind:

  • It is not necessary to disclose everything.
  • Always put a positive spin on EVERYTHING.
  • Focus on your achievements, in particular the R of the CAR.
  • Make sure you provide examples that are work related.

By preparing for behavioural questions, you will be able to effortlessly respond and sound like a pro at interview.

Other articles you might find useful

How to answer some of the tough job interview questions

Overcoming job interview nerves




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