Behavioural based interviewing - calling on your past experiences


How much have you learnt and how well do you explain it?

You have just secured an interview for a new opportunity. It might be the second interview.

Do you know how to cut through the gloss or “words” on your CV? Are you prepared to explain how well you understand your past? What have you genuinely experienced and learnt from? If you have, can you back it up in the interview with examples based on reflection?

Behavioural based interviewing is using your past behaviours (or at least in terms how well you explain these) to assess how you might behave in the future.

Given this, it’s fair to say, to really have thought about and understand your past, broken into a series of various topics and scenarios is critical to leaving the right impression on the interviewer.

Let’s take two different approaches to this in the assessment process as an example.

Fred has had a great first interview with the line manager for a new role in an IT department of the business. He has an excellent base in the technology and building out platforms, from a technical perspective. Fred possibly relies on this as his ace up the sleeve in his interviews. Fred is well versed in explaining is background from a technical perspective.

Sally has a sound base knowledge in the technology, though not quite to the level of Fred. However, Sally has only been involved with the technology for 3 years vs. Fred’s 5 years. The knowledge gap is there, though factoring in time it might be recognised that Sally is learning quickly.

Both Sally and Fred are at second interview stage.

The organisation is growing quickly and although this is not a leadership role it will still require strong stakeholder management skills and a genuine team focus.

It’s likely that the interviewer will focus on, in assessing the behaviours, around these two areas to get a better understanding of the people in front of them. How well can they move into the team and work within the culture and challenges that lie ahead. It may be the line manager really wants Fred’s superior technical skills, though it may be that Sally has explained and demonstrated just how well she can work within the new team, better than Fred. And this is most likely based off the back of behavioural based interview questioning.

Sally has most likely thought about this more and is therefore more self-aware around her experience.

Sally is offered the role.**

Being self-aware about what you have experienced and how you have behaved, and supporting it with examples, is likely to be a major distinguishing factor in your success.

Behavioural based questions centre around calling on examples from your past. The often-used acronym used is STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result). STAR based examples can be worded in different ways and across different areas of your development. In my opinion don’t get caught up in trying to cover the wide range of topics these can apply to. It may be counter productive given the sheer volume of thinking required.

So the old rule of “keeping it simple” can certainly apply. Together with either the recruitment advisor you are dealing with, or your own research if going direct, have a sound base of information and thoughts to call on, based on the personalities and job requirements presenting themselves case by case.

The four categories I personally recommend starting with are conflict (how you have handled these situations in the past?), relationships (how do you go about building these?), technical challenges (how have you dealt with these when they arise?) and initiative (what have you done which demonstrates this…specifically?!).

If you are looking for examples of behavioural based questions the internet is loaded with examples or your recruitment advisor should be well placed to help with this.

Time to start thinking about your past.