How to answer behavioural interview questions (Inspiring Interns)

So you know the company back to front, your CV is printed out and you’ve aced all of the technical questions. Here’s where it can get tricky. Businesses are becoming more and more concerned with ensuring new employees are a cultural fit; they need to know that you’ll work well within the company and that you have certain behavioural traits that will make you shine in your new role. ‘Tell me about a time when you…’ questions can seem particularly difficult for graduates who might feel like they don’t have the work experience to call upon. So where do you get your behavioural stories from?

Where do you take the examples from?

Remember that the company will understand that as a graduate, you won’t always have years of office work experience to call upon, so take the examples from what you have done…

Your degree – It’s not just about the technical skills you learnt during your degree, but the way in which you learnt them and how worked while you were there.

Great for: ‘Worked in a team and independently’, ‘Achieved under pressure’, ‘Showed attention to detail’.

Part-time Job – Working at a bar or café while at university can be a great way to show that you’re hard working and can really prove your strong on confidence and communication.

Great for: ‘Solved a problem’, ‘Showed strong communication’, ‘Handled a conflict’

Society or Sports Team – You can gain invaluable skills and experience being involved in a society, but the best thing for your career is to get stuck in and take up a committee position with responsibility.

Great for: ‘Juggled a number of duties’, ‘Solved a problem’, ‘Showed leadership’.

Selling – Whether it’s flyering, selling tickets or promoting an event in any way, getting involved in selling can be great for these kind of questions.

Great for: ‘Stepped out of your comfort zone’, ‘Showed strong communication’, ‘Made a great first impression’.

How do you structure your answer?

Now that you’ve got some ideas on where to draw your answers from, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll lay the answer out. As with any interview question, you want your answers to be concise, packed with enthusiasm and full of information. In the case of behavioural questions you want to start off with the challenge you faced and how you dealt with it.

A common technique to get the most out of your interview answers is the STAR technique:

  • Situation: Briefly set the context for the story. Don’t spend too long here as it doesn’t add much value to your answer other than making it clearer.
  • Task: Again, briefly explain your expected role in the situation, helping to give more context to the story.
  • Activity: This is the meat of your answer, detail exactly what your response to the challenge was, and show the process you used to arrive at your answer.
  • Result: This is your chance to show how everything played out and show that your actions led to a tangible achievement. If you’re struggling to find an achievement, it can be as simple as what you learnt from the experience.

Now that you know where to take the answer from, and how to structure, you’re ready to go! Remember that honesty and authenticity is key to these question. Of course you choose examples that show you off in the best light, but don’t stretch the truth too far; experienced hiring managers will see this a mile off.

Best of luck with your graduate interviews!

– Matt Arnerich works as a content writer for leading graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns. If you’re looking to start your career journey, take a look at their website for their graduate jobs listings and more graduate careers advice.



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