Preparation is key when it comes to job interviews. There are many articles on the internet to help you nail the basics, but we want to focus on those pesky behavioural interview questions and how you can use them to spin stories of success. When a potential employer asks you one of these questions, they want you to give a real life example of how you managed a situation at work.
Take the classic job interview question: Do you work well under pressure? As a behavioural interview question, this might become: Tell me about a time you had to work under pressure and how you handled it.
These questions push you to back up your claims. They also help the interviewer gauge your self-reflection skills.
But as a job seeker, these questions can catch you off guard and leaving you scrambling for an answer. A solid approach is to come up with some examples before you get to the interview, so you have a handful of scenarios ready to go.
Predict the questions
You can start by coming up with a list of skills you think an employer would look for in a new hire. What questions would you ask of a job applicant if you were in their shoes?
Transferable skills are standard abilities that employers look for, regardless of industry. Examples of these include: the ability to work well with others, manage time, remain calm under pressure, take initiative, problem-solve and handle conflict.
There are also skills that relate directly to a specific job vacancy. Job ads usually include a position description and selection criteria which outline exactly what skills are required. Examples of specific community work skills include: the ability to work with a disengaged client, navigate ethical dilemmas, and work with clients with complex or co-morbid issues.
Find real life examples
Now it’s time to reflect on your experiences to find examples of when you have demonstrated these skills. This can be from paid work, volunteering or from fieldwork placements.
The Australian Community Workers Practice Guidelines self-assessment tool is a great resource during this process. The tool provides 40 statements selected from the Practice Guidelines and alongside each statement is a set of questions.
These statements and prompts can help you reflect on your experiences at work and may trigger memories of situations that you can use in your interview answers.
Prepare your answers
To answer a behavioural interview question, you will need to explain what happened, what you did, and the outcome. Since you are using real life examples, keep in mind confidentiality!
You can use the STAR method to structure your answer:
- Situation (explain the context i.e., when, where, who)
- Task (explain the challenge you were faced with)
- Action (explain what you did)
- Result (explain the outcome)
If the situation didn’t end with a positive outcome, you should explain what you learned and what you would do differently next time.
Reuse, recycle, reframe
Now you know how to answer behavioural interview questions. While they can be tricky the good news is that you don’t need to think up new examples for each job interview. You may find that one example demonstrates multiple skills. If you have a handful of scenarios that you can remember, you can reuse and recycle these as you see fit.
You can also reframe your answers as success stories. We don’t often stop to celebrate or even notice our successes at work – it’s often mistakes that we remember. But you can share these stories throughout your job search to show times you faced a challenge and worked through it to achieve a positive outcome. These are moments to be proud of.
This blog is part of our Job Seeker Series.