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Submitted by wendii on


Hi all,

I've been talking offline with one of our members about the answers to behavioural questions and he suggested it would be useful if I shared it. So here it is. It's quite long, so I'll split it into two posts. First, the behaviour titles we use in our business, what we mean by them, some example questions and what I'm looking for in the answers:

[b]Behaviour: TWO-WAY COMMUNICATION [/b]

What it is: Sharing information openly, encouraging others to speak and listening to their views.
Why it matters: It encourages honesty, trust and constructive feedback in our relationship with others.

1. Have you ever had to explain a complex topic to a group of people?
- What was the topic?
- How did you go about it?
- How did you know that they all understood?
- What did you learn?
2. Think of a time where you have had to communicate a particularly difficult problem to someone.
- Describe how you chose to communicate it (verbally, by phone, writing)?
- Explain why you chose this medium?
- How did you go about it?
- What did you say?

[i]What Wendii is looking for: do you understand the nature of communication? Do you understand that others receive information and understand it different ways to us. Do you use pictures, examples or demonstration as well as just talking? Do you know how important structure is in communication and do you demonstrate it in your answer? Does your example reflect the type and nature of the communication the role entails? [/i]

[b]Behaviour: TEAMWORKING [/b]

What it is: Supporting, co-operating and working with others to achieve common objectives.
Why it matters: It is important to combine our efforts in teams, because only by harnessing the benefits of teamworking will we achieve superior business results.

1. Describe an example of how you have built working relationships with others. How do you influence people that you work with? Give an example?
2. Describe an occasion when you had to rely on others and them on you. How did you gain their co-operation / support and what role did you play in the proceedings?
3. Do you work better as part of a team, or on your own? Give some examples.

[i]What Wendii is looking for: Can you emotionally detach from your relationships and understand the dynamics? Do you appreciate others strengths and weaknesses? Can you persuade others without using position power? Do you understand the two-way nature of relationships? Do you understand that teamwork is about working to a common goal? How well do you know yourself and what your strengths are in a team? Do you ‘muck in’ or do you go home at 5pm even when there’s work to be done? Do you build relationships with people who aren’t immediately useful to you? How quickly can you build useful relationships? [/i]

[b]Behaviour: DRIVE AND COMMITMENT [/b]

What it is: Overcoming obstacles and delivering results by showing tenacity and persistence.
Why it matters: A high level of personal dedication is required from us all if the company is to achieve business success in the face of increased competition and unpredictable business circumstances.

[i]What Wendii is looking for: Can you plan and see through a project? Do you know what it takes to be successful? Are your achievements on a par with those required in the role? Do you know yourself and understand how you deal with stress? Do you have standards? Can you be persistant? Do you ask for help when necessary? Can you persuade others to help you in the interest of the business? Will you put in the hours/effort necessary? [/i]

1. Over the last year, what did you consider to be your main achievements?
- What difficulties did you encounter?
- How did you overcome these?
2. Can you give me an example in the last 3-6 months where you have had to handle excess workload? How did you cope?
3. Describe a situation when you have persisted with completing a task when there has been frequent or significant barriers.


What it is: Applying flexibility, imagination and creative problem solving, taking novel ideas and approaches and putting them into practice.
Why it matters: All organisations need to develop to meet the demands of an ever-changing market. We need to analyse information, challenge existing systems and processes, and identify innovative improvements and solutions. We must also respond positively to change, seeing it as an opportunity to be welcomed.

[i]What Wendii is looking for: Do you understand that not all ideas are businessworthy? Can you deal with rejection? Can you use others ideas without being upset? Do you have a logical planning methodology. Are your ideas on a par with those we would expect in the role? Do you have one idea or many? If you’re not an ideas person, can you implement other’s ideas? [/i]

1. Describe an occasion when you implemented a really radical idea.
2. Tell me about an occasion when you implemented an idea put to you by someone else.
- What was the outcome
3. Describe a recent occasion where you solved a business problem with an unconventional solution.
- What were other's reactions?
- What was the result?
- What would you do differently?


What it is: Encouraging and supporting others to give their best.
Why it matters: To get the best out of ourselves and others, we all need encouragement to take responsibility and make our own decisions. This applies to us all, as team members and team leaders. We need to support others in time of difficulty so that their confidence is boosted and they are able to achieve.

[i]What Wendii is looking for: Do you understand the need for motivation in relationships? Can you motivate others? Can you be supportive and yet corrective? Have you dealt with situations which are similar to those in this role? Can you be sensitive and yet get the job done? Are you mean with praise? Can you give feedback? Do you learn from your mistakes? Can you help others learn from theirs? [/i]

1. How do you motivate others to take on tasks that they may see as unnecessary or as a waste of time?
2. How do you deal with poor performers? How do you demonstrate fairness and firmness in dealing with the poor performers?
3. Have you ever had to support someone through a challenging or difficult time?
- What did you do?
- What was the outcome?
4. What is the biggest setback/failure you've had at work?
- How did you deal with it?
- How will you prevent it happening again?


What it is: Accepting responsibility for our own development and supporting and helping others to achieve their development plans.
Why it matters: People can improve their performance if they understand their strengths and act upon their development needs. We can help by building an environment in which people can learn and contribute towards improving business performance.

[i]What Wendii wants: Do you want to develop? Are you willing to take responsibility for that? Do you work towards goals you set for yourself? Do you understand what it takes to develop your skills? How deeply have you thought about your career, and what you need to do to get where you want to go? Is this job part of that plan or are you interviewing for practise/ because you got offered an interview? [/i]

1. How do you set about feeding back development needs to others?
2. How do you manage your own development? What actions have you taken to enhance your development in the last 12 months?
3. How do you achieve objectives set for you? Tell me about a time when you did not meet an objective. What was the objective? Why it was not met? What would you do differently?

[b]Behaviour: CUSTOMER FOCUS[/b]

What it is: Knowing, understanding and delighting internal and external customers.
Why it matters: Business success depends largely upon listening to our customers, working with them, understanding their requirements and concerns, and focusing on the supply and delivery of products and services that delight them, so we have a long term and mutually profitable relationship.

[i]What Wendii wants: Do you understand that there are internal as well as external customers? Do you build relationships with them? Do you seek to understand their needs? Do you seek win/win solutions to their problems? Can you spend enough time in the problem space to find an appropriate solution? Do you seek feedback – and if so when? Do you learn from your mistakes? Do you know how to prioritise and what methods do you use? [/i]

1. How do you go about identifying customer needs?
2. How do you measure the level of service and customer satisfaction you provide to your customer(s)?
3. Can you give me an example of a major success / failure you have had with a customer?
- Why did it succeed / fail?
- What did you learn?

[b]Behaviour: DIRECTION AND PURPOSE [/b]

What it is: Identifying meaningful, practical objectives that support the overall aims of the business.
Why it matters: Understanding the Business' direction and future intentions will help us to see how our work is geared to meeting current and future needs. This will enable us to contribute to the Value Planning process, encourage others to do so and ultimately ensure the prosperity of everyone.

[i]What Wendii wants: What do you know about this company? Does what you think reflect an understanding of the industry and it’s dynamics. Are you interested? Do you understand the link between business requirements and your team requirements? [/i]

1. How do you see the company developing in the future?
2. Who do you see as the companies key competitor(s), why?
3. (How) do you participate in the formulation of the business strategy?
4. How do you seek feedback to ensure your objectives continue to meet those of the team?


What it is: Understanding how the business performs, it’s operating procedures and deliverables, in order to achieve objectives.
Why it matters: To make informed choices and deliver the best solutions, it is important to understand our role and the operation of our own business unit within the wider context of the company.
What Wendii wants: Do you understand how this company makes money? Do you understand the market in which it operates and the current situations? Can you describe business situations fluently? [/i]

1. What processes does the company have for the development, production and sale of its products?
2. How do you plan and monitor resources in your role to ensure maximum cost effectiveness?
3. How do you go about identifying cost saving opportunities? Give me an example of when you recently did this?
4. How do you stay up-to-date with developments within the business unit/company/function that you are working in at the moment?

wendii's picture
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And the second part: some other thoughts.

1. If you answered every question perfectly, I'd begin to think you are just good at interviewing and not neccessarily at your job. Being perfect is not a good thing, so don't worry about not being.

2. Different levels can be asked the same question; they just answer differently for example:

Tell me about a time you worked in a really good team. What do you think made it effective?

Entry level answer: I worked with some really nice people in the procurement team. We were friends and we helped each other out. We all knew what our own jobs were, but we still listened to our manager. There was one girl who really liked spreadsheets and I used to swap spreadsheets for word documents with her because I'm really good at those.

Mid Level answer: The procurement team I worked worked together really well. We appreciated everyone's strengths and we all worked towards the same goals. When there was a deadline we worked late together, and we supported each other by listening when they wanted to vent about difficult customers.

Senior level answer: Teams work best when there is clear leadership and they understand and have bought into the importance of the teams goals. When I worked with the procurement team, I initated a brainstorming where we talked about the stakeholders, what was important to them and worked out the metrics from there. That mean everyone knew and understood how our daily work contributed to the goals. I was clear about the performance standards and that I expected everyone to help each other out. That gave them permission to support one another, but to also expect everyone to give their best. Finally, I coached each of them individually on their strengths and weaknesses to improve the performance over time.

3. I also look for general competence within each answer:

Communication skills: do you answer fluently and fluidly, can you make me understand technical issues,
Interpersonal skills: do you make eye contact and smile, do you include everyone in the room.
Willingness to be wrong: do you ask clarifying questions when you're not clear what the answer should be?


PS: Please ask questions if you want more info!

drinkcoffee's picture

Wendii --

This is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing.

- Bill

ccleveland's picture

Wowzers! Nice post! Thanks for this, Wendii!


WillDuke's picture
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Holy crap! I feel like a just read a whole podcast on interviewing. What a tremendous amount of labor Wendii. What a terrific gift to all of us.

Thank you.

maura's picture
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[quote]Willingness to be wrong: do you ask clarifying questions when you're not clear what the answer should be? [/quote]

So, would asking clarifying questions be a good thing, in that you are actively listening and want to understand the question before you waste time with a South-Carolina-beauty-queen answer, or a bad thing, in that you are overly concerned about being wrong? Or would your assessment differ depending on which level (entry, mid, or senior)applicant you are interviewing?

wendii's picture
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sorry that wasn't very well expressed. I mean, I'd rather a candidate asked what I meant, rather than gave me an irrelevant answer. (So I guess that should be willingness to say they don't understand).

Often, in response to the question about achievement, people will say - do you want a work achievement or a home achievement? And the answer to that usually is a work achievement. But I'd rather you asked than told me about seeing your toddler walk, which is a great story and very cute, but not relevant to the Head of Marketing role!

Does that help clarify?


asteriskrntt1's picture

Hey Wendii

When you do things like this, putting out considerable effort and high- quality content, going well and beyond the call, it makes you look pretty special. It makes it appear that you would be a highly valued member of most teams and that people will be happy to seek your counsel. And it makes me really grateful for your efforts.

Have I mentioned you are the Bomb!

Thanks so much


maura's picture
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Thanks Wendii, it's crystal clear now. And I agree - you are the BOMB!

James Gutherson's picture

Thanks Wendii (I'm sending you a virtual pint :D. I had a girlfriend for a while that was going to University at Southhampton and I'm trying to remember what the local drop is)

karaikudy's picture
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This is really amazing stuff. Appreciate your efforts in compiling this. Thank you very much. Will work for any kind of discussions.

Again Thanks

wendii's picture
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You're all very welcome. It was fun! and I'm glad to be useful.


rthibode's picture

Wendii, thanks so much for all this! I've been conducting behavioural interviews for 10 years and I still learned loads from your post. I'm printing this for next summer's round of interviews right now. You rock!

suedavis's picture
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[quote="maura"]And I agree - you are the BOMB![/quote]

Our product manager actually uses the phrase "This is the BOMB" on the approval stamp that he uses to stamp our "story cards" as done when my team completes technical tasks. I was going to scan in a mock story card with the "This is the BOMB -- PM Approved" stamp on it, and post it here, but our scanner is down... but if you send me your address, I can drop it in the post to you if you'd like. :-)

(All of which is a very roundabout way of saying "thanks.")

agreen's picture

Thanks Wendii - great stuff.

We are in the middle of trying to recruit at the moment. We were having a discussion at the start of the week about the validity of our behavioural questions and this will help a lot. Yours are much better!

Mark's picture
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fchalif's picture
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Hi Wendii,


Thank you for the great post on Behavioural Questions. It is very detailed. i will be using much of its content and let you know how it went.


lmoorhead's picture
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Three years later, I remembered this post and managed to hunt it back down - tremendously valuable.  Thank you, Wendii, for all you do to make every member of the MT community more effective!

psdcc's picture

Such great resources and insight and still making a difference!  My tenure as a manager is as long as my subscription has been to M-T  (a little over a month) and I've been able to navigate the development of new relationships with my directs (formerly peers), grow new relationships with Manager-peers (and find mentors), and develop more effective interview questions, right out of the gate (which other managers are asking if they can adopt). 

Appreciating your work and the learning from the forums, more than you can imagine!