City University of Hong Kong

Questions Data Bank Available at

A data bank of past interview questions classified by industries is now available at the e-Portal / Blackboard (Univ. Services (Student) >> CAREER AND LEADERSHIP CENTRE) exclusively for CityU students’ reference. 

Do not hesitate to check it out!

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Behavioural Interviews

It appears to be a trend that many big companies are using behavioural interviewing techniques on top of or in place of traditional ones. This is  because behavioural interviews can better predict future on-the-job behaviour compared to traditional interviewing techniques.
While it may be possible for interviewees to figure out what an interviewer wants to hear if the interviewee is informed or intelligent enough as the interviewer  may never know if the interviewee would really react in a given situation on the job,  behavioral-based interviewing is more difficult to fein.

In a behavioural interview, it's much more difficult to give responses that are untrue to your character. When you start to tell a behavioural story, the behavioural interviewer typically will pick it apart to try to get at the specific behaviour(s). The interviewer will probe further for more depth or detail such as "What were you thinking at that point?" or "Tell me more about your meeting with that person," or "Lead me through your decision process." If you've told a story that's anything but totally honest, your response will not hold up through the barrage of probing questions.

Employers use the behavioural interview technique to evaluate a candidate's experiences and behaviours so they can determine the applicant's potential for success. The interviewer identifies job-related experiences, behaviours, knowledge, skills and abilities that the company has decided are desirable in a particular position. Some of the characteristics that may be sought after in a behavioural interview situation:

Critical thinking
Being a self-starter
Willingness to learn
Willingness to travel


In behavioural interviews,  the employer  structures very pointed questions to elicit detailed responses aimed at determining if the candidate possesses the desired characteristics. Questions (often not even framed as a question) typically start out: "Tell about a time..." or "Describe a situation..." Many employers use a rating system to evaluate selected criteria during the interview.

As a candidate, you should be equipped to answer the questions thoroughly. To deal with them a candidate should:

  • find out about the skills that the employer has predetermined to be necessary for the job you seek.
  • research about the company and talk to people who work there  to zero in on the kinds of behaviours the company wants.
  • your response needs to be specific and detailed
  • in general, you should briefly describe the situation, what specific Action you took to have an effect on the Situation (problem or task), and the positive Result or outcome. This process is usually referred to as S-A-R.

It's difficult to prepare for a behaviour-based interview because of the huge number and variety of possible behavioural questions you might be asked. The best way to prepare is to arm yourself with a small arsenal of example stories that can be adapted to many behavioural questions.

Knowing what kinds of questions might be asked will help you prepare an effective selection of examples.

Use real life examples

Use examples from internships, classes and school projects, activities, team participation, community service, hobbies and work experience -- anything really -- as examples of your past behaviour. In addition, you may use examples of special accomplishments, whether personal or professional.

Quantify Results

Wherever possible, quantify your results. Numbers always impress employers.

Response to negative situations

Remember that many behavioural questions try to get at how you responded to negative situations; you'll need to have examples of negative experiences ready, but try to choose negative experiences that you made the best of or -- better yet, those that had positive outcomes.

How to prepare for behaviour-based interviews

Identify six to eight examples from your past experience where you demonstrated top behaviours and skills that employers typically seek. Think in terms of examples that will exploit your top selling points.
Half your examples should reflect positive goal achieving experiences. The other half should be about how you overcame negative or aversive situations.

  • Vary your examples. Don't take them all from just one area of your life.
  • Use fairly recent examples. If you're a college student, examples from high school may be too long ago.
  • Try to describe examples in story form and/or S-A-R form.
  • Motivation wise, It may be good to cram for a behavioural interview right before you're interviewed, review your resume.
  • Seeing your achievements in print will jog your memory.
  • In the interview, listen carefully to each question, and use examples as you have previously prepared them. With practice, you can learn to tailor a relatively small set of examples to respond to a number of different behavioural questions.