How to prepare for behavioural competency interview questions

Interviews at NRC include both technical and behavioural-based competency questions. Behavioural competency questions refer to personal, past, true and recent experiences each one of us has had. You will not be asked what you would do under hypothetical circumstances, but rather what you have actually done in the past. It will be essential that the examples of past experiences you present are specific, substantial, and as detailed as possible. Also important is that your examples indicate what you did in the situation. It is a common tendency to describe our actions in terms of "we" or "the team" however you should focus on your individual role in the situation, as much as possible.

In order to prepare yourself, review the job description and competition poster available from the Human Resource Team responsible for the competition. The Human Resource Team would have also provided you with the appropriate behavioural competency profile document or you can consult the Behavioural competencies section. Look at the behavioural competencies listed and note the level being requested for each, as well as, the underlying behaviours that demonstrate the competency at that level. Now that you have a good understanding of what NRC is looking for with each competency and level, think about examples from your past experiences that would demonstrate each of the competencies listed on the competition poster. The situations you choose to discuss may be related to a work, academic, volunteer, or personal experience; regardless of which type of example you choose, they should be relevant to the position. The example may have occurred yesterday, two weeks ago, two months ago, or even years ago. When thinking about your examples remember:

  • Behavioral interviewing is all about explaining the specific actions You took in a particular situation.
  • When explaining your examples please include background details such as where you were working and what your role was.
  • Use "I" statements and not "we" statements, we are primarily concerned with your personal experience.
  • Remember to be as specific as possible (STAR):
    • Describe the Situation;
    • Give details on what you had to do - Tasks
    • Give details on Actions you have taken;
    • Tell us what was the outcome (or Result) of the situation
  • Try to use different examples for each question and always keep in mind which competency is addressed in preparing your response.
  • You may be asked to identify a contact person who can validate the situation you have chosen to discuss.

You may find it beneficial to write out your examples.

Prior to your interview you will likely be provided with the actual behavioural questions to review in advance (the Human Resource Team will confirm exactly when). Read each question carefully and then choose the most relevant example from the ones you have previously prepared. Ensure your example addresses both the competency being addressed and completely answers the question and any sub-questions. You will be able to make notes and refer to those notes during the interview. During the actual interview don't be surprised if the interview board asks you probing questions. They simply want to ensure they fully understand the situation and what your role was.

Good luck!