Behavioral Based Job Interview Questions

Businesswoman interviewing for job
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In a behavioral job interview, the company asks questions about your past work experiences in order to find out if you have the skills needed for the job. Behavioral-based interview questions focus on how you handled various work situations in the past. Your response will reveal your skills, abilities, and personality.

The logic behind this interview tactic is that your behavior in the past reflects and predicts how you will behave in the future. But remember the interviewer isn’t necessarily asking “yes or no” questions, and so it may help to review how to answer interview questions without a right (or wrong) answer.

Respond to these sort of questions with specific examples of how you have previously handled similar situations in the workplace. 

Answers to behavior interview questions should be in the form of a brief anecdote that illustrates your strengths and skills as a worker. Provide background on the situation, the specific actions you took, and the results.

Review these examples of the questions you may be asked during a behavioral job interview and think about how you would answer them. This way you'll be prepared ahead of time, rather than having to think of a response on the spot during the interview.

Technique for Answering Behavioral Interview Questions

Illustration by Jon Marchione. © The Balance, 2018

The STAR technique is a useful strategy for responding to interview questions that require an anecdote. It’s an excellent way to organize your thoughts. There are four steps to answering using this technique: 

  • (S) Situation. Describe the situation in which the event took place.
  • (T) Task. Describe the task you were asked to complete. If there was a particular problem or issue you were trying to solve, describe that here.
  • (A) Action. Explain what action you took to complete the task or solve the problem.
  • (R) Results. Explain the result of your actions. For example, if your actions resulted in completing a task, resolving a conflict, improving your company’s sales record, etc., explain this. Try to focus on how your actions resulted in a success for the company.

Read through the behavioral interview questions below. Practice answering some of these, using the STAR technique to provide complete answers. It may also help to review these common behavioral interview questions with answers.

Questions About Problem-Solving

What They Want to Know: These questions are intended to discover the analytical thought processes you use to problem-solve. Focus on explaining, in detail, the steps you took to resolve a challenging work issue in the past.

  • Give an example of an occasion when you used logic to solve a problem.
  • How do you handle a challenge?
  • Did you ever make a risky decision? Why? How did you handle it?
  • Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it.
  • Given an example of a goal you didn’t meet and how you handled it.
  • When you worked on multiple projects, how did you prioritize?
  • Give an example of how you set goals and achieve them.

Questions About Teamwork

What They Want to Know: When a hiring manager asks questions about teamwork, this is usually because good teamwork and collaboration skills are essential to doing the job you’re applying for effectively and efficiently. Be prepared to demonstrate how you have successfully been both a team leader and a team member or follower.

  • Have you ever dealt with company policy you weren’t in agreement with? How?
  • Have you gone above and beyond the call of duty? If so, how?
  • Have you had to convince a team to work on a project they weren’t thrilled about? How did you do it?
  • Give an example of how you’ve worked on a team.
  • Have you handled a difficult situation with a co-worker? How?
  • What do you do if you disagree with a co-worker?
  • Share an example of how you were able to motivate employees or co-workers.
  • What do you do if you disagree with your boss?

Questions About Stress

What They Want to Know: Like questions about teamwork, questions about how you handle stress are a good clue about the work climate you would be walking into should you land the job. Be honest in describing how you’ve dealt with pressure before in the course of your career.

  • Describe a stressful situation at work and how you handled it.
  • Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.
  • Describe a decision you made that was unpopular and how you handled implementing it.
  • How did you handle meeting a tight deadline?
  • What do you do when your schedule is interrupted? Give an example of how you handle it.
  • Have you handled a difficult situation with a supervisor? How?
  • Have you handled a difficult situation with another department? How?
  • Have you handled a difficult situation with a client or vendor? How?

Questions About Self-Knowledge

What They Want to Know: These questions are sometimes “trick” questions – how you answer them is as important as what you actually say. The hiring manager is interested in how you view your own strengths and weaknesses and how you have remedied mistakes you or others made in the past. The best strategy is to own up to former errors, but then to show how you made a path correction and ultimately learned something from the experience.

  • Have you been in a situation where you didn’t have enough work to do?
  • Have you ever made a mistake? How did you handle it?
  • Did you ever postpone making a decision? Why?
  • Did you ever not meet your goals? Why?
  • Do you listen? Give an example of when you did or when you didn’t listen.

Tips for Answering Behavioral Interview Questions

Take Your Time. It’s okay to take a moment before answering the question. Take a breath, or a sip of water, or simply pause. This will give you time to calm any nerves and think of an anecdote that appropriately answers the question.

Prepare Ahead of Time. Review common behavioral interview questions ahead of time and practice your answers.

This will help you ensure that you have a number of thoughtful anecdotes ready to answer any behavioral interview questions.

Follow the STAR Technique. Be sure to answer any questions using the STAR technique described above. By completing each of the four steps, you will provide a thorough answer without rambling or getting off topic. 

Be Positive. Often, behavioral interview questions require you to focus on a problem or a failure at work. Describe the problem or issue you faced, but don’t focus too much on the negative. Quickly shift to describing how you solved the problem and the positive results.

Key Takeaways

TELL A STORY: Prepare detailed anecdotes ahead of time that you can draw upon to explain how you’ve handled work challenges in the past.

KNOW YOURSELF: Think about your personal strengths and weaknesses. Then, create responses that show both how you’ve used your strengths to solve problems and, when necessary, remedied cases where you’ve made mistakes.

FOCUS ON RESULTS: Emphasize the positive outcomes of actions you have taken in the past. If the results of your interventions were mixed, focus on what you learned in order to prevent problems from reoccurring in the future.