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What are behavioral interview questions?
Skills to focus on when answering behavioral questions
When hiring managers ask you behavioral interview questions, they are trying to assess very specific, intangible skills. You should be familiar with these skills so you can answer these behavioral interview questions effectively:
- Stress management
- Decision-making skills
- Interpersonal and communication skills
- Leadership skills
- Problem-solving Initiative
When hiring managers ask questions about your past behavior in specific situations, they are looking for examples of times when you used skills like these to deal with a stressful or challenging situation. Practice answering the behavioral questions below and consider our sample answers to get an idea of the kinds of experiences and achievements that will provide good answers to these questions.
20 Common Behavioral Interview Questions
Even though behavioral questions can vary widely, the goal of answering these questions is to assess responses that correspond to an overall theme like team work, leadership, conflict resolution, and problem-solving. Below we’ve outlined the four most common themes and questions for each theme that you could be asked during your interview. The exact wording of the question you receive may differ, but the general themes being assessed will stay the same.
Communication and Teamwork:
Questions like the ones below will be used to analyze how you communicate and work through challenges with others. During the interview hiring managers will also be looking for cues as to what type of role you would take on in a team environment and compare that to the staff they already have.
- Can you describe a situation in which you had to step up and demonstrate leadership?
- Can you give me an example of a major contribution you made to the culture of one of your teams or groups?
- Give an example of how you were able to motivate a coworker, your peers or your team.
- Give me an example of a project in which you had to persuade other team members to follow your lead. How’d you do it?
- Can you give me an example of a project in which you collaborated successfully with others?
Conflicts happen in the workplace so hiring managers are interested in how you handle difficult situations. While negatives can be hard to discuss, keeping your statements positive and focusing on how the particular situation was resolved showcases your ability for self-reflection and how you can manage disagreements and stressful situations in a professional manner.
- Can you give me an example of a time you had a conflict with a coworker, and how you handled it?
- Talk about a time in which you had to handle a dissatisfied or angry client or customer. How did you handle it?
- Give me an example of a time in which you disagreed with a manager’s approach or a major decision. How did you address the issue?
- Can you tell me about a time in which you had difficulties with a co-worker and wished you’d handled the situation differently?
- Can you tell me about a time when a colleague didn’t give you what you needed or was too slow to respond to a request? How did you handle the situation?
Individual Motivation and Challenges:
Do you have what it takes to get the job done, regardless of potential obstacles? Hiring managers want to know how resourceful you can be and that you are the kind of person that can find solutions to obstacles despite the circumstances. Use these questions to think of situations where you’ve practiced problem-solving and shown follow through even when things went wrong.
- Can you give an example of a challenging project or task that you’re particularly proud you completed?
- Tell us about a time when you made a mistake. What did you do to correct it?
- Can you tell us about a time in which your team or company went through a change and how you adapted?
- Tell us about a goal you failed to achieve in the way you wanted, and how you handled the result.
- Has there been a time in which you received critical feedback from a manager or teammate? How did you respond to it?
Time Management and Organization:
Hiring managers want to know how you prioritize work and manage tight deadlines so for these questions, think about how you handled big projects in the past. Or if you struggled with time management, how did you overcome that and achieve positive results? Don’t forget to describe the tools you use like calendars, list making, or project management software so that you can illustrate how you stay on track.
- Tell us about a time in which you had to make or contribute to a major presentation.
- Can you give an example of how you work under pressure, such as working under a tight deadline?
- Tell us about a time when you had to get outside your “comfort zone” with a new task or project outside your usual duties. How did you approach the challenge?
- What’s your approach to handling stress at work?
- Give us an example of a time when you had to handle multiple tasks or projects at the same time. How did you organize your time?
How To Answer Behavioral Interview Questions
When answering a behavioral interview question, it is important that you do so completely and efficiently. One of the ways you can do this is by utilizing the STAR method to answer them. This acronym stands for:
- Situation: An event, project, or challenge faced.
- Task: Your responsibilities and assignments for the situation.
- Action: Steps or procedures taken to relieve or rectify a situation.
- Result: Results of actions taken.
By thinking through the four factors above you can draw on work experiences or situations from your personal life, and break them down to the key points the recruiter is most likely interested in. Make sure you address the question and all its elements. For example:
Question: Can you give me an example of how you handled a difficult situation at work?
- Step 1 — Describe a relevant situation: During a busy week, my coworker had a family emergency and needed to miss work.
- Step 2 — Focus your story on an important task: Unfortunately our supervisor had given us a project with a tight deadline that I now had to finish by myself.
- Step 3 — Show how you took action to solve the problem: I talked to my manager and was granted a reduction in my weekly goals so I could focus on completing the project.
- Step 4 — Finally, discuss the results of your actions: This allowed me to finish it on time and with complete accuracy. My supervisor appreciated my attitude and drive, and I was given several more projects after that.
Here are four more tips to help make your answers more concise and interesting to a hiring manager:
- Prepare ahead of time – think of specific experiences and achievements that can apply to the job you want.
- Draw from the job description – look at important skills and requirements from the job posting and note experiences from your past that show you’re capable of fulfilling them.
- Be positive – think of your answer in terms of times you overcame a challenge, with a successful result.
- Be concise – Treat your answer as a small anecdote, 1-2 minutes long or less than 150 words.
If you use the STAR method while answering behavioral interview questions and draw from your past experiences, you will be sure to impress the hiring manager. You can further prepare for your job interview by checking out some of the most common interview questions for each industry. ResumeHelp’s career blog has articles that detail common interview questions for many industries, including hospitality and accounting. By preparing but not memorizing answers to common questions, you will increase your chances of being able to answer behavioral questions in interviews without hesitation.
More Interview Tips and Resources
If you want guidance before preparing for your next interview, ResumeHelp has many resources which could help you to practice the most common interview methods so that your next interview will be a breeze.
Check out these resources if you are looking for just the right way to impress a hiring manager during your next interview:
FAQ: Behavioral Interview Questions
Q: What should I avoid doing in a behavioral interview?
When answering behavioral job interview questions, you should avoid hypotheticals and vague language. Instead give clear, truthful, and specific answers to their questions. You should also use the STAR method outlined above to ensure you give complete answers. Furthermore, if the hiring manager asks about your previous work environment, be sure to address any issues but speak about your coworkers and employer in positive terms.
Q: Is it a good idea to memorize my answers to common behavioral interview questions?
While it is a good idea to practice answering behavioral interview questions, you should not memorize specific answers. Good answers to these kinds of questions should be tailored to the specific question that the recruiter asks; if you have a series of memorized answers to fall back on, it won’t fit directly with the question being asked and may come off generic or too calculated.
Q: Can I rehearse for a behavioral interview?
It can be helpful to spend time before the interview thinking of an example of a time that you showed good leadership skills, communication skills, or otherwise excelled in past roles. If you do this and rehearse answering appropriate behavioral interview questions with someone you trust, you may find it easier to answer questions well in your interview.
Q: How do you prepare for a behavioral interview?
Preparing for behavioral interview questions involves studying the job description and noting what skills are significant so you can think of experiences that would be a good match. It’s also important to review major projects you’ve worked on and think about not just the outcome but how you prepared for the project and what the process of completing it was like. Making a list of your professional accomplishments can also be quite helpful because you can see the common skills and patterns that show up. Remember to be open and honest in your answers and with yourself so that you can give the best response, and practice your interview responses aloud if possible so you won’t be nervous.
Q: What is the goal of a behavioral interview?
The goal of asking behavioral interview questions is being able to analyze a candidate’s responses and infer from those answers how they might work in the future. Getting to know a candidate’s thinking styles, motivations, tendencies, and preferences through using past behavior is a proven technique used to more accurately determine the future performance or success of the individual. The theory that recruiters and hiring managers practice is that behavioral interview questions will help them uncover previous patterns to keep from making a bad hire.
Q: What is the difference between a behavioral interview and a situational interview?
Both types of questions may be used during an interview but situational and behavioral interview questions are used to elicit different responses from the interviewee. Behavioral interview questions ask you to utilize stories from your past so that you describe and exhibit a particular behavior the interviewer is trying to assess. On the other hand, situational questions force interviewees to go off script and critically think about situations they could potentially encounter. Behavioral questions give you a good idea of how candidates have excelled and struggled with circumstances in previous jobs, with some hiring managers believing that the way a candidate worked in the past signifies how they’ll work in the future. Situational interviews look directly into a potential future. The interviewee is presented with a problem and has to supply, on the spot, what they would do in that situation. To prepare for either type of interview, the interviewee should still think of instances where they excelled in a leadership opportunity or worked well with others as those can be good starting points to draw from even when dealing with a hypothetical situation.