13 Behavioral Interview Questions & Answers: Guide, How To Answer

When in an interview, you’ll be asked so many different questions, you'll feel like your head is spinning. You’ll be asked about your education, your previous work experience, your goals, and professional dreams. In addition to these basic questions, you’ll also be asked behavioral questions.

So what are behavioral questions and what does the average interviewee need to know about them? Let’s find out.

Table Of Contents

What Are Behavioral Interview Questions?

Behavioral interview questions are questions asked that involve how an interviewee has behaved in previous scenarios, usually professional or academic in nature. These questions are used in lieu of hypothetical questions to get a more substantial understand of how a potential employee acts in certain situations. These questions can help hiring managers to gather concrete and useful information about an interviewee’s work ethic and personality.

What Is The Point Of Behavioral Interview Questions For Companies And Interviewers?

The goal of these questions is to find out how a candidate for a job has personally reacted to actual real-life work situations that may occur in the position they are applying for. This is a good way for hiring managers to see if you are a decent fit for the position.

Do Behavioral Interview Questions Change Based On The Department You're Interviewing For?

They certainly can. The purpose of behavioral questions is to see how you would react in scenarios that commonly occur in the position you are interviewing for. Behavioral questions for an accounting position may be very different compared to a sales position. In that example, an accounting position might ask situational questions that relate to organization or goal setting. While a sales position might have behavioral questions and situations that pertain to teamwork. Still, a lot of the behavioral questions one will be asked are similar in nature.

Related: 4 Example Answers To "Describe A Challenge You Overcame"

What Skills Or Candidate Criteria Are Behavioral Interview Questions Intended To Test?

There are a number of skills, behaviors, and personality qualities that behavioral interview questions are intended to test:

What Are Some Pitfalls I Can Avoid When Answering Behavioral Interview Questions?

It is very important to be honest in your answers, especially if your hiring manager has spoken to one of your professional references. If you lie, it looks bad, and it’s also a bit more difficult to keep up with a fake story. Even though you should avoid being dishonest, it is also important to paint yourself in a good light. Avoid being too humble in your answers but also try to avoid being obnoxiously boastful. Some of the biggest pitfalls would be:

When Do Behavioral Interview Questions Get Asked?

These questions can occur at any point during the interview. Sometimes interviewers will mix behavioral questions up with the typical generic interview questions or more technical questions.

Pro fact: Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages conducted a number of studies on nonverbal communication between humans. He found that only 7% of the message to another person is conveyed by words. While 55% came through nonverbal elements. This means telling your situational interview answer in an impactful way is critical.

How Will You Know When It's A Behavioral Interview Question vs. Any Other Interview Question?

This is quite easy. A behavioral question will almost always involve you describing a situational example or story from your past job experience. The question will also not involve technical language or be extremely basic.

For example:

How To Answer Behavioral Interview Questions: What Is The STAR Technique?

The STAR interview response technique is a method any interviewee can use to answer behavioral interview questions.

Basically, the technique works like this:

The STAR technique is used specifically to answer behavioral questions, but parts of the technique can also be applied to other interview questions as well.

Related: 24 STAR Interview Questions (With Answers) You’ll Get Asked In An Interview

How Can The STAR Technique Help You Answer Behavioral Interview Questions Better?

This technique is used to draft an extremely comprehensive answer that is easy for the hiring manager to understand while also providing all of the necessary information without ranting. Meaning, there's more efficiency in your answer, causing you to appear more professional and confident in your delivery.

13 Best Behavioral Interview Questions And Answers

1. Can you give me an example of how you set goals for yourself?

Within a few days of starting my first position as a commissioned sales associate in a well-known department store, I knew that I wanted to be involved in the beauty industry. I decided that I would work my way up to department manager of the store, and at that point, I would have enough money saved up from my position to be able to attend cosmetology school. I did exactly that, and I even landed my first real cosmetics position through an internship I completed the semester before I graduated.

2. Can you give me an example of a goal you reached? And how you achieved it?

When I started working for my previous business, I wanted to become an employee of the month. It was a motivating challenge, and not all of the employees took it that seriously. But I really wanted to reach that goal and have my photo on the wall. I went out of my way to be helpful to my coworkers, managers, and customers. Of course, I would have done that anyway, since it was part of my job. I liked the position and the people I was able to work with. The fourth month I was there, I finally got employee of the month! It felt really good to achieve that goal, and I actually ended up getting promoted to a supervisor position pretty fast, and I think it had a lot to do with my positive attitude and focus.

3. Describe a decision you made that wasn't widely accepted or particularly enjoyed, and explain to me how you handled it.

Once in my previous position, I inherited a group of sales associates when their supervisor relocated to another city. They had been allowed to cover one other's shifts without management approval or even any notice for supervising staff. I didn't appreciate the inconsistencies and found that certain employees were being given more opportunities than others. I introduced a new and unfortunate disliked policy in which I had my secondary manager approve all staffing and shift changes in order to make sure that every employee who wanted extra hours per week and had availability at certain times could be given shifts.

4. Tell me about a situation where you had to finish a project within a very fast deadline. Describe the situation in your own words and explain to me how you handled it.

While I tend to like to plan out my daily work in stages and tasks and complete the work task by task, I can also achieve very good work results under tight deadlines. Once, in a previous position, a coworker had quit a few days before the deadline of one of her projects. I was asked by my manager to take it on as my responsibility. I only had a few days to learn about the details of the project and complete the project. I created my own team and separated off work for each member, and we all completed the assignment with a half a day to spare. In fact, I believe I thrive when working under short deadlines and I really love the challenge and thrill.

Related: Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision without all the information you needed

5. What do you do when a team member or coworker refuses to complete their work quota? Use an example or think of what you would personally do.

When there are team or individual conflicts at work, I always try my best to step up as a team leader and delegate if needed. I think my communication skills make me a very good leader and moderator. For example, when I was working on a specific project, three of my team members got caught in an argument and all three of them were refusing to complete their assignments. They were both unhappy with their workloads, so I arranged a quick meeting where we redivided all the assignments among the rest of the team members. This made everyone much happier and a lot more productive, and our project was a resounding success.

6. Tell me about a time where you showed initiative and passion for a job.

Last summer, I was acting as a bookkeeping coordinator, where I was supporting the account manager for a very influential client at a marketing agency. The account manager was in a car accident and was off of work to recover for two weeks before a very important campaign pitch. I volunteered to fill in for her and plan the presentation by coordinating the work of the creative and accounting teams. I called for a meeting and started a discussion about marketing scenarios, media, and the team members’ roles for the presentation. I was able to get a consensus on three priority marketing concepts that we had to pitch, along with proper media strategies. I drew up a plan of how we would execute the pitch that was happily received by my team based on our meetings and discussions. The client ended up adoring our plan and adopted the campaign immediately. I was promoted to account manager less than half a year later.

Related: Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership skills

7. Can you give me an example of how you work in a team setting?

During my last semester in grad school, I worked as part of a research team in the Biology department. The professor leading the project was writing a book on the capacity of primates to learn languages. We were each assigned different scenarios to focus on, and I suggested that we meet up before our once-weekly meeting with the professor to talk about and share our progress and help each other with any difficulties. The professor was really impressed with the way we worked together, and it helped to accelerate his research as well. He was ready to start on his final draft of the book three months ahead of schedule because of the work we helped him with.

8. What do you do if you disagree with someone at work or are confronted with some form of conflict?

A few months ago, I had a manager who wanted me to find ways to outsource most of the work we were doing in the development department, which I was part of. I felt that the development team in that department was extremely valuable and had a huge impact on our project success and ability to provide tech support to our clients. I presented a very convincing case to her, and she ended up drafting a compromise plan.

9. Share an example of how you were able to motivate and encourage other employees or your coworkers.

I was in a less than ideal situation a few years ago where the supervisors of our department were fired and taken over by other employees with experience in a totally different and irrelevant industry, which was an effort to maximize profits over quality service. Many of my employees were not willing to adapt to the major changes that were being made, but I immediately saw at least some of the benefits in the move and was able to encourage my colleagues to give the new process a chance to impress them.

10. Have you handled a difficult situation while on the job, and if so, how?

When I worked at my previous job, it came to my attention that one of my coworkers had become addicted to opiates prescribed to her after she had surgery. Her performance was negatively impacted and it was clear that she was not doing well in her private life, and she needed to get some serious help. I spoke with her alone, and I helped her to arrange a part-time outpatient treatment program that was covered by her health insurance plan. Thankfully, she was able to get her life back and she received a very good promotion about seven months later.

11. Tell me about how you have worked well and successfully under pressure.

I had been working on a very major project that was scheduled for delivery to the client in thirty days. My manager came to me and said that we needed to speed up the development and be ready in twenty days while also keeping our other important projects on schedule. I made it into a personal challenge for myself and a professional challenge for my staff, and we added just a few hours to each of our individual work schedules to get the job done in less than fifteen days by sharing different aspects of the workload. I had an incredible group of people to work with, but I think that my proper division of tasks was a major reason that the project succeeded.

Related: Tell me about a time you failed

12. How do you handle a challenge at work? Provide an example if possible.

Once a long time ago, my manager needed to leave unexpectedly for a family emergency. My team and I were in the middle of extremely complex negotiations with a new client. I was asked to put together a slide presentation from the notes my manager had left, as well as some briefing from his supervisor. My presentation was a success. We got the deal, and the supervisor team even recommended me to the higher-ups for an award.

13. Have you ever made a mistake at work and how did you handle it?

I think everyone has made mistakes professionally at some point, it’s just part of being human! I once incorrectly quotes the fees for a particular type of subscription to the fitness spa where I was working. I explained my error to my manager, who appreciated that I came to him and for being honest. He told me to offer to waive the administrative fee for the new spa member. The member ended up joining the spa despite my mistake, my manager was very understanding, and although I felt bad that I had made a small error I learned to pay very close attention to the details in the future.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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