20+ Behavioral Interview Questions and Sample Answers [2020]

behavioral interview questions

Behavioral interview questions help potential employers understand employee future performance and workplace demeanor in advance of hiring. Hiring managers ask behavioral interview questions in traditional interviews. And in some special circumstances, like in academic or scientific job interviews, a behavioral interview may consist of all behavioral questions with very little interview questions that test work history since there may only be one previous position (tenured) for a professional.

Behavioral interview questions are also referred to as situational interview questions or STAR interview questions because they aim to interview a job candidate about a challenging situation (like dealing with a difficult client) or scenarios at work and how they handled it. Each stressful situation provided is often the challenge that the employee faced and what they did to overcome it. The insight gained for the hiring manager is the opportunity to learn how a future similar situation and past behavior might converge into predictable employee performance.

If you’re in a traditional interview, a hiring manager may ask you 2-3 interview questions that test your work history, then mix in a few situational questions or behavioral questions that aim to test your communication skills and ability to recognize how to improve yourself in certain situations. A traditional question might be “Why do you want to work here?” while a behavioral question might be, “Tell me about a time you failed.”

How to Answer a Behavioral Interview Question

When answering a traditional interview question, you provide a direct answer. The question asked by the interviewer is usually a direct response type of inquiry. When answering a behavioral interview question or situational interview question, it’s important to prepare a success story. You can choose any past experience, regardless of the job title you held at the time.

Using the STAR method can be helpful. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Simply put it means you should prepare a story that describes the work situation you were in, the tasks or task you were given (the problem you were faced with), the action you took to resolve it, and the results that followed. This format can help to phrase your story in a digestible fashion for the interviewer and make it easier for you to remember in advance of your interview.

Example STAR situations

When answering your behavioral interview questions with the STAR technique, consider these types of challenges and outcomes.

Situations: Managing a tight deadline, multiple projects, an unhappy customer, upset team, or other

Task: Trying to achieve business results, managing a difficult client, managing a difficult customer.

Action: Showing leadership skills, empathy skills, taking initiative, or other.

Result: Pleasing a customer, a manager, or achieveing a measurable business result.

Be sure to provide enough detail in the situation part of your STAR approach so that the interviewer comprehends the situation and appreciates the type of competency or skill you used to overcome it.

Preparing your story

For each interview question, prepare a story that you can say in under 90 seconds. It should be a professional work example that presents your soft skills, hard skills, and general work performance. Be sure to emphasize the situation (the difficult situation you or the team were in) and the results. As you describe the actions you took, be sure to use concrete examples. For example, “We studied 100 of our clients to uncover what they felt most passionate about with our products, in under 24 hours.”

Here is a sample answer to “Tell me about a time you failed”: Our team was under a tight deadline with a client. We didn’t have the resources that we needed. And I recall the team pitching ideas on what to do. If I look back on it, the team was seeking leadership, someone to make a decision, and do so quickly. I failed to show leadership in that situation, I could have helped to organize the team and try to hit our deadline. In the future, I hope to resolve this by taking more risks even when I don’t feel comfortable doing so.”

As you answer these questions, your thought process should be clear to the interviewer. As job candidates answer these questions, it’s imperative that they’re honest with their answers and show vulnerability. And for hiring managers, this vulnerability gives insight into the candidate’s personality and how they conduct themselves under stress.

As a job seeker, you can prepare in advance of your interview by having a friend, colleague, or family member give you a mock interview. These are hypothetical questions asked to you as if you were on the job interview. This can help you to get your story together for each question and answer with clarity. Be sure to spend time recalling a specific situation for each one of the interview questions before building your pitch for each answer.

Common Behavioral Interview Questions

Below is a list of sample behavioral interview questions that might be asked while in a behavioral interview or traditional interview. It’s a common part of the interview process to ask at least 3 - 5 behavioral interviewing style questions.

Common Behavioral Question Answer Tips

Below are tips for answering behavioral based interview questions:

Related Hiring Resources

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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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