No interviewer wants to hear the same canned response about a “hard worker” who values “teamwork” from every candidate that walks in the door.
It can be hard to distinguish one candidate’s skills and experience from another–especially for very niche roles. That’s where behavioral interview questions come into play.
What are behavioral interview questions?
Behavioral interview questions are questions that try to get the candidate to share a detailed account of how they approached a situation and the steps in which they handled it. This gives the interviewer a better understanding of the candidate’s behavior on the job.
It’s super important to know how to prepare for an interview, and you want to make sure you’re equipped for whatever comes your way. Read on to learn about the different types of behavioral interview questions, the STAR technique to formulate your answers, and a few common questions you may be asked.
Behavioral interview questions
Employers and hiring managers are using behavioral interview questions more and more during the interview process. It allows them to have a better idea of how you’ve handled your roles in the past in order to gauge what your performance may look like in the future.
It can be hard to prepare for these questions, but there are a few ways you can develop a strong answer and put yourself in the best light. The important thing to keep in mind is to avoid trailing answers. Be concise and direct in your response.
Common behavioral interview question types
While you can refer to the list of example questions at the end of this article to get a better idea, most behavioral interview questions aim at giving you a chance to showcase certain competencies and experiences. They can generally be broken down into the following categories.
In these responses, paint a picture of how you function in a team environment, work with others under difficult circumstances, and deal with clashing personalities.
Be prepared for these questions if you’re in a role facing clients or customers. Highlight moments in your career where you successfully solved someone else’s issue or created a great experience for a customer or client.
It’s good to be quick on your feet, and these types of questions want to know if you have those skills. Work on explaining how you rolled with the punches and still came out on top.
Organization, juggling responsibilities, and staying on top of deadlines is the true focus to these types of questions. Make yourself the ideal candidate by showing how you can do it all.
Communication is a part of every job. Your answer should focus on not only how you communicated, by why you chose the process you did. Additionally, discuss the preparation that went into the chosen communication method.
Many questions are designed to get a better idea of what motivates you in your career and life. Discuss these values even when the questions aren’t necessarily directly asking about them.
The STAR method
A common approach to answering behavioral interview questions is the STAR method. The STAR method breaks down an answer to behavioral interview questions into four, easy-to-remember steps: Situation, Task, Action, and Result.
Let’s look at an example of how the STAR method can be used to formulate a great response:
Situation (S): Advertising revenue was falling off for my college newspaper, The Review, and large numbers of long-term advertisers were not renewing contracts.
Task (T): My goal was to generate new ideas, materials and incentives that would result in at least a 15% increase in advertisers from the year before.
Action (A): I designed a new promotional packet to go with the rate sheet and compared the benefits of The Review circulation with other ad media in the area. I also set-up a special training session for the account executives with a School of Business Administration professor who discussed competitive selling strategies.
Result (R): We signed contracts with 15 former advertisers for daily ads and five for special supplements. We increased our new advertisers by 20% over the same period last year.
As you can see, the candidate provided a clear and detailed account that showcases their skills and competencies through this experience.
Related: Behavioral questions are more complicated and often asked during an in-person interview. If you're not quite there yet, check out these common phone interview questions to ensure you nail the phone screen.
Example behavioral interview questions
We've put together a list of behavioral interview questions to help you get started.
Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone's opinion.
Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
Please discuss an important written document you were required to complete.
Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get the job done.
Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.
Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split second decision.
What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.
Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
Tell me about a difficult decision you've made in the last year.
Give me an example of a time you tried to accomplish something and failed.
Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.
Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or coworker.
Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.
Tell me about a time when you delegated a project effectively.
Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to solve a problem.
Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem.
Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
Please tell me about a time you had to fire a friend.
Describe a time when you set your sights too high (or too low).
Don’t overthink it
You have the experience. You have the skills. Behavioral interview questions are best answered when you are genuine about what you did, why you did it, and what you learned. That’s all there is to it! Remember the STAR method and you should be well on your way to landing that job. And be sure to send a thank you letter after your interview.
Want to be even more prepared for what could come your way in an interview? Check out these 40 common job interview questions — and the best way to answer them.