If you’re out looking for a new job, prepping for upcoming interviews is a top priority. However, practicing the frequently asked job interview questions won’t be enough. You’ll need to prepare for behavioral interview questions.
In this guide, we will review the top behavioral interview questions employers ask and offer tips on how to answer them. We have also included samples of real-life responses to help you level up your game.
What Are Behavioral Interview Questions?
A behavioral interview is a frequently used technique that employers use to evaluate job aspirants based on their past behavior in specific scenarios. The interviewer or hiring manager asks behavioral interview questions to understand how a candidate performed and behaved in the past in response to particular workplace situations. Instead of asking hypothetical questions like “How would you respond if you faced a lot of pressure at the workplace?” the interviewer would ask situational questions like “Describe a situation when you were under heavy work pressure. How did you handle the situation?” You’ll need to explain what you did and what the result was.
Why Are Behavioral Interview Questions So Important?
Behavioral questions help the interviewer to learn how you would react in a specific workplace scenario and how you solve problems to achieve a successful result. The logic behind such interviews is that your success in the past can give a positive indication of the chances of your success in the future.
Behavioral questions are non-technical and focused on you. These help ascertain whether your motivations, characteristics, and personality are appropriate for the job role you’re applying for. How to answer them is something you can surely prepare for in advance. You already have the answers – all it takes is just finding the right way to present them.
Top Behavioral Questions to Master
Here are a few well-known examples of behavioral interview questions you may be asked during a job interview. Review the responses and reflect upon how you’d answer the questions, so you’ll be prepared to answer any behavioral questions successfully.
1. Describe how you handled a challenge in the workplace.
This one is a classic behavioral question that hiring companies ask. No matter the job function or the industry, your chances of encountering this question in your interviews is pretty high. What the interviewer wants to know here is how well you can perform under pressure.
At my last job, I worked on an important project scheduled to be delivered in 60 days. My supervisor said we needed to speed up and finish the project in 45 days while keeping our other deadlines intact. I took it up as a challenge for my team and me, and we effectively added a few hours to our daily work schedules and got the project ready in 42 days. Of course, my team gave excellent support, but I think my effective allocation of tasks proved a significant factor in making the project successful.
2. Have you ever made an error? How did you handle it?
We all make mistakes. That’s the hard truth. This question is not about showing your potential employers that you don’t make mistakes or you’ve never made them. Rather, it’s about showing how you tackle mistakes, get over them, and learn from them. That’s what they want to know.
Once, I mistakenly quoted the wrong membership fees to the club where I worked. I honestly explained my mistake to my supervisor, who appreciated my owning up and asked me to offer a waiver for the application fee for that particular client. Thankfully, the member joined our club despite my mistake. I learned to pay more attention to details to give accurate information in the future.
3. Explain how you set goals.
Goal-oriented people are prized assets for any company. But not everyone knows how to set their goals in an effective manner. This question is the interviewer’s attempt at getting an insight into your goal creation process to understand how effective you are at achieving them.
I had always aspired to join the fashion industry. My first job was as a sales associate in a departmental store. I decided to work my way up to the department manager within one year. By then, I would have enough savings to afford a full-time stint at design school. Though working as a department manager wasn’t my end goal, I worked hard towards it because I knew that would eventually help me achieve my main goal.
4. Describe any goal you reached and how you achieved it.
This might seem similar to the last question, but here, the interviewer is trying to delve a little more into the steps you take to accomplish your goals.
Soon after joining Company X, I wanted to achieve the ‘Employee of the Month’ title. It was challenging, and most of my colleagues didn’t take it seriously. But I wanted my picture on the wall because I’m ambitious and take pride in achievements. I worked harder and went out of my way to help my colleagues, supervisors, and clients. I received the honor in the third month. It felt great to accomplish my goal, and it wasn’t long before I moved into a managerial position, mainly due to my positive attitude and hard work.
5. Have you ever made a decision that wasn’t popular?
This question is often asked to people interviewing for a managerial or leadership position. The intent of the question is to figure out how you handle tricky, not-so-pleasant, or downright ugly situations.
Once, I had to manage a team of employees when their supervisor transferred to another city. Their supervisor allowed them to cover each other’s shifts without management consent. I didn’t appreciate the inconsistencies, with some people being given more opportunities than others. I dealt with the situation by introducing a new policy whereby all staffing changes had to be approved by my assistant. Thus, I ensured that everyone who wanted extra hours and was available at specific times could be utilized.
6. Give an example of how you worked as part of a team.
This is another one of those classic questions that interviewers ask to find out if the candidate is a team player and has a collaborative spirit.
At my first job as a team lead, most of my team members were new employees, so I didn’t have much to go with. I sat down with them individually to know them, their strengths, and weaknesses. I delegated tasks based on their personality and gave everyone the opportunity to share their inputs and concerns. I worked with them to make sure things moved smoothly, and in the end, we nailed the project.
7. What do you do if you disagree with someone at work?
Disagreements between colleagues can often snowball into serious workplace issues and do a lot of damage to a company’s productivity and overall work environment. This question helps a potential employer to deduce how you handle it when faced with differences in opinions, working style, or any other issue.
Once, I had a supervisor who wanted me to look for ways to outsource the bulk of the work we were doing in my department. I felt that since our department had the most staff on-premises, we had a great chance to relate to our clients effectively. I presented a solid case to my supervisor, who was ultimately convinced and came up with a compromise plan.
8. Share an example of how you dealt with a difficult client.
If you’re interviewing for a client-facing position, this question is almost inevitable.
One of our clients complained that his social media advertising campaign wasn’t working as he was driving traffic but not getting any conversions. We realized that the actual reason was that their product homepage was not very convincing. I had to communicate to the adamant client that we could not fix his ads if his homepage were unable to sell the product. I gave an ultimatum that they follow our approach, or we won’t be able to work with them. Grudgingly, they agreed to test our proposed landing page and get better results. Eventually, the client thanked us and agreed to our proposal.
9. Describe a situation when you motivated employees or colleagues.
This is another question often directed at candidates appearing for leadership or managerial positions.
Once, our department came to be managed by employees with different industry experts. Most of my coworkers were resistant to the sea changes that were being made. I immediately recognized potential benefits like maximized profits over service and was able to motivate my fellow workers to give the new process a chance to be successful.
10. How have you dealt with a failure at the workplace?
This is a critical question that can even make or break your chances of landing the job. So, you need to answer this question very carefully. What the interviewer is looking for here is to understand whether you can identify and acknowledge your weaknesses and show accountability for your failures. They also want to know if you are growth-driven or get flustered by challenges.
In my last job, we had annual training for new project managers. Since my team had run this event many times, I didn’t see the need to check-in. This resulted in a scheduling conflict, and subsequently, a full-fledged turf war ensued with another team. The issue was quickly resolved at the leadership team meeting, but the problem would not have arisen if I had enquired about it sooner. I learned a lesson to set reminders to check in about important events and projects, even if I’ve done them several times before.
11. What do you do when your team member refuses to or cannot complete their work?
This question sheds light on how well you can motivate or push others on your team to accomplish tasks — an important trait for team players. It also offers a hint at your potential as a leader.
A coworker at Company Z was known for being pathetic at deadlines. I started regularly checking in on him to assess where he was with the task – a move that irked him but did make him work faster and more efficiently. Once, when I worked with him on a time-sensitive project, we had to turn in a sales presentation together and hand it to the manager within a strict deadline. Eventually, the constant check-ins and pushing did the part, and we managed to submit the presentation well within the deadline.
12. What do you do when your to-do list becomes overwhelming?
Do you buckle under pressure? How good are you at delegating tasks? These are some of the things an interviewer wants to know when they ask you this question.
Towards the end of my final semester at the university, I got elected as the Student Council President, and I was also writing my university thesis. Once, I had to submit my thesis the next day while collaborating with other council members to organize an event for the university. I decided that if I tried to multitask, I’d do a poor job. Since my thesis was higher up in my list of priorities, I decided to finalize my paper. Instead of abandoning my council duty, I sent all my outlines for the event to the Student Council VP, requesting him to take over the responsibilities.
Our Learners Also Asked
1. What might be asked in a behavioral interview?
The most common questions that often get asked during behavioral interviews include -
- tell me about a weakness;
- tell me about a time you failed and how did you deal with it
The questions are designed to understand how well you deal with a loss and manage to turn the situation around to make the best of the bad situation.
2. How do you pass a behavioral interview?
Here are some Behavioral Interview Tips:
- Read and understand the job description completely before your interview
- Keep a list of major projects that you’ve worked on and can easily highlight during the interview
- Highlight your previous performance reviews, scores and accomplishments
- Be open and honest with your answers
- Keep a positive attitude and tone, even if the answer might put you in a bad light, turn it around to how you accomplished coming back from situation
- Practice general interview questions before you go to the interview
- Dress appropriately
3. What is the STAR method when interviewing?
The STAR method is method of responding to a behavioral-based interview question by discussing the specific situation, task, action, and result of the situation you are describing.
4. What is your weakness best answer?
When answering this question, make sure you choose a skill that is not essential to the current job you are applying for. You can also choose weaknesses that might show you as a hardworker or also highlight how you are actively overcoming your weaknesses to become a better employee.
Example: I consider myself a multi-tasker which can sometimes become a weakness as I can become overwhelmed when I get pulled in different directions. I am currently work on improving myself by using a list of productivity methods such as checklists and timers to ensure that I can organize my tasks according to priority.
5. How do you handle stress?
Here are some great tips to prevent or handle stress:
- Find the right balance between work and personal life
- Learn when to unwind and turn off the screen
- Eat well and exercise regularly
- Do something that helps you de-stress such as reading a book, dancing, singing, going for a walk, etc.
- Connect with supportive people who can help you relax
- Practice meditation or yoga
- Sleep well
6. How do you answer why should I hire you?
The answer to this question differs depending on the job that you are applying for. However, it is always best to highlight your skills and how they are relevant to the field that you are applying too, talk about your experience that you might think can help the company. Talk about how you can be a great addition to the team and how you can help the company grow and achieve better targets.
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