If you have an upcoming job interview, you’re increasingly likely to be asked behavioral interview questions. Learn more about why employers ask these types of questions and see our collection of top behavioral interview questions and answers below.
What are behavioral interview questions?
Unlike traditional interview questions, behavioral interview questions ask you about specific scenarios that highlight how you accomplished a specific task or dealt with a particular situation. They provide interviewers with insights into your personality – who you really are – as well as your qualifications and ability to do the job.
Why do employers ask behavioral questions?
The logic behind behavioral questions is that past performance and actions are indicative of future performance and actions. Employers want to know how you handled challenges and goals in the past to determine if you’ll be able to perform the job duties and responsibilities of the position you’re interviewing for. They also indicate how you go about achieving goals, and if that in itself makes you a good fit for the company or not.
Unlike traditional questions like: “What are your weaknesses?” behavioral interview questions demand context based on experiences that are described. It could be argued that they encourage you to give more away about yourself than you might have planned.
Behavioral interview questions and sample answers
Here are some of the most commonly asked behavioral interview questions with sample answers. These will help guide you in developing answers for your interview. Though you don’t need to worry about memorizing your answers, it’s wise to have an idea of how you’ll respond, so you can feel confident going into and during the interview. It will also help you be as focused and concise as possible.
Q. Provide an example of a time you handled a challenge.
What the interviewer wants to know: We all face challenges throughout life, and how we deal with those challenges matters. The employer wants to see that you can persevere and problem-solve when challenges occur.
Example Answer: Once, one of my team leads overseeing client negotiations had to be out unexpectedly for over a week. She was in the middle of a major negotiation with a large financial firm that would be our third-largest client if we landed it. It can be tough to pull in a new negotiator in the middle of negotiations, especially one that’s been with the potential client from the beginning. Still, we made it work. I brought another member of the team in as acting team lead, and he and I worked closely to ensure we understood the ins and outs of what the client’s needs were and what any possible hold ups might be. I felt confident in his ability to meet with the client independently and made myself available for any possible questions. The deal closed successfully, and the acting team lead was thrilled with the opportunity to learn and be trusted throughout the process. It was a great learning opportunity for him.
Q. Share a time when you were able to inspire and motivate your employees or coworkers.
What the interviewer wants to know: Whether you’re interviewing for a supervisory or an individual contributor position, employers like to know you have the ability to motivate and inspire your team and coworkers. Such a quality highlights your leadership potential.
Example Answer: I remember once when my coworkers and I were up against a fast-approaching deadline for an IT project, and we had run into several challenges getting it up and running. The week prior to the project’s scheduled launch, we were working long days — up to 10 to 12 hours on average — to stay on track. Needless to say, the team was feeling a bit overwhelmed. A few days in a row, I brought in some premium coffee from a local coffee shop in the mornings and bought dinner for everyone in the evenings. I also continued to note all the positives and accomplishments we had made along the way, especially overcoming the challenges that were not a result of our shortcomings. We also agreed to go out to celebrate after we launched the project. The team appreciated the efforts and were motivated to work together and support each other, so we finished the project on time, and we went out to celebrate the night after the launch.
Q. Tell me about how you worked under pressure.
What the interviewer wants to know: If you’ll be in high-stress situations or a high-stress position, your employer wants to know that you’re capable of handling it, as well as how you’ll deal with it.
Example Answer: I was once working on a project for one of our biggest clients. The team and I were 45 days out from completion, and the client came back and asked for three more additions to the project due to their client’s needs. They still needed us to deliver the project on time, though, so we put our heads together to determine the best way to accomplish the additions and complete the rest of the project within 45 days. By adding three hours per week to each of our schedules and dividing the additional tasks, we were able to complete the project by day 44 for a successful launch. The team pulled together without hesitation, and I believe my ability to divide the additional tasks effectively was a significant factor in completing the project on time.
Q. Give an example of a time when you made a mistake.
What the interviewer wants to know: No one’s perfect, and your prospective employer knows that. With this type of question, they want to know that you’re self-aware, can own up to your mistakes, and have the know-how to course correct when a mistake occurs.
Example Answer: I once forgot to put in a couple’s order at a popular local restaurant. We were super busy, and I realized I hadn’t put the order in about five minutes before it should have arrived at their table. I immediately put the order in and went to the manager on duty and explained the situation. He asked the kitchen staff to prioritize the order, and I was able to deliver the order about five minutes later than it should have been. Due to the inconvenience, we gave the table free dessert during their visit and a free appetizer for their next visit. They were happy with the result, and they came back and sat in my section the following week.
Q. Tell me about a time you met a goal and how you got there.
What the interviewer wants to know: Your employer wants to know that when tasks are put before you, you are able to achieve them. They also want to know your strategies to determine if you align with their company.
Example Answer: I knew I wanted to secure employment in the energy field prior to graduating with a degree in Human Resources. To support my efforts, I realized that having some prior work experience, in addition to good grades, would add value to my resume. By my junior year, I was working as a trainer at a local restaurant, which I did until I graduated from college. I also submitted my resume and job applications to 10 energy companies by the end of my junior year. I received four interviews and two offers for an internship my senior year. The internship led to my first full-time job in human resources in the energy sector.
Q. Share a time when you made an unpopular decision at work and the results.
What the interviewer wants to know: In decision-making roles, not all decisions will be popular among employees. The employer wants to know that you are willing to make tough decisions at the risk of being unpopular among the staff.
Example Answer: A while back, I backfilled a project manager that had left the organization. When in the position, she allowed the project team to make changes regarding project deadlines without anyone’s approval, which seemed to cause some communication challenges. I put a policy in place that all project deadline changes had to go through the project lead. Though it wasn’t the most popular choice initially, the team eventually adjusted to this regulation and came to appreciate their ability to stay on task more easily due to improved communication.
Tips to prepare for a behavioral interview
- Make your list of possible questions and answers.
- Match your qualifications with the requirement in the job post when crafting your responses.
- Be succinct and clear with your answers.
- When sharing your story include the scenario, what you did to address it, and the results.
Take time to put some thought into your responses to common behavioral interview questions ahead of time, and then take some time to practice those responses. Doing so will help you make a solid impression during the interview, so you can exit with your head held high.
You can also take a deeper dive into behavioral interview questions by looking at our Top Behavioral Interview Questions for Jobseekers, which covers 73 professional roles and provides 30 behavioral interview questions across five categories for each. Oh, and it’s free.