If you’ve ever had a job interview (and who hasn’t?), there’s a good chance that it was a behavioral interview.
While there are a few different types of job interviews, many employers prefer the behavioral model. Behavioral interviews are quite effective, providing employers with the best chance of hiring their most ideal candidate.
Behavioral interviews probe the past behavior of candidates in an attempt to determine their work-related knowledge, skills, and abilities. The questions in these types of interviews often ask about past challenges – and how they were resolved. For example, a common question is: “Tell me about a time you experienced conflict with a coworker.”
A traditional interview often has some questions about the company and your industry – and most candidates will do some research in preparation for those questions. While it may seem more difficult to prepare for a behavioral interview, it’s really not. By understanding the type of questions that might be asked and the best way to answer them, you have an excellent chance of acing your next behavioral interview.
What Is A Behavioral-based Interview?
In a behavioral-based interview, an employer will ask questions about your past behavior in the workplace. Knowing how you handled certain situations in the past gives potential employers a great deal of insight into how you would handle similar situations in the future. Questions are often prefaced by phrases like, “Tell me about a time when …” or “Describe a situation at your last job where…”
The questions in behavioral interviews are often somewhat generic and can be used across several (or most) industries. For example, a common question in a behavioral interview is: “Tell me about a time you experienced conflict in the workplace.”
Your answers should be evidence-based and verifiable, reflecting situations and events that actually occurred.
Behavioral interviews tend to be quite structured, with each candidate being asked the same predetermined questions in the same order. This allows employers to use a scale to grade everyone’s answers. Employers can then use the assigned grades to objectively evaluate and compare the candidates, ultimately choosing the one who seems to be the best fit for the role.
Behavioral-based interviews have another advantage, for both employers and candidates: they tend to be less open to concerns around bias and discrimination in the hiring process since everyone is asked the same questions and their answers are subject to the same method of grading.
Examples Of Common Behavioral Interview Questions
The best way to prepare for a behavioral-based interview is to consider the types of questions that might be asked and develop some compelling stories around those questions. Job interviews are stressful and it can often be difficult to recall meaningful situations and details on the spot. As pointed out in a blog piece by Robert Half, thinking about challenging situations that you’ve encountered at work and how you remedied them – before the interview – is a terrific way to prepare.
Often a single challenging situation could be used to answer a number of different behavioral-based questions. For example, if you’ve dealt with, and resolved, conflict with a co-worker, that situation could be used for questions regarding conflict resolution, teamwork, and effective communication. So, having a few stories in your back pocket is an excellent way to prepare.
Additionally, knowing exactly what kind of questions might be asked can be a big help. There are a lot of online resources that provide specific examples of behavioral interview questions. We particularly like this blog piece at Indeed that lists 35 common questions. The questions are grouped together by topic, with tips on how to approach each topic. We’ve included some examples below.
When answering questions related to time management, be prepared to highlight your ability to prioritize projects and clients as well as your multitasking, delegating, and organizational skills.
- Give me an example of a time you had to prioritize certain tasks or projects over others.
- Tell me about the last time you handled a long-term project. How did you keep the project on track?
Questions about adaptability are posed as a way to gauge your ability to adapt to change, think on your feet, and problem solve. Ultimately, employers are hoping that you will demonstrate growth as you adapt to evolving workplace situations.
- Tell me about a time when you had to be creative to solve a problem.
- Tell me about a time you made a difficult decision.
When employers ask questions about how you’ve overcome challenges, they are looking for information on how you manage stress, handle complex or difficult tasks, and whether you persevere to the end.
- Tell me about a time when you made a mistake. What did you do to correct it?
- Give me an example of a time you made a decision that was unpopular and explain how you handled implementing it.
Motivation And Values
Understanding what drives each candidate in their decisions and choices can provide insight into how well a candidate will fit into company culture. Be honest in your answers.
- Can you give me an example of a time when you felt dissatisfied with your work?
- Tell me about a body of work you felt was most impactful for you or your company.
When employers ask behavioral-based questions about your communication skills, they are ultimately hoping to find out not just that you communicate effectively, but the thought processes behind your communications.
- Tell me about a time when you had to say “no.”
- Give me an example of a time when you persuaded someone. How did you do it and why?
Since successful teamwork involves maintaining congenial relationships with colleagues and managing interpersonal conflict, your answers should use “I” statements to highlight how you contributed to the success of the team.
- Tell me about a time when you collaborated with others who were different from you.
- Share an example of how you were able to motivate a coworker, your peers, or your team.
Answers about conflict resolution should always focus on positive steps that you yourself took to resolve a difficult situation in the workplace. Never portray anyone else in your stories in a negative light.
- Tell me about a time you disagreed with a supervisor.
- Tell me about a time you wish you would have handled a situation with a coworker differently.
The STAR method of answering interview questions is widely known and is often included as part of job-search coaching. Remembering the acronym “STAR” can help candidates formulate an informative and in-depth answer on the spot, giving them time to think and flesh out their answers without straying off track. STAR stands for:
- Situation: Describe the situation that you were in.
- Task: Explain what your role was within the situation.
- Action: Discuss the steps you took to resolve the situation.
- Result: Share the outcomes of your actions.
A blog piece at Indeed suggests that candidates start preparing for a behavioral interview by reviewing the posted job description and considering what types of challenges or obstacles that the incumbent in the position might normally encounter. For example, if a job posting states that one of the duties is working directly with clients, communication and conflict resolution issues might arise.
Once you have an idea of the types of issues that you may need to deal with on the job, look at the behavioral-based interview questions that might be asked in relation to those issues. And then it’s time to start creating your compelling stories, choosing the situations and resolutions where you shine. Write those stories down, following the STAR method step-by-step, and practice telling those stories out loud.
Behavioral-based interviews can be stressful because you have to recall details about past situations on the spot. In order to ace these interviews, it’s best to prepare in advance. While there are literally endless permutations of possible behavioral-based questions, it’s not difficult to hone in on the types of questions that will most likely be asked for the role you applied for. And once you know what those questions might be, taking the time to develop compelling stories that follow the STAR method will well prepare you for the interview.