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10 Behavioral Interview Questions: [With Sample Answers]

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Behavioral interview questions are one of the most common types of questions that employers ask in interviews.

These cover things like how you conduct yourself, your professional skills, and how you respond to stress or challenges.

Such questions are relevant to practically every job, although employers often vary them depending on the type of interview you’re undertaking.

In this guide, we’ll look at ten common questions employers ask, including why companies ask about it, what to focus on, what to avoid, and what a good answer sounds like. Also, remember that companies sometimes phrase these as a directive (“tell me about x”) instead of a question.

10 Common Behavioral Interview Questions

Here’s a quick look at some of the most popular interview questions that companies have.

  • Tell me about a time you worked with someone who had a very different personality from yours.
  • Tell me about a time you made a mistake and wished you’d handled the situation in another way.
  • What do you do if your work is unsatisfactory?
  • How do you handle interacting with difficult customers?
  • What do you do when your team or company is changing?
  • How did you settle into your last job?
  • How do you keep things moving on long-term projects?
  • What did you do to recover the last time a problem derailed your plans?
  • Tell me about a time you persuaded a coworker to see things your way.
  • Tell me about a successful presentation and why you think it worked.

Outside of these questions, we also have some related interview questions below, plus guides for situational interview questions and tough interview questions you should check out later.

What Should I Say in a Behavioral Interview?

It’s rare for companies to find an ideal candidate, but most are looking for someone who brings value to the company without being too disruptive to their budget or company culture.

Here are some traits companies look for and some they avoid in candidates.

What Skills Are Behavioral Interviewers Looking For in a Candidate?

  • Reasoning: Behavioral interviewers like it when you can understand and explain the reason for your actions. This helps them understand how you’re likely to act in the future.
  • Dedication: Interviewers always like hearing that you’ve worked hard, especially if you can provide specific details about going above and beyond for a project.
  • Communication: Communication skills are one of the most important abilities for any work environment, so your ability to talk with coworkers and customers is central to nearly every job.
  • Creativity: Most companies like candidates who are creative enough to solve problems, though without focusing so hard on it that candidates ignore established principles.
  • Leadership: Leadership and the ability to take initiative, especially for managing your time, are almost always welcome.

What Traits Are Behavioral Interviewers Looking To Avoid in a Candidate?

  • Overconfidence: Being confident in your skills is one thing, but excessive boasting about yourself only convinces interviewers that you’ll be hard to work with.
  • Hostility: Even if you had an excellent reason for leaving your last job, it’s best to avoid talking negatively about past employers or coworkers. Interviewers likely know about the downsides of your old job, and they respect it more if you focus on talking about moving on or finding new opportunities.
  • Inappropriate Topics: Employers don’t like to hear about anything negative or vulgar. For example, even if you love alcohol, you shouldn’t mention times you’re getting drunk.

Sample Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers

Here’s a closer look at some common behavioral interview questions.

“Tell me about a time you worked with someone who had a very different personality from yours.”

Why This Question is Asked

Most workplaces have employees with varying personalities. Potential employers want to know that you can work well with them, whether or not you like them on a personal level.

What to Focus On When Answering This Question

Compare the differences between you and a former coworker, then describe how you worked together to get something done. Employers usually like hearing empathy and understanding in these answers.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Don’t talk about pushing others around or ordering them to obey, even if you had a leadership role. Your interviewer wants to know how you interact with someone different than you, not how you behave when you’re in charge.

Example Answer

My teammate Fred was very detail-oriented and always liked to crunch numbers before signing off on something. However, our environment didn’t always give us time for that, and I had to make decisions. I talked to him about it, and we agreed to let him do preliminary work ahead of time, which helped us meet our deadlines.

“Tell me about a time you made a mistake and wished you’d handled the situation in another way.”

Why This Question is Asked

Every employee screws up at some point, although hopefully not catastrophically. Your interviewer is looking for self-awareness and the ability to learn from mistakes.

What to Focus On When Answering This Question

Focus on a moderate mistake you made, one that wasn’t too severe for your former employer. Admit to specific wrongdoing, then describe how you resolved things.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Don’t pretend you’re flawless or admit to a mistake that was too costly for your employer

Example Answer

I was doing some work for a contract we had with a government agency and didn’t think much of it at the time, but after I submitted it, I got a call that they were rejecting it. They had some specific clauses for things we needed to do that I’d forgotten about, and the contract was worth a lot, so I stayed late that day to fix things and resubmit it.

“What do you do if your work is unsatisfactory?”

Why This Question is Asked

This is different from making mistakes. What interviewers are asking about here is your problem-solving abilities, plus your ability to recognize problems if you encounter them again.

What to Focus On When Answering This Question

Describe the steps you take to improve your work, preferably with an angle about avoiding the same issue in the future.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Don’t describe fixes that are too expensive or time-consuming, and don’t say that your work is always satisfactory.

Example Answer

Customers accept my work about 98% of the time, but sometimes it just isn’t a good fit for them. I can make most corrections myself, but occasionally I have to ask a coworker to step in and help. That’s not ideal, but when work like mine is subjective, it happens. I try to do a little extra for the company when it does to help make it right.

“How do you handle interacting with difficult customers?”

Why This Question is Asked

Most people have to deal with challenging customers at some point in their job.

However, interviewers may secretly use this question to evaluate how you might handle difficult coworkers, too. This is especially important for customer-service jobs.

What to Focus On When Answering This Question

This is another problem-solving question, so employers like hearing about strategies you use to deal with other people. Listing specific steps works well.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Don’t sound like you’re too meek when dealing with others, and make sure you don’t sound like you’re rude to others, either.

Example Answer

In my experience, most difficult customers have one specific thing they want. I try to figure out what that is as fast as I can, then evaluate if it’s something I, or another employee, can realistically provide. Customers usually value speed, so I try to resolve the issue quickly and leave them with a good impression of our company.

“What do you do when your team or company is changing?”

Why This Question is Asked

Many companies change over time, from reshuffling teams to angling for a buyout from a competitor.

Employers like to know how you adjust to unexpected circumstances and maintain productivity.

What to Focus On When Answering This Question

Focus on things that benefit the company and ensure you can complete your work.

This is an excellent time to throw in some leadership elements or talk about similar experiences from previous jobs.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Don’t make it sound like you’re only going to drag the company down if they start changing.

Example Answer

If we’re reshuffling teams, I try to figure out what anyone leaving the team was working on and how that affects my work. If there’s no real impact, I focus on my work. If it’s going to disrupt us, I let our team lead know how soon I think it will affect us and that I’d like to meet with everyone so we can figure out how to adapt.

“How did you settle into your last job?”

Why This Question is Asked

Most employees take a little time to settle into their last job, and companies expect this. What they want to know is how you adapt to your surroundings and how well you can get along with new coworkers. If you seem disruptive, that can be an instant disqualification.

What to Focus On When Answering This Question

Focus on things that benefit your employer. Depending on the position, you may want to emphasize things like communicating with your team or focusing on work.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Don’t sound like you’re selfishly focusing on promoting yourself when you’re settling in.

Example Answer

I usually like to introduce myself to my team and get to know everyone a little, but in my last job, they brought me in when they were already getting close to a deadline and nobody had time for that. I coordinated with my team lead to help take the load off the parts I had experience with, and once we were done, we quickly became good teammates.

“How do you keep things moving on long-term projects?”

Why This Question is Asked

Many companies have a range of short-term, medium-term, and long-term projects that employees work on. Knowing how people pace themselves to balance these things is important for meeting deadlines.

What to Focus On When Answering This Question

Interviewers like hearing about independence and leadership skills. Your ability to self-manage projects is valuable, and the less you have to hold someone’s hand, the better.

What To Avoid When nswering This Question

Avoid anything that sounds like a lack of planning or foresight. If you only handle things as they come, you won’t sound as professional.

Example Answer

I like creating a schedule based on our deadline and how long my experience tells me tasks are likely to take, broken up into work to complete each week. I evaluate my progress at the end of the week and try to adjust as necessary based on my other tasks.

“What did you do to recover the last time a problem derailed your plans?”

Why This Question is Asked

This is another problem-solving question. However, there’s some important nuance here. Questions about mistakes focus on your errors, but this question is focusing on external issues that you have no real control over.

What to Focus On When Answering This Question

Focus on preventing and recovering from problems. Thoughtful answers about how to deal with things tend to go over well.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Avoid making it sound like you rely too much on others to address problems. Remember, most employers like leadership and initiative.

Example Answer

Our IT department made a mistake and wiped out about three days of work when we were closing in on a deadline. I talked to my team and we managed to redo it in about two days with a little overtime, and in the meantime, I got our team lead to apologize to the client and smooth things over.

“Tell me about a time you persuaded a coworker to see things your way.”

Why This Question is Asked

Employers want to know how you can convince people without being combative or argumentative. Employees usually have a reason for the way they act, so awareness of their reasoning and a focus on the company’s needs go over better.

What to Focus On When Answering This Question

Discuss positive elements of persuasion, including what specific points you disagreed on and how you managed to get on the right foot again.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Don’t talk about bullying others or using underhanded tactics to persuade others. It’s especially important to avoid describing any strategy that harmed a previous employer.

Example Answer

My teammate Fred and I disagreed about how to structure some menu elements. Eventually, I suggested that we prepare some rough mockups and get the client to decide which one they liked more, framing it as keeping them involved in the process. He agreed, and since the client chose my design, Fred rolled with it.

“Tell me about a successful presentation and why you think it worked.”

Why This Question is Asked

Many roles, especially in offices and corporate positions, require occasional presentations.

These can be to customers, teammates, executives, other departments, or even regulators. Companies generally prefer employees with good presentation skills.

What to Focus On When Answering This Question

Describe strategies you use to make reports and presentations better.

You can also discuss specific elements of your training, education, or experience that contribute to presentations.

What To Avoid When Answering This Question

Don’t focus on yourself or how great you are as a person.

Example Answer

I once had to give a presentation about the return on investment for some of our marketing strategies. I looked up a few chart styles to find the best way to present my information, then mixed that with the presentation skills I got by taking courses on public speaking in college. In my experience, keeping things simple always works better.

Other Questions You Could Be Asked

Here are some other questions that employers often ask.

  • Why Are You a Great Match for This Role?: Employers want to know why you think you’re a good fit for the job you’re applying for. This is a good chance to talk about your experience and successful performance in similar roles.
  • Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?: Employers prefer hires who are likely to stick around. Safe answers include focusing on personal development and seeking new challenges.
  • What is Your Work Style?: Employees have many work styles, so you don’t need to perfectly match other people. Instead, use the STAR technique to describe your style and how it helps your employer.
  • What is Your Management Style?: Companies like managers who match their company culture. Try to research their style ahead of time. If that doesn’t work, explanations of how you encourage employees to work harder tend to go over well.
  • How Do You Prioritize Your Work?: Many jobs have multiple tasks that employees need to juggle. Interviewers usually enjoy hearing that you understand competing interests and that you know how to balance things based on what matters most to the company.

Additional Tips for Behavioral Interviews

Here are some additional tips for standing out in an interview.

How Do You Prepare for a Behavioral Interview?

The best ways to prepare for a behavioral interview include researching the company, creating a list of past experiences you can mention, and figuring out what matters to your employer.

It’s okay to admit to problems and mistakes in the past, but try to work in mentions of problem-solving.

What Should You Wear to a Behavioral Interview?

Behavioral interviews usually call for professional attire. If the company has a formal dress code, wear a suit.

For a more casual company, men can wear dress slacks and a button-down shirt, while women should wear a nice blouse.

Neutral colors work best. You can also contact your recruiter or interviewer to ask about their preferred dress code.

How Should You Introduce Yourself In a Behavioral Interview?

Introduce yourself with this three-step format: present, past, and future.

This means talking about where you are now, then what you’ve done for the last few years, and how that transitions into what you want to do at this new company.

What Questions Should You Ask at the End of a Behavioral Interview?

A good interview lets both sides ask questions, and asking smart questions can impress a potential employer.

“What kind of challenges do you expect this company to face in the next few years, and how would someone in my role help overcome them?”

This question encourages the interviewer to think about you in a problem-solving way, which immediately raises their mental value of you.

It also gives you a chance to gain some insight into company operations that might not be public.

“What do you personally like about working for this company?”

It’s always good to research both the positives and the negatives of potential employers. Interviewers usually enjoy this question as it demonstrates openness.

“Is there anything we haven’t covered that you think I should know?”

This is an all-purpose question that can cover things you didn’t think of. It also expresses an awareness of things outside what you’ve discussed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some other questions that people have about behavioral interviews.

Is it possible to fail a behavioral interview?

Yes. Behavioral interviews are a key step in the hiring process and failing them can result in not getting the job.

Fortunately, once you know how to answer behavioral questions, they’re usually easy to pass.

What is the toughest behavioral interview question?

There’s no single toughest question, but it can be hard to answer requests for experiences you haven’t had.

If that comes up, try to redirect the answer to something you have done.

Wrapping Up

Behavioral interview questions can seem intimidating at first, but they’re not as hard to get through as they sound.

Just remember that employers are mainly looking to see that you have self-awareness and problem-solving abilities.

If you can convince them of that, you’ll be in a much better position going forward.

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