Behavioral Interview Questions & Answers

Behavioral Interview Questions & Answers

Behavioral interviews are becoming the new standard for job interviews. 

How do you prepare so you can stand out when you're asked behavioral interview questions? 

This behavioral interview guide takes you through the key steps of preparing for, answering, and acing your next interview.

What is a Behavioral Interview?

Behavioral interview questions are built on the assumption that your past experience and actions is the best example of how you'll act in the future. 

There's some evidence to support this. We're likely to act consistently when we're in the same scenarios.

Because of this, employers everywhere are using behavioral interview questions to understand what you’ve done in past situations.

Identifying Behavioral Interview Questions

The easiest way to identify a behavioral interview question is if it's asking you about your past experience.

Behavioral interview questions often begin with phrases such as:

  • "Tell me about a time ..."
  • "Give me an example."
  • "Have you ever ..."

If you aren't sure...

There's no harm in treating a question like it's a behavioral interview question if it's not. 

Interviews are all about you and the employer figuring out if you're a good fit in the job.

If you misinterpret an interview question and decide to talk about your past experience, this only gives more evidence that you've done similar work before.

How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

There are 4 key steps to prepare for a behavioral interview. 

Let's look at the steps and then we'll get into how to implement them in more detail. 

  1. ​Prepare as you would for any other interview
    Behavioral interviews are often just one part of the interview process. Before any interview, make sure you research the company, prepare to discuss your resume, anticipate common interview questions, create your own questions to ask, and practice. 
  2. Understand the STAR model
    The STAR model gives you a way to organize your response in a way that is concise yet thorough. The next section of this article goes into detail on the STAR interview method. 
  3. Practice STAR responses
    Practice using the STAR model by writing a STAR response to the sample behavioral interview questions found later in this article. In the middle of an interview is NOT the time to try it out for the first time. 
  4. ​​​Take your time
    During your interview, remember to stay calm and think through your response. When asked a behavioral interview question, give yourself a moment to formulate your thoughts. Recall each part of the STAR model as you respond to the question.

Answering Behavioral Interview Questions

Want a fool-proof way to answer any behavioral interview question?

The STAR interview response technique is a model used to help interviewees (you) respond to behavioral interview questions in a way that is thorough yet concise, and effectively communicates your skills.

What is the STAR Technique?

The STAR interview response method has been used by millions of people to structure the perfect response to interview questions.

This STAR model works especially well when responding to questions about your past experience.

It narrates a story about your experience that demonstrates that you can apply your skills to real life scenarios, which sets you apart from other candidates.

STAR stands for:

  • Situation - Describe the background so the interviewer understands the context. This can be done in a few sentences. 
  • Task - What was the task you were given? This is what you were trying to accomplish. 
  • Action - What steps did you take? Use a few sentences to describe them. 
  • Result - What was the outcome? If you weren't able to accomplish the task, make sure to describe what you learned.

Sample STAR Responses

Let's take a look at the STAR model in practice. 

Suppose the interviewer asks you, "Tell me about a time you had to make a judgement call."

Here's how you could respond using the STAR model:

In my role managing a new product launch, one of the parts we needed to assemble the final product was delivered the morning we were to start production and did not match the specification. [SITUATION]

I had to determine whether to assemble the product with the out of spec part or to delay production. [TASK]

I quickly reviewed the function of the non-conforming part. I concluded that the part was critical to the operation of the product and would need to be replaced. However, I also found that we could fully assemble the non-conforming part and replace the part later with minimal work. [ACTION]

As a result, we were able to start production on time. The supplier expedited replacement parts. The rework was able to be completed quickly which enabled deliveries to be made according to the original time plan. [RESULT]

Sample Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers

Have you ever been asked about your ability to persuade people?

What about your leadership skills or your greatest weakness?

Both of these are classic behavioral interview question examples.

Let's look at the most common questions you might encounter in the areas of leadership, persuasiveness, success, and failure.

Leadership & Persuasiveness Questions

  • Tell me about a time your manager didn't take your recommendation.
  • Tell me about a decision you made that was unpopular and how you handled it.
  • Tell me about a situation where you disagreed with a manager and how you persuaded them to your position.
  • Tell me about a time you motivated a low performing employee or coworker.
  • Tell me about a project you ran where you were required to get the involvement of people you didn't directly manage in order to get the job done.

Success & Failure Questions

  • Tell me about a project you failed at.
  • You don't always have all the information or time needed to make a decision. Tell me about a time you had to make a judgement call decision.
  • Have you ever made a risky decision? Why did you make the decision and what was the outcome?
  • Describe a time you faced a challenge and had to overcome it.
  • Tell me about a time when you had better results than you expected from a project

Other Sample Questions

  • Describe how you handled a stressful situation at work.
  • Tell me about the most innovative thing you've ever done.
  • Tell me about a project you ran which was outside of your normal job scope.
  • Tell me about a time you went above and beyond for a customer. 

Key Tips for Answering Behavioral Interview Questions

​In addition to using the STAR model to answer behavioral interview questions, these tips will help you create excellent responses: 

Be Specific

Responding to questions with specific answers helps the interviewer understand your experience. Be concise and thorough in your responses.

Prepare Several Standard Examples

There are a few types of questions that are likely to come up in any interview so it’s helpful to prepare some STAR responses in advance. Be prepared to answer questions about your biggest: strength, weakness, success, and failure.

Also prepare based on the requirements of the job.

Technical role? Prepare examples of how you’ve used certain software.

Customer facing role? Prepare examples of how you went above and beyond for a customer.

Take your time and listen carefully

During your interview, focus on listening to what the interviewer is asking you, not what you want to make sure you say. Stay calm and think through your responses. Give yourself a moment to formulate your thoughts.

Use fresh examples

Use the most recent situations that are applicable to the question you're asked. 

Using old examples (especially 5, 10, or more years ago) can leave the interviewer wondering if you still have these skills.

Don't make things up

It might be tempting to make up situations or change the outcome when describing your example. 

Most of the time it's obvious you're making things up.

Instead, if you don't have a specific example directly connected to the question, look for an example that demonstrates the skill that they're asking about.

Additional Resources

Want even more help prepping for your interview?

There’s no substitute for practicing your interviewing skills. The more you practice, the more natural it will feel.

Contact me about coaching and mock interviews for 1-on-1 help standing out in your next interview.