Employers ask behavioural interview questions at job interviews to gauge how successful you are at problem solving. These questions can provide insight into your personality, skills and abilities. Each behavioural interview question requires you to share a specific story that highlights your strengths and skills. Therefore, thoughtful preparation is an important part of the interview process. In this article, we offer more information about behavioural interview questions and some tips for preparing and responding to questions. Then, we offer some examples of questions and answers.
What are behavioural interview questions?
Behavioural interview questions focus on how you've handled different work situations in the past. They give interviewers an idea of how you would behave if a similar situation happened in the future. Your answers to these questions should provide a brief story that illustrates your skills and strengths. For each answer, tell the interviewer about the story's background, the specific actions you took and their results.
Tips for answering behavioural interview questions
Here are some tips you can use to answer behavioural interview questions well:
- Be prepared: You may be asked questions that seem unusual, but actually, most interviewers will ask similar questions. That's why it's helpful to review common behavioural interview questions in advance and practice your responses. Then, you'll have some thoughtful anecdotes ready.
- Use specific examples: Another way to feel fully prepared is to think of examples for every responsibility or challenge listed on the job description. However, they don't have to be examples that are specific to the position. For example, if you're applying for a management position, but you've never been a supervisor, you can talk about how you were the go-to person on your team for training new employees, and how people thought of you as a problem-solver. If the job description explains that the role requires a person who can handle conflict well, then prepare a specific example of a time you resolved a conflict and relate it back to the job.
- Take your time answering: After the interviewer asks a question, give yourself a moment to think of an appropriate answer. Take a breath, pause or take a drink of water to calm your nerves before you respond.
- Be positive: Behavioural interview questions often require you to think of a failure or problem at work, but you shouldn't focus on that part of your story. Instead, spend more time talking about how you solved the problem and the results you achieved.
- Use STAR responses: STAR stands for situation, task, action and result. For "situation," briefly share the context and details of the challenge or problem you faced. For "task," describe your role in overcoming the challenge or handling the situation. For "action," explain what you or your team did, and focus on the role that you played. For "result," share the outcome. When possible, provide quantitative results or concrete examples of the effects of your efforts.
Example behavioural interview questions
Here are some common behavioural interview questions and examples of good answers:
- Tell me about a time when you handled a challenging situation.
- Tell me about a time when you made a mistake. What did you do to correct it?
- Tell me about a time when you were in conflict with a peer and how the situation was resolved.
- Tell me about how you work under pressure.
- Give me an example of how you set goals.
- Give me an example of a time you made an unpopular decision, and explain how you handled implementing it.
Tell me about a time when you handled a challenging situation.
With this question, the interviewer wants to see how you handle challenges. Give an example where you successfully problem-solved to overcome the challenge or an example of a time you made mistakes and what you learned from the experience.
Example: "My manager left town unexpectedly when we were in the middle of pitching large sponsors for an upcoming conference. I put together the slides for the presentations to secure these sponsors, but I only had a few notes left behind by my manager. I called a meeting with the members of our team, and we worked together to generate a list of the biggest selling points for these potential sponsors. I gave the presentation successfully, and we got the sponsorship. I'm extremely proud of everything we achieved when we worked together."
Tell me about a time when you made a mistake. What did you do to correct it?
The interviewer understands that everyone makes mistakes. They want to know how you handle them when they happen. Mention a time when you took full responsibility for a mistake, worked hard to correct it and prevented it from happening again.
Example: "When I was working at a printing company, I misquoted a fee to a client. After I realized the mistake, I went directly to my manager and explained what happened. He said that he appreciated my honesty, and he suggested that we waive the setup fee for the job as an apology to the customer. I spoke to the customer and explained what happened. He understood, and he appreciated our effort to make the situation right. After that, I printed our price sheet to make sure that everyone had it on hand. I also implemented a new process for quoting estimates that required salespeople to double-check the final quote before sending it."
Tell me about a time when you were in conflict with a peer and how the situation was resolved.
Many workplaces have employees with different personality types and communication styles, and conflicts can occasionally occur. With this question, the interviewer wants to know how you resolve conflicts. Discuss a situation when you used a specific strategy to end a conflict and find a mutually agreeable resolution.
Example: "I had a sales manager who was great about stepping in to help when members of our team were struggling with meeting their goals. However, some people felt that they were being micromanaged. I discussed the team's feelings in a one-on-one meeting with the manager. Then, we decided that she would let people know that her door was open if they needed help and let them decide on the right strategies to meet their goals. We also implemented an optional monthly training program for team members who wanted to increase their sales."
Tell me about how you work under pressure.
Talk about strategies you've used to handle high-pressure situations in the past. This question is especially relevant if you're interviewing for a high-stress job. Give a specific example of how you worked successfully under pressure. You can also talk about what you would do differently if you were in a similar situation today.
Example: "I was working on a large project with my team that was due in 60 days. Then, my manager told me that the client wanted the work done in 45 days. We had to speed up our work without losing momentum on other projects, so I met with our team and reviewed our schedule. We eliminated team meetings and shifted lower-priority tasks until the end of the 45-day period. I challenged my team to complete the project in 45 days or less, and as a reward, I promised two days of extra PTO time for everyone. Our team got the job done ahead of schedule, in 42 days."
Give me an example of how you set goals.
This question is designed to show the interviewer how well you plan and set goals. Discuss an ambitious goal that you set for yourself and how you came up with a plan for success.
Example: "A few weeks after starting my job as a server at a restaurant, I knew I wanted to work in the foodservice industry as a chef. I decided to learn everything I could in my current position until an opening became available in the kitchen. Even though working in the kitchen paid less, I wanted the experience. I also started saving to go to a culinary academy. I knew that by the time I finished school, I would be a highly competitive candidate for chef roles."
Give me an example of a time you made an unpopular decision, and explain how you handled implementing it.
Managers sometimes have to make decisions that aren't popular. The interviewer wants to know how you would handle this situation. Talk about a situation where you moved forward with the decision and communicated your reasoning to garner the support of more employees.
Example: "I took over management of a gym where the trainers were allowed to cover each other's shifts without the knowledge or approval of management. If someone didn't show up for a class, there was no way to know which trainer was supposed to be there. I implemented a new policy that required trainers to get management approval for schedule changes. I also explained the problem with the previous approach and let trainers know that they would still be able to change their schedules whenever they needed."
Read More: 17 Interview Tips to Help You Get the Job