Top 15 Behavioral Interview Questions and Genius Answers ᕙ(⇀‸↼‶)ᕗ

Jul 8, 2020 | 0 comments

Job interview: not common behavioral interview questions

I.     Introduction

I’m not going to lie: if you are looking for a new job in 2020, you are in for a challenge. Don’t shoot the messenger, but the global economy has seen better days.
 
With everything that’s been going on in the world over the past few months — and counting, most businesses will be looking to scale down or simply stay afloat. To land a job offer in this climate, you need to step up your game like never before.
 
One of the best things you can do to set yourself up for success is to research common behavioral interview questions.
 
Yes, you read that right.
 
See, the thing is, most prospective employees can draft a great resume or an attention grabbing cover letter. And you should certainly focus on mastering these types of documents, as they are what will get you the interview invite.
 
However, on the day of the interview, your potential employer will be looking for evidence that your skills go beyond writing one to three pages of text in the comfort of your own home.
 
Here is where behavioral interview questions come in.
 
These are not your standard interview questions: they require a little more thought and a lot more planning.
 
The good news for you is that this is the most comprehensive online guide on the top behavioral interview questions. I will explain:

  • What these are
  • Why they matter
  • What you can do to prepare

The best part?
 
I will also teach you how to answer the most common interview questions employers like to ask! I’ve prepared a ton of ready-to-use sample answers that you can easily adapt to suit any context.
 
So, if you want to get that great new job right now (it’s still possible!), keep reading. 
 

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Top 15 Behavioral Interview Questions and Genius Answers ᕙ(⇀‸↼‶)ᕗ

II.    What Are Behavioral Interview Questions?

You are probably familiar with the more basic interview questions, which tend to be rather factual. For example, you may be asked to list your previous jobs and responsibilities or explain why you are applying for the position at hand.

In contrast, behavioral interview questions are situational. You are asked to describe a situation in which you encountered a problem or a challenge related to your job.

The situation could be hypothetical or something that happened to you in real life. In either case, you will also be asked how you dealt or would deal with it, as well as what the result was.
Here are a couple of examples:

v

Tell me about a time when you had to work on a task or project with a colleague you found it difficult to get along with. How did you manage to get past your personality differences?

v

Can you give me an example of a time when you were struggling to meet competing but equally important deadlines? What did you do to handle that problem?

III.    Why Behavioral Interview Questions Matter

While your CV and resume tell your potential employer all about your formal qualifications, they say next to nothing about your personality, soft skills, and day-to-day experiences at your previous jobs. One of the best ways for a recruiter to get to know this side of you — other than actually working with you — is by asking behavioral questions.

IV.    What Answers Do Employers Want to Hear?

Interviewers do not ask random behavioral questions. They customize them to reflect the realities of the industry, the specific workplace, and the advertised position. That means they will be looking to hear about skills and experiences that are relevant and transferable. Therefore, you want to think of examples that relate directly to the job you are applying for.

That being said, there are some general skill sets that nearly all recruiters will be looking to gauge using behavioral questions. These include:

  • Time management
  • Priority-setting
  • Problem-solving
  • The ability to work in a team
  • The ability to work unsupervised

Employers also want to get to know you as a person. Most behavioral questions are designed to provide a glimpse into some of your key personality and character traits, such as:

  • Communication and conflict-resolution styles
  • Resilience to stress
  • Willingness to take the initiative and lead
  • What motivates you
  • How you cope under pressure
  • How committed you are to seeing projects through

So, always keep these in mind, and make sure that your answers showcase your skills and personality at their best.

V.    How to Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions

➤ Research the Company and the Industry

The first thing you want to do when preparing for any job interview is to thoroughly research the company or organization. If you are new to the industry or field of work, you need to look into these as well.

This research is essential, as it will provide you with valuable clues about the specific skills, traits, and experiences that are likely to be the target of the behavioral questions you will get during your interview.

➤ Research the Position

Next, make sure you are as familiar as possible with the position you are applying for. Carefully read the job posting and any relevant information you can find on the company’s website. As you do that, look for common keywords indicating the key responsibilities and skill sets required for this type of job.

Pro Tip:

Review other job ads for similar positions. These should help you get a better idea of the skills that are likely to be targeted by behavioral questions.

➤ Match Your Experiences to the Job

Once you are confident that you know everything you need to know about the company and the position, take out your CV or resume. Read through it and consider which of your past experiences and skills might be relevant to the job at hand. Try to be as specific and detailed as you can, and think of concrete situations that could also happen in what will hopefully be your new job. Then, write these down.

➤ Make a List of Common Behavioral Questions

The next step is to compile a list of the most common behavioral interview questions. Don’t worry; you won’t have to scour the Internet to figure out what they are. You can find these questions further down in this guide.

Print out the list and memorize it. You can also take it with you on the day of the interview and quickly go over it while you wait to be called in. You may also keep a digital copy on your phone, tablet, or laptop, but don’t rely on it exclusively. Devices get lost, stolen, or run out of battery all the time, and you don’t want to risk it on the very day of your interview.

While your interviewers’ questions will not be phrased in the exact same way as the ones on your list, chances are the gist will be the same. The more familiar you are with the most common question prompts, the more likely you are to come up with great answers.

Pro Tip:

Make sure your list of interview questions is easy to read and fits on a single page. You don’t want to be leafing through tons of pages before your interview.

➤ Write Down Your Answers

After you compile the list of questions, write down your answers. This may very well be the most important part of the process, so take your time with it and really think things through.

As you do this, don’t forget to consider each question in the context of the job you are applying for. Then, as you jot down your answers, make sure that each of them highlights specific skills, experiences, and personality traits that relate to the position.

When you have your final draft ready, print it out and take it with you on the day of the interview for a last-minute memory refresher.

➤ Practice, Practice, Practice

They say practice makes perfect, and they are right. Memorize all questions and answers, and practice your responses out loud many times. Ideally, you want to be able to recite them in your sleep.

VI. How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions: The STAR Technique

To come up with the best answers to interview questions that are behavior-based, use the tried-and-tested STAR response technique. STAR stands for:

✓ Situation
✓ Task
✓ Action
✓ Result

➤  The situation

First, set the scene by describing the situation. Give all the context your interviewer needs to fully grasp your answer. That means you may have to provide details about your previous workplace, your colleagues, the project you were working on at the time, and more.

➤  The task

Describe the task you were given as well as the problem or challenge that came up as you were trying to complete it. Remember, you need a challenge: recruiters are not interested in stories where everything went smoothly, as these do not tell them anything valuable about you. 

s

Important:

It’s better to give as an example challenges that were outside of your control instead of problems that you created yourself.

➤  The action

Next, explain the specific action or actions you took to handle the problem. These need to highlight a combination of key assets or skills that you have in your arsenal and that are relevant to the job you are applying for.

This is the most important part of your answer, so make sure to break it down into all the concrete steps you took. Moreover, explain the reasoning behind your actions. Why did you do what you did? What were the alternatives, and why did you discard them? This is a great way to showcase your strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.

➤  The results

Finally, describe the results of your actions. It is essential that you show how your decisions helped solve the problem you were facing. Ideally, you also want to throw in a comment or two on how these helped improve you or the company in the long term.

Pro Tip:

The best results are quantifiable. If you can say that you helped make x amount of money or increased the revenue by x percent, that would be ideal.

s

Important:

If you were working in a team, make sure to highlight your specific contribution to solving the problem.

VII. The Top 15 Behavioral Interview Questions and Sample Answers

While behavioral interview questions come in countless variants, they all fall under a few broad categories. These are:
  1. Problem-solving
  2. Time management
  3. Meeting deadlines
  4. Setting priorities
  5. Setting and achieving goals
  6. Interpersonal skills
  7. Teamwork
  8. Communication skills
  9. Client-facing skills
  10. Ability to adapt
  11. Working under stress
  12. Motivation
  13. Initiative and leadership
  14. Your values
  15. Handling failure and mistakes

In the following sections, I will go over each one of the fifteen categories. I will provide you with mock interview questions and ready-to-use STAR answers. Of course, you will probably have to tweak these to reflect your personal situation and the realities of the job.

➤ Problem Solving

Interview questions that seek to probe your problem-solving skills tend to be rather vague and open-ended. That’s good news for you, as it means you can pick nearly any challenging work-related situation from your past, give it a spin that reflects positively on you, and use it as your answer.

Here are a couple of typical problem-solving behavioral questions:

v

Give me an example of how you deal with problems at work.

v

Tell me about a time when you had to handle a challenging situation at the office. What did you do, and what was the result?

» What They Want to Hear

Recruiters who ask this sort of questions are looking to hear about:

  • A problem or challenge you faced at work
  • What you did about it and how you arrived at that decision (i.e., your strategic thinking)
  • The results (ideally, positive)

» Sample Answer

S

The advertising agency I used to work for had just started negotiating with a major potential client. We knew that if we managed to convince them to work with us, it could result in a lucrative long-term collaboration.

T

One evening, I was just about to leave the office when I was told that our main competitor was due to meet with the client the following day. I realized that we had to move before they did and that we had to make a better offer.

A

I called my team, apologized, and asked them to come back to the office or join us online. We all stayed up late to draft the terms of our offer. I called the client first thing the following morning. I gave them our offer and suggested we meet in person to discuss further details.

R

The client was impressed with our prompt reaction. We met a few days later, and we were even able to offer them a discount and much better terms than our competitor. We ended up securing the contract. Later, I made sure all my team members who helped with the offer got bonuses.

➤ Time Management

These questions are fairly straightforward. They go along the lines of:

v

What do you do when your normal working schedule is interrupted?

v

Tell me what you do when your to-do list is too long for you to manage in one day.

v

How do you organize your time when working on a long-term project?

» What They Want to Hear

Recruiters are looking for evidence that you can:

  • Structure your time
  • Juggle multiple responsibilities simultaneously
  • Change your schedule on short notice
  • Be realistic about how long different tasks will take to complete

» Sample Answer

Let’s answer the first question above:

S

Earlier this year, I had a lot on my plate. My team had a couple of major deadlines approaching, and one of my colleagues was on maternity leave, so we were short-staffed.

T

24 hours before one of the deadlines, I was told that I had to attend an urgent four-hour meeting with one of our biggest clients. Up until that moment, I had thought that we had enough time to meet our deadline, but that was no longer the case.

A

I had to think on my feet. So, I quickly delegated most of my tasks for the day to my team members and asked a couple of people from another department to help us out. I told everyone to pause any other tasks they were working on. I also spent every moment I could spare, including the time during my commute to and from the meeting, to do as much work as possible.

R

We had to stay up late, but, in the end, we managed to meet our deadline.

➤ Meeting Deadlines

Here is a typical deadline question:

v

How do you approach both long- and short-term deadlines?

» What They Want to Hear

Your potential employer wants to see if you can:

  • Structure your time
  • Plan your work
  • Handle both short- and long-term task at the same time
  • Meet deadlines

» Sample Answer

S+T

When working on both short- and long-term projects at the same time…

A

I make a to-do list for each day. I try to spend the first half or two-thirds of the day working on any short-term tasks that are due sooner. Once I have met all deadlines for that day, I spend the rest of my time working on any long-term projects.

R

That way, I have always been able to meet all my deadlines.               

➤ Setting Priorities

These types of questions are similar to the time-management and deadlines categories. Here is an example:

v

On any given day at work, how do you prioritize your tasks?

» What They Want to Hear

The same things as under the time management and deadlines categories.

» Sample Answer

S+T

Every morning, before I start working on any tasks, I make my plan for the day.

A

I put any urgent deadlines or tasks at the top of my to-do list. After these come any meetings or events scheduled for that day. Finally, I put any long-term projects that I may be working on.

R

This priority-setting strategy allows me to complete nearly all of my projects on time.

➤ Setting and Achieving Goals

These questions are quite easy to spot. Here is a standard example:

v

Give me an example of a goal you set for yourself and later achieved. How did you manage to do that?

» What They Want to Hear

The interviewer wants evidence that you:

  • Are ambitious and have a growth mindset
  • Can set appropriate and realistic goals
  • Know how to achieve them

» Sample Answer

S

My background is in the hospitality industry. I spent a few years working as a business analyst for a major hotel chain. I was responsible for developing the hotel’s business plan. As time passed, however, I started to develop an interest in finance and real estate investment.

T

So, I decided to change career paths. 

A

First, I found a new job as a business analyst for a company that also had a real-estate investment department. I did everything I could to get myself involved in the work of that department in order to learn from their experience. I also applied and got accepted to do a part-time Master’s degree in finance and economics at a local university.

R

Eventually, I got my degree and a job in real estate investment.                

➤ Interpersonal Skills

Questions that seek to test your interpersonal skills are probably the most common behavioral interview prompts. Here are some typical examples:

v

Tell me about a time when you had to work with a colleague whose personality was very different from yours.

v

Have you ever struggled to build a connection with an important coworker? How did you overcome that?

» What They Want to Hear

Recruiters want to make sure that you:

  • Can get along with various personality types
  • Actively seek to build working relationships with your coworkers
  • Are flexible, non-confrontational, and a good communicator

» Sample Answer

Let’s tackle the first question above.

S

I once had a colleague who was an extreme introvert.

T

The two of us had to work on a common project. Initially, I found it difficult to work with that person. She would never approach me to let me know how her work was going or to divide the tasks between us. She would just sit in her office and do her thing.

A

At first, I thought she didn’t like me. However, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. I thought that I could be the proactive side, as I am more of an extrovert myself. I started calling or emailing her each morning to check in on her progress and update her on mine.

R

I found out that she was much more responsive and willing to engage online or via telephone than in person. What’s more, she turned out to be a highly conscientious worker and a great team player — and we completed our project on time.

➤ Teamwork

Teamwork is a subcategory of the interpersonal skills questions. Here is an example:

v

Tell me how you make sure you are a good team player.

» What They Want to Hear

Employers are looking to ensure that you:

  • Are a good team player
  • Value other people’s opinions and contribution
  • Don’t seek to get all the credit for group work
  • Don’t have a tendency to exclude or boss people around

» Sample Answer

S+T

I make sure to regularly update my colleagues on my progress as well as any challenges that I may be facing. I also ask about their work and seek their opinions when I have to make a decision that affects the group project. In addition, I make sure that no one feels excluded and that the entire team has a say on important topics.

A

I found out that she was much more responsive and willing to engage online or via telephone than in person. What’s more, she turned out to be a highly conscientious worker and a great team player — and we completed our project on time.

R

I find that this strategy improves my work and helps me learn from other people’s knowledge and experiences.

➤ Communication Skills

This is another category that is closely related to interpersonal skills questions. Here are a few examples:

v

Give me an example of a time when you managed to persuade someone to agree with you. How did you go about it?

v

Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a coworker. What did you do and why?

v

When working in a team, how do you ensure that everyone is on the same page?

» What They Want to Hear

Interviewers want to hear that you:

  • Are adept at both written and oral communication
  • Can adjust your delivery when needed to ensure you get your message across

» Sample Answer

Let’s answer the first question above.

S

In my previous job, we were working on a pitch for a potential client.

T

I didn’t think our pitch was the best it could be, but when I first voiced my concerns, my manager brushed them off.

A

So what I did next was to make a PowerPoint presentation with figures and statistics that proved my point. I then emailed it to my manager and asked him if I could present my argument to the entire team and get everyone’s input.

R

My manager was impressed with the presentation and allowed me to share it with the team. Eventually, everyone got on board with my idea, and we changed the pitch accordingly.

➤ Client-Facing Skills

If you are interviewing for a client-facing role, you are most likely going to get questions such as:

v

Describe a situation in which you had to deal with a difficult client. How did you handle it?

v

Tell me about a time when you went out of your way to make a good impression on a client.

v

What would you do if you failed to meet a client’s expectations?

v

If you had to work with a large number of customers at the same time, which ones would you prioritize, and how would you ensure that they all get excellent service?

» What They Want to Hear

Employers are looking for answers showing that you:

  • Are friendly, personable, and client-oriented
  • Remain calm and professional when handling difficult people
  • Can deliver excellent customer service
  • Realize that you are representing the company and not yourself personally when dealing with clients

» Sample Answer

Again, let’s tackle the first of the questions above.

S

I used to work as a sales assistant in a clothing store.

T

One day, a lady came in. She wanted to return a dress she claimed she’d bought at our store and demanded a refund. The store policy was that customers were entitled to a refund within thirty days of making the purchase and upon showing the original receipt. The problem was that this lady did not have a receipt.

A

I calmly explained the store policy to the customer, but that made her angry and confrontational. She started shouting and demanded to see my manager. I knew that it was impossible to process a refund without a receipt. So, what I did instead was to offer the customer three 2-for-1 vouchers by way of compensation. We had this ongoing sales campaign anyway.

R

The customer calmed down and ended up using all three vouchers on the spot.

➤ Ability to Adapt

The only constant in life is change, so your employer will be looking for evidence that you are resilient and can thrive when something unexpected or negative comes up. Here are some questions you might get:

v

Tell me about a time when your workplace was undergoing serious changes. How did you adapt?

v

Give me an example of a work-related situation where you had to think on your feet.

» What They Want to Hear

Recruiters want to see if you:

  • Are resilient
  • Are not rigid and too set in your own ways
  • See crises as opportunities
  • Try to maintain a positive outlook on life

» Sample Answer

Here is a sample answer to the first question above:

S+T

Two years ago, I used to work for a marketing startup. Startups are high-risk enterprises, and, unfortunately, the company was not doing as well as I had expected. Eventually, my manager announced that the company was going bankrupt and that we only had a couple of months before we would have to call it quits. 

A

I knew I had no time to waste. That same day, I started applying for part-time jobs. I wanted to secure another stream of revenue as soon as possible.

R

I managed to get a second job in about three weeks. This income got me through the next four months, during which I was applying for better-paid, full-time positions.

➤ Stress Management

Unfortunately, stress comes with pretty much every job out there. Here is a typical interview question you can expect:

v

Tell me about a time when you had to work under a lot of pressure. How did you cope?

» What They Want to Hear

Employers want to know whether you:

  • Can function well under pressure
  • Have good coping skills
  • Are emotionally and physically resilient

» Sample Answer

S

As a medical professional, I am used to working in high-stress environments. We get many urgent cases that demand our immediate attention, work long shifts, and have to handle people in severe emotional distress. 

T

That being said, last year, I was struggling with some health issues of my own. I was also going through a rough patch in my personal life. All that made me much more stressed out than I usually am.

A

I am well aware of the importance of managing stress. So I made a point of improving my diet and my sleep. I also started working out more regularly and started seeing a therapist.

R

Eventually, these coping strategies helped me deal with stress better and get my health back on track.

➤ Motivation

Motivation is essential for you to perform well at any workplace, so you can bet that employers will be looking for signs of that. Here are some examples of questions you might get:

v

Think of a time when you were unhappy at work. What could have made you happier?

v

Tell me about a time when you worked under minimal supervision. How did you handle that?

» What They Want to Hear

Interviewers want to know:

  • That you can maintain motivation in the long term
  • What motivates you: money, career growth, interpersonal relations, learning new things, the nature of the job, positive or negative feedback, or something else?

» Sample Answer

Here is a sample answer to the first question above:

S+T

I used to work for an NGO. As this was a non-profit organization, there was no way for employees to get a raise or any financial bonuses. While I cared about the cause and liked the job, after four years with the same salary, I began to struggle financially. As a result, I became very demotivated.

A

I ended up quitting the NGO and got a higher-paying job in the private sector.

R

I feel much happier and more motivated now that I have a job with a potential for financial and career growth. I still care deeply about humanitarian and charity work, but I do these in my free time, as a volunteer.

➤ Initiative and Leadership

Showing initiative where appropriate is just as important as being able to follow instructions. Therefore, you can expect questions such as this one:

v

Tell me about a time when you stepped in and took the initiative while working as part of a team.

» What They Want to Hear

Employers are looking to hear that you:

  • Have leadership skills and know when and how to use them
  • Are not afraid to show initiative and share ideas and suggestions

» Sample Answer

S

In my previous job, my team and I were working on an important project that was due in a week.

T

Three days before the final deadline, our manager had a family emergency and had to take a few days off work. As she was distraught and in a hurry, she did not take the time to come up with an action plan for us to follow while she was gone.

A

All my colleagues were very anxious, so I thought I should step in. First, I created a list of the tasks we had to complete before the deadline. Then, I called everyone in for a meeting. Together, we distributed the work amongst ourselves, including the tasks our manager was supposed to do.

R

Luckily, we managed to get ourselves organized and completed everything on time.

➤ Your Values

Sometimes, employers like to ask behavioral questions that help them gauge what your values are. This is especially common with charitable and humanitarian organizations or non-profits. Here is an example:

v

What would you say is your biggest career accomplishment, and why?

» What They Want to Hear

By asking these sorts of questions, potential employers want to:

  • Make sure that your values are compatible with the values of the company or organization

» Sample Answer

S+T

My proudest career accomplishment is when I organized a fundraising campaign at my old workplace. The goal was to help a local women’s shelter that was struggling to pay its rent. 

A

I created a whole info campaign and sent it out to all my colleagues, partners, and clients. I also organized a charity talent show and marathon.

R

In the end, we managed to raise the required funds.

➤ Handling Failures and Mistakes

Employers don’t expect you to be perfect — we all make mistakes. However, they do expect you to be able to recover swiftly from your failures, learn from them, and take steps to redress any damage done. Here is a question you might get to that effect:

v

Tell me about a serious mistake that you made in your previous job. How did you handle it?

» What They Want to Hear

Interviewers want to make sure that you:

  • Follow a protocol that minimizes the risk of making mistakes
  • Are upfront when you do make one
  • Are quick to do damage control
  • Learn from your failures
  • Do not repeat the same mistake twice

» Sample Answer

S

I suffer from migraines, so I always make sure to have my painkillers with me when I’m at work.

T

However, this one time, I had run out of painkillers. I felt the onset of my migraine, but I couldn’t go and get my prescription refilled because I was rushing to meet a deadline that same day. Due to the severe pain, I ended up miscalculating an important figure. The next day, the client got back to us asking us to correct the error. My manager was very cross, as she had put a lot of trust in me with this project.

A

I corrected my error, resubmitted the project, and apologized to both my manager and the client. From that day on, I always make sure to keep a full supply of painkillers in the office.

R

Fortunately, I have never been in that position again.

VII.    Conclusion

Well, that’s it for now. I hope you found my guide useful and learned something new! As always, feel free to give me your feedback or ask any questions you might have in the comments section below.

And just to recap, here are the key takeaways when it comes to behavioral interview questions:

» Preparing for Behavioral Interview Questions:

l

Key Takeaways

  • Research the company and the position you are applying for
  • Make a list of the key competencies and skills required for the job
  • Make a list of situations from your personal experience that match those skills
  • Research the most common behavioral interview questions
  • Write down and memorize your answers
  • Practice, practice, practice (out loud)

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