10 Behavioral Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)
Updated November 30, 2023
During a job interview, employers may ask behavioral interview questions to assess how well you handled specific situations in the past and determine your likely behavior in similar situations. Your past performance can offer the hiring manager insight into your competence level. Reviewing answers to typical behavioral interview questions may help you prepare your own responses.
In this article, we review some sample behavioral interview questions with example responses and share some useful tips to help you make a good impression on prospective employers during a behavioral interview.
What are behavioral interview questions?
Behavioral interview questions assess your actions and reactions in a specific professional setting or situation. These questions usually begin with phrases such as, "Tell me about a time when..." or "Give me an example of..." and often directly relate to key competencies or skills required for the job. Behavioral interviews help employers determine your skills and qualities, such as problem-solving, customer service, critical thinking and communication. You can structure your answers to these questions using the STAR technique, which includes the following components:
Situation: Describe a situation in your work experience pertinent to the question.
Task: Explain what your task was in that situation.
Action: Detail the action you took to address the situation.
Result: Summarize the outcome of your response.
Behavioral interview questions with sample answers
Exploring answers to a few common behavioral questions can help you assess the skills and qualities they're designed to test, allowing you to increase your confidence level when answering them yourself. Review the following sample answers to learn how to best craft your own answers using the STAR method:
1. Give me an example of a time you had a conflict with a team member. How did you handle it?
A wide range of positions involve working in teams, and this question aims to assess your conflict management and resolution skills. It also evaluates how well you value and relate to your colleagues, even if you might disagree with them. In your answer, consider discussing a specific time when you and a colleague disagreed on solving a problem or experienced personal differences. Mention what you did to resolve the conflict with your team member.
Example: "At LabCorp Inc., my team was responsible for completing a project with a short deadline. I decided it would be best to delegate individual tasks to each team member, but one person disagreed and thought it would be better to meet to work on it together for a few days each week. I decided to schedule a lunch meeting with this team member to understand his idea better and why he disagreed.
After this meeting, we compromised by completing the smaller tasks individually and working on the larger ones as a group. Our team was able to complete the task before the deadline. I also gained a better understanding of my team members and their work preferences and learned that compromise can sometimes be the best way to resolve a conflict quickly."
2. Tell me about a time you made a mistake at work. How did you resolve the problem, and what did you learn from your mistake?
Interviewers understand that mistakes can occur at work, and they may ask this question to assess your ability to handle challenging situations and learn from them. It can offer them insight into your ability to admit your mistakes and show how you respond to new situations. In your answer, showcase your integrity and ability to admit and correct your mistakes by describing a time you made a mistake and explaining the steps you took to overcome it.
Example: "I had just started working as a member of the wait staff at Coppa's Restaurant when a customer at one of my tables ordered a salad. She said she wanted her peanuts removed because she's allergic to them, but I neglected to inform the kitchen staff. When I brought the dish out, she thankfully noticed the problem before she started eating.
She was upset about the peanuts, and as the waiter, I recognized that I made a mistake when I failed to inform the kitchen of her allergy. I promptly apologized and offered her a coupon rather than charging her for the meal, which she gratefully accepted. From this experience, I learned the importance of listening to customers and avoided making the same mistake."
3. Describe an occasion when you had to manage your time to complete a task. How did you do it?
This question can also apply to a wide range of roles, and interviewers ask it to assess your ability to manage your time and prioritize various tasks. It allows you to demonstrate your problem-solving skills and ability to work within time constraints. It can also help the interviewer understand your work ethic and how you handle complex situations. In your answer, discuss your strategies for managing your time and outline the tools you use to stay on task and track deadlines.
Example: "Broad Idea Magazine released a special edition every quarter, and I was on the writing team last year. My editor needed three 2,000-word stories from me for the quarter's upcoming special edition in January. Due to various production delays, I had only two weeks to write them, so I scheduled as much time as possible to research, write and edit each story. I set routine reminders for myself and carefully planned out each day before the deadline. By managing my time, I was able to complete the stories three days ahead of schedule."
4. Describe an occasion when you failed at a task. What did you learn from it?
This is another behavioral interview question that aims to assess your self-awareness and your ability to reflect on past experiences. Employers ask this question to determine how you respond to setbacks and challenges. They also use it to evaluate your resilience and willingness to take responsibility for your actions. Provide a detailed example of a time when you failed to complete a task correctly and demonstrate your growth mindset by highlighting what you did to improve your skills.
Example: "At Bright Star Shipping, my team had the opportunity to bid for a multi-million dollar contract. Our responsibility was to complete a sales presentation. We had a week to prepare for it, but I spent too much time on other projects, which caused me to rush my portion of the presentation and submit it with typos and spelling mistakes. I also forgot to include several important facts in the slides, and my team didn't win the contract.
After that experience, I learned how important it is to prioritize my projects. Each week, I write my tasks in a planner and choose to work on more complex projects when I know I am the most productive. As a result, I slowly improved my time management skills so I could have more time to create an appealing and persuasive presentation for our next bid."
5. Tell me about a time you took the initiative in your career. What was your motivation for doing so?
Interviewers ask this question to assess your dedication to your role and team, as well as your willingness to contribute to the organization's success. You can use your answer to showcase integrity, selflessness and teamwork. In your answer, describe a situation where you helped others or offered to complete a task or work on a project in addition to completing your regular duties.
Example: "Last summer, senior executives at H.B. Bank visited our regional office. In preparation, our management asked my team to compile a report that included spreadsheets and a slide presentation to show our performance over the previous 12 months. The week before, the team member we assigned the spreadsheet to became ill and could not complete it. Knowing how important it was, I volunteered to work on the spreadsheet on her behalf, and my completed work impressed the senior management, resulting in my supervisor publicly thanking me for my additional contributions."
6. Describe a time when you used your leadership skills to motivate your team or colleagues.
Employers might ask you his question if you're applying for a supervisor, manager, team lead or shift leader leadership position. This question allows the interviewer to assess your leadership, teamwork and interpersonal skills and determine how well you can motivate others to perform tasks and complete projects effectively. In your answer, describe the strategies you used to promote productivity and encourage success when completing a project or executing an initiative.
Example: "My former employer, Yan, Inc., completed a merger two years ago that lowered morale for some teams. My department had new management that gave us new, unfamiliar responsibilities. I noticed a decrease in our overall productivity, so I led a weekly workshop where we learned new skills to help us become more productive and engaged in our roles. As a result of this professional development training, morale and overall engagement increased by 37% over the next six months."
7. Describe a time when you were responsible for a task you didn't receive training on and were unsure how to complete. How did you handle it?
This question aims to assess your ability to adapt to challenges and use your problem-solving skills. It also tests your ability to handle unexpected situations and work effectively, even with some uncertainties. You can use your answer to demonstrate your ability to complete tasks where you have little or no experience and showcase your willingness to use such an opportunity as a learning experience.
Example: "I had been at PhiBeta Software as a Visual Basic developer for four years when the company decided to begin using Java instead. Most of my colleagues already had Java skills, but I only knew VB and COBOL. I wanted to continue working at PhiBeta Software, but the company was small and lacked the resources to offer training, so I enrolled in a Java class at my local community college and invested in some books to learn the basics of the language. Soon, I was able to help my team convert our existing code base to Java."
Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
8. Share an example of a career goal you had. What steps did you take to achieve it?
This question tests your ability to work toward achieving your goals. Employers also ask it to assess your thought processes and your desire to accomplish your goals. It can help them determine whether you have promotion potential within the company. In your answer, clearly outline a previous career goal and explain what you did to accomplish it.
Example: "When I graduated with a bachelor's degree in marketing, my two-year goal was to work at an advertising firm as a digital strategist. I didn't have much direct advertising experience, so I got an internship where I was responsible for advertising insurance products. I also earned a certification in digital advertising and completed online courses in my free time. Last year, I earned a position as an entry-level digital strategist at a firm in San Diego, where I trained with a senior brand designer."
9. Give an example of a time when you had to make a difficult decision. How did you handle it?
This is another question that employers often ask if you're applying for a leadership position. It assesses your decision-making skills and ability to think clearly and critically. Use your answer to illustrate your ability to use good judgment. Try to choose a decision that was important to the company's growth.
Example: "In my previous role as an assistant manager, I was responsible for promoting an employee on the sales team to the sales lead position. There were several highly qualified and self-motivated employees, which made the decision difficult. After reviewing sales data and performance assessments carefully, I made my decision. To reduce animosity and tension among the candidates, I met with each candidate individually after I made the decision to explain my thought process before formally announcing it to the entire team."
10. Describe your process for solving problems. What steps do you take to resolve important issues at work?
Employers ask this question to evaluate your ability to solve problems independently. It helps them determine how well you adapt to challenges at work. They also use this question to assess the specific techniques you use to resolve important issues. In your answer, describe the problems you typically encounter at work and list the specific steps you take to resolve these issues.
Example: "In my current role as a mechanical engineer, I resolve a variety of problems related to changing timelines, equipment malfunctions and workplace hazards. With any issue, I first determine the different factors involved before meeting with the relevant parties. Last month, for example, I noticed an issue with the blueprints for an air-conditioning system I was building. After documenting the issue, I met with the drafting team and shared my concerns, and they were able to provide me with updated blueprints."
Tips for answering behavioral interview questions
Here are a few tips to help you answer behavioral interview questions more effectively:
Be honest in your answers. Try to be as honest as possible when describing your past experiences and structure your responses to showcase the potential value you could provide to the company.
Review your past accomplishments. Before the interview, list your previous positions and the accomplishments you made in those roles to ensure you have effective responses prepared.
Keep your answers concise. Try to limit your answers to only one to two minutes to retain the interviewer's attention and ensure you only include the most relevant information.
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