Interviewing

How To Answer Behavioral Interview Questions

February 22, 2021

A behavioral interview is a crucial test for you to prove that you can work in numerous scenarios. Employers want to see if your behavior can have a meaningful impact on the workplace. Therefore, you need to come prepared and know the questions that may be asked to increase your chance of success.

In this article, we will discuss what behavioral interview questions are, how to prepare and answer them and examples of questions and answers.

Related: How To Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

What are behavioral interview questions?

A behavioral interview tests your behavior to see if you're equipped to take on the responsibilities and situations required for a particular position. The employer wants to find out if your actions in the past carry over to the present in addition to if you learned from past challenges.

The answers you provide to the interviewer give them a glimpse of skills you possess as well as insight into your personality. These tough questions can vary depending on the industry, but you must study and focus on the solutions that led you to thrive in the workplace.

Related: 12 Tough Interview Questions and Answers

How to answer behavioral interview questions

Here is a list of steps to help you answer behavioral interview questions:

  1. Tailor answers to the job description.
  2. Note your projects and major accomplishments from past positions.
  3. Use the STAR method to formulate your responses.
  4. Keep your responses clear and concise.

1. Tailor answers to the job description

When you're answering questions during a behavioral interview, target your answers related to the job description to see what the hiring manager is looking for in an applicant. For example, if the company lists in the job description that they're looking for an applicant with three years of experience and knowledge of graphic design programs then they'll want to test you on the functionality of programs, how you interact with clients and when have you applied your knowledge in a real-life situation.

2. Note your projects and major accomplishments from past positions

Find out which projects you're proud of accomplishing throughout your career and highlight what career moves led you to where you are today. Your answers to these questions should end with how you'll overcome a challenge and what results in the past back up your statement. If you increased sales output for your organization, let the interviewer know how you got there and what can you do to ensure you'll drive consistent results.

3. Use the STAR method to formulate your responses

The STAR method (situation, task, action and result) is the primary way for you to give an all-encompassing response to behavioral interview questions. Also, the STAR method can display how you'll manage tasks, tasks with coworkers and perform despite variables listed by the interviewer. This method also helps you break down your responses, so they can be clear when telling the story about a situation you encountered when working for a previous employer.

Each of the four components listed in the previous sentence renders easy-to-follow steps about how to tell your story that ends with a resolution of the question asked. Let's outline each step and give an example to provide better context:

Situation

Describe the challenge you encountered during your career and important details the interviewer should know about. Make sure to prioritize relevant details that tie into the job you're applying for.

Example: "In my last position as an internal copywriter, our team had a backlog of articles that needed to be submitted and approved by the client. The editors gave us stringent deadlines for us to complete the articles in our queue, which led to feelings of stress on my end."

Task

Tell the interviewer about your responsibility that helped you rise above the challenge. This outlines the specifics of what you needed to do to achieve a goal on behalf of your previous employer, so it's important to practice saying the task multiple times to portray the situation accurately.

Example: "My role was to ensure that I wrote and submitted three articles each day over the next five days to meet the 15-article target set by my project manager to help the team get caught up."

Action

Explain the strategy you took to complete the goal you set out to finish by the deadline. This step should highlight the skill you're trying to convey to the interviewer, so create a list of the top skills you want to convey to the interviewer.

Example: "I blocked off three two-hour time slots in my calendar to work on these three articles over this period. I contacted the project manager if I had any questions and blocked out any external distractions by listening to music to keep my focus on writing."

Result

Define the outcome reached based on the actions you took. Use numbers and explicit examples to showcase your results when possible and how they had a meaningful impact on the company at that time. You want to give a clear time overview, a timeline of completion and the impact of decisions you made.

Example: "With my priorities shifted to focus more on time management, I ended up writing and submitting 16 articles by the end of the week—one ahead of my target goal. As a result, and with the combined efforts of the content, we met our deadline."

Related: How To Use the STAR Interview Response Technique

4. Keep your responses clear and concise

Make sure that you pare down your responses so they're under two minutes. This is the best way to keep your answers concise while addressing the content of their questions directly and time your responses when preparing with a mentor or friend. The interviewer may switch gears and ask separate questions depending on the structure of the interview, so you'll need to adapt accordingly.

Related: Interview Question: What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?

How to prepare for a behavioral interview

Take a look at this list to help you prepare for a behavioral interview:

  1. Study the company and job description.
  2. List academic and professional accomplishments in a portfolio.
  3. Prepare your responses with a mentor or a friend.
  4. Practice your body language.

1. Study the company and job description

Knowing what the company is looking for in an applicant can increase your confidence when you're interviewing. Be sure to check the organization's website, social media platforms, reviews, interactions with customers and press releases to give you a better idea of the company's trajectory. Also, it'll provide you with a better vision of your core values and if they align with the organization where you're applying.

2. List academic and professional accomplishments in a portfolio

Consider compiling a portfolio of work you've completed during your academic and professional career. Your portfolio can be a guide for an employer to navigate through your accomplishments.

This may be suited more for an interview for a creative profession like writing or graphic design, but your willingness to show your accomplishments before giving your answers displays the desire you have for the position. You still need to take the time to recognize and absorb your accomplishments, so you can communicate how your behavior has impacted others during your career.

3. Prepare your responses with a mentor or a friend

Practice your responses with a mentor or a friend. Repetition is a practical method for you to time your responses and to identify the main points you want the interviewer to know about your skills and personality. It may be better to practice with a mentor because they may have more experience in dealing with this line of questioning from interviewers.

4. Practice your body language

The way you react to a question directly relates to the behavior of your exhibit when delivering your answer. Take time to practice positive sitting tall with your back straight and your shoulders leaned back. Also, take deep breaths and exhale slowly to help keep your emotions under control as well as keep steady eye contact with the interviewer.

Related: 21 Job Interview Tips: How To Make a Great Impression

Example behavioral interview questions

Review this list of behavioral interview questions that may be asked by an interviewer:

  • Describe the most difficult scenario you've had to face in the last year.
  • Tell us about a time when you went beyond your manager's expectations to service a client.
  • Tell us about a situation when a coworker needed to be motivated and what action you took.
  • Share a situation where you faced an issue with your workload. How did you resolve this issue?
  • When did you face pressure when meeting a deadline? What strategies did you implement to face this issue?
  • Describe when you made a mistake that affected your team. How did you handle the outcome?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to learn a new skill quickly. What was the result and what approach did you take to learn your new skill?
  • Describe a time where you had to pitch ideas to senior management. What was the result?
  • When did you disagree with a coworker about the direction of the project? What did you do to reach an agreement with the coworker?

Example behavioral interview answers

Here are two example answers for behavioral interview questions using the STAR method:

Describe the most difficult scenario you've had to face in the last year.

The question allows you to tell the interviewer where you worked through adversity and how the position you're interviewing for can make you a better employee. Discuss what led you to be in that situation and the plan you used to succeed despite the obstacles.

Example: *"One year ago, I got a call from a client about a complaint regarding the software we provide. He said that he wanted to cancel as a result of the software shutting down when he was working on an important project for his business. I asked him to walk me through the story step-by-step to get a better grasp on how he felt in the moment and what solution we can provide for him."

"After hearing his story, I decided to speak with my manager once the call concluded and suggested that we refund him the money he requested. We both agreed to refund him the money he requested and fix issues to his software at no extra cost, considering that we knew about glitches in the software that can cause service disruptions. This action resulted in steady payments from a top client that lead to an increase in profits during the fiscal year. "*

When was the last time a coworker needed to be motivated and what action did you take to motivate them?

This question presents the chance for you to display how your interpersonal skills benefited someone on your team. The way you interact with team members can show if you're the right fit for the company's culture and increase your success with this question if you give your answer a human-interest angle.

Example: "Dave is a coworker of mine that's been in the sales department for over three years. He taught me everything I know about sales. However, he got into a rut one Friday afternoon, where he didn't think he would be able to meet his target of bringing on a new customer by the end of the week. I told Dale that this is the first time since I've started that he's felt this way about his performance. He seemed surprised by what I said, and I told him that I can help make calls next week to meet these targets considering I am on-track with my work. The next week, Dale and I both met our targets and earned co-employees of the month for the first time in our company's history. Dale needed positive reinforcement and a little assistance to boost his morale."

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