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15 Behavioral Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Last updated: October 9, 2023

resume offers a wealth of information about a job applicant’s professional history, skills and experience. However, this isn’t everything that goes into making a person a great match for your open role and company. Culture and style vary widely from one company to the next, and a person who gave glowing performances with other companies may not be a great fit for yours. This is why businesses conduct interviews: to learn more about their candidates’ habits, behaviors and work history.

There are numerous ways to conduct an interview, but the most popular interview style consists of targeted behavioral interview questions. Whether you are having an in-person or virtual interview using Indeed Interview, behavioral questions invite the candidate to tell stories about their work history, which helps the interviewer learn about them. When using Indeed Interview, you can also pre-screen candidates with a few behavioral questions and take notes as the interview occurs. By selecting the proper behavioral-based interview questions, you can gain rich insight into the personal qualities of a potential recruit.

This guide will take you through the top 15 behavioral questions to ask candidates. 

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What are behavioral interview questions?

Behavioral interview questions aim to predict a candidate’s future performance by looking at their past behavior. They can revolve around interpersonal matters, leadership attributes or how a person acts under pressure. Importantly, these questions are more specific than standard interview questions like, “What makes you a great fit for this job?” 

Behavioral interview questions and answers unveil the details of a candidate’s universal core skills and personal qualities that matter in every position, such as problem-solving and resilience. 

15 Top behavioral interview questions 

Depending on the position you’re interviewing for, you can incorporate any number of the following 15 behavioral interview questions into the process. Including them will help you make a more informed decision as to the right candidate for your organization.

1. Problem-solving

Could you tell me about a complex problem you solved at work? What was your approach to finding a solution?

While you might want to hear something about solving a problem in your industry, this isn’t the purpose of this behavioral interview question. Instead, you want to learn about a candidate’s natural problem-solving skills and see how they work in demanding situations.

2. Learning from mistakes

How did you learn from a mistake you made? 

This question will help you ensure this is a person who fixes their mistakes rather than hiding them. By asking this question, you’re allowing the candidate to display their sense of accountability, humility and transparency.

3. Dealing with challenge

Tell us about an unanticipated challenge you faced. When faced with this challenge, how did you handle it?

Unexpected events constantly occur in business, so you need to know that your hires can handle them. By asking candidates about how they’ve defeated unexpected challenges, you assess their ability to reorient themselves and reprioritize tasks under duress.

4. When things go wrong

Have you ever experienced a situation in which things did not work out well for you?

This question is hard to answer from an emotional point of view because you’re only asking to learn about a failure the candidate experienced. A smart answer to this question shows humility and a sense of personal responsibility.

5. Learning new skills

Describe a time when you had to learn something new. In what ways did you approach the learning process?

Here, you learn about the value a potential hire places on skill development. Such insights will be invaluable during the training process if you hire this applicant. A strong response will display an enthusiasm for learning, self-understanding and knowledge of effective learning techniques.

6. Communicating with seniors

How have you pitched an idea to a senior colleague? What was the outcome of this task? How did you accomplish it?

This behavioral interview question allows you to assess the candidate’s confidence and persuasiveness while communicating with a senior colleague. These qualities are vital for anyone in sales, customer service, client relations, or management.

7. Meeting deadlines

Have you ever had to complete a task under time pressure? How did you handle it?

Whether due to procrastination, error, bad luck, or a demanding client, everyone must deal with tight deadlines now and then. When a candidate tells you about their strategy for handling deadlines, you will learn about their sense of organization, discipline and ability to work under pressure.

8. Client handling

How do you deal with difficult clients? 

Demanding clients are part of any business, particularly in customer service and sales. Being able to resolve situations with difficult clients is an essential skill that indicates professionalism, grace and patience.

9. Managing conflicts

Share an example of how you handled a conflict at work. 

Potential hires must be able to navigate disputes in the workplace. By asking this behavioral interview question, you’ll understand how candidates handle arguments and high tension. 

10. Taking a different perspective

If you get a chance, what’s the one thing in your professional career that you would handle differently? 

Interview questions often aim to uncover a candidate’s qualities and professional accomplishments. On the other hand, there’s much you can learn about a professional based on past failures or missed opportunities. Asking this question allows the candidate to demonstrate their self-awareness and ability to learn from past experiences.

11. Motivating others

When you are in a leadership role, how do you motivate your junior team members? 

Those in leadership positions need to be able to motivate their subordinates. By learning how a person motivates their team members, you’ll get insight into their interpersonal skills, maturity and knack for management.

12. Managing stress

Share an experience when you had to deal with a lot of stress. How did you manage the pressure? 

The question on stress management helps you determine whether an interviewee is prepared to manage the types of pressures they may face in this position. There may be several types of stressful situations on the job. So you want to learn the candidate’s stress management skills

13. Setting and achieving goals

Tell me about a time when you set a goal for yourself. How did you achieve it?

If you see an applicant knows how to set personal goals, it indicates great organizational skills and career focus. The candidate also gets a chance to explain how they set goals and remain motivated to accomplish the goals.

14. Meaningful achievements

What’s your proudest achievement as a professional? Why is it important to you? 

Here, the interviewee gets an opportunity to discuss how they’ve applied their skills to achieve success. You’ll gain insight into the types of projects they find meaningful and fulfilling. You’ll also learn how humble, graceful and focused the applicant remains during success.

15. Assessing failures

Tell me about your most serious career failure and how you overcame it.

Everyone experiences failure, and learning about how a person collects themselves after a disaster is important. The question helps you see how the potential candidate learns from their mistakes and takes them as an opportunity to grow professionally.

Three tips for conducting a behavioral interview 

1. Be strategic

You may not have time to ask all the behavioral questions on this list. To determine which questions are most important, consider which skills are most critical for the role and ask the behavioral questions most likely to help you uncover those abilities. 

2. Ask each candidate the same questions

Asking different questions to candidates will complicate the hiring process and make it harder to exercise sound, consistent judgment. While the questions you ask are a matter of personal discretion, you should only ask different questions to different candidates if you have a good reason. 

Consider implementing interview scoring sheets to help ensure your application process is as fair and objective as possible.

3. Keep questions open-ended

Behavioral questions are purposely thought-provoking, so keep them open rather than asking in a “yes” or “no” format. For example, instead of asking, “Have you ever experienced conflict at work?” you should ask, “Tell me about a time when you experienced conflict at work. How did you overcome it?” 

By starting from the assumption that a person has experienced conflict at work, you’ll get more interesting, honest answers to the question. 

Related: How to Conduct a Successful Virtual Interview on Indeed

Frequently asked questions on behavioral interviews

What are the benefits of behavioral questions?

Here are five top benefits of behavioral interviews:

  • Great way of getting to know the candidate on a personal level
  • Standardization of the interview process
  • Ability to customize the interview based on response
  • Promotes discussion and information sharing
  • Generates insights that are not present in the resume

What do behavioral questions evaluate?

Behavioral interview questions and answers evaluate a candidate’s situational response and how they handled past situations in different professional settings. The aim is to find out how the candidate would act in similar situations in the future. 

How do you assess a behavioral interview?

Here are a few tips for assessing behavioral interviews:

  • Offer follow-up questions
  • Encourage to supply specific details
  • Ask about learning repeatedly
  • Aim to identify a pattern of behavior
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