Prep for the top 5 behavioral interview questions
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Many employers use behavioral interview questions to help decide whether a candidate is the right fit for a job. behavioral interview questions ask how you would react to specific situations, giving the interviewer a look into your interpersonal skill set.

Questions like this can be difficult to answer if you’re caught off guard. To make sure you aren’t surprised, here’s how you can prepare for your upcoming behavioral interview.

What is a behavioral interview?

A behavioral interview is a job interview in which employers ask questions about how you would act in particular circumstances. The questions will usually involve real examples from your life (“Tell me about a time when you faced an obstacle at work...”) and descriptions of how you behaved (“...and how you overcame it”). It’s not an interview about your career goals or a test of your technical abilities; rather, it’s an investigation into how you approach your work, how you collaborate with others, and how you deal with setbacks.

Behavioral interview questions are also used in job interviews that aren’t specifically behavioral. It’s important to prepare for behavioral questions before any interview, even if behavioral questions haven’t been mentioned specifically.

Usually, a behavioral interview question asks for a specific example of how you have behaved in the past:

Think of a time your team was under a lot of pressure to meet a deadline. How did you keep them motivated?

They may also pose hypothetical situations, and ask what you would do in response:

How would you react if a coworker asked you to clock out for them so they could leave early?

How to prepare for a behavioral job interview

If you want to ace behavioral interview questions, it’s important to prepare ahead of time.

Look for example behavioral interview questions online and prepare answers for each of them (we will include some at the bottom of this article). Write your answers down, and practice saying them out loud. Do your best to memorize your answers so that when the interview comes, you will be ready with a relevant story.

As you prepare your answers, research the company as well as the role you’re applying to. Read the job posting to try to get a sense of what skills the employer is looking for. Just as you must customize your resume for every application, you should tailor your interview answers to the role you are interviewing for. Each anecdote should showcase the skill set the employer is looking for.

If you have trouble coming up with specific answers, try making a list of obstacles and difficult situations you have encountered at work, and see if they could be applied to behavioral interview questions. Performance reviews, comments from your manager, and any accolades could also lead to examples of good workplace behaviour.

If you don’t have much experience, think of school projects, volunteer experiences, or other group settings where you can find an example of relevant behaviour.

Examples of mistakes you have made at work can also be used as answers to the right question. As long as it’s clear that you learned a lesson and would handle things better in the future, the employer may appreciate your honesty. Just make sure the mistake you describe doesn’t make you unhireable!

For more tips on acing your next interview, check out our article Top 10 tips for acing your job interview.

How to answer behavioral interview questions

Use the STAR method to answer behavioral interview questions. The STAR method offers a way to format your answers so that they showcase your abilities.

STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result:

  • Situation: Give context for the story. What was the problem you were facing?
  • Task: Describe the goal you were responsible for achieving.
  • Action: Describe the specific steps you took to meet the goal or overcome the obstacle.
  • Result: Resolve the story. What was the outcome of your actions?

The STAR method provides a way to structure an anecdote clearly and concisely while focusing on your responsibilities and actions. This is a great way to make sure your stories stay on topic and give the right details.

Here’s how you could use the STAR method to answer the prompt, “Tell me about a time you faced a difficult obstacle at work.”

Situation:

“I was on a small technical writing team that had been asked to work with software engineers to create documentation for a new product. The team was having trouble connecting with product experts for the information we needed and we were running behind schedule.”

Task:

“The team needed to establish communication channels with the product experts to ensure that we were staying up to date with product changes and technical specifications.”

Action:

“I took responsibility for scheduling meetings between the writers and the software experts. This required approaching management, establishing a calendar for regular meetings, and ensuring that both engineers and writers came to each meeting prepared for efficient information exchange.”

Result:

“With the addition of these regular check-ins, communication was improved and we were able to keep the project on schedule and maintain a high quality of work.”

Behavioral interview question examples

  • Can you tell me about an obstacle you have encountered at work and how you resolved it?
  • Can you tell me about a conflict you have had with a coworker and how you resolved it?
  • What is a goal you have achieved that you are proud of? How did you work towards meeting this goal?
  • Is there a time you had to make a difficult decision at work?
  • What is an unpopular decision you had to make as a manager? How did you convince your employees?
  • Have you ever found yourself in a disagreement with a coworker? How did you resolve it?
  • Can you tell me about a time you worked effectively in difficult circumstances?
  • Have you ever led a challenging team project?
  • Tell me about a time you took charge of a situation, even if you weren’t officially in a leadership role.
  • How would you manage multiple responsibilities simultaneously?
  • Can you tell me a time you failed to meet a goal?
  • Have you ever handled a workplace problem poorly? What should you have done differently?
  • What is a situation where you succeeded outside your comfort zone?
  • How would you respond to a customer who accuses you of making a mistake?
Ben Temple

Written By

Ben Temple

VisualCV Customer Success Manager

Ben is a writer and customer support specialist with 5 years of experience helping job-seekers create their careers. He believes in the importance of a great resume and the power of coffee.

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