News Article

INTERVIEW TIPS - Everything You Need to Know About Answering Behavioural Interview Questions

Posted 10th May 2022 • Written by Lily Zhang on •

Interviews can be high stakes. I get that. But bear with me here for a minute as I tell you that some interview questions can be fun. And I don’t mean in the zany-but-actually-kind-of-stressful “How many golf balls will fit in a bus?” kind of way. I mean that some interview questions are really just asking for a good story starring you as the main character.

Behavioral interview questions are non-technical, focused on you, and 100% something you can prep for in advance. You actually have the answers already. We just need to find the right stories and polish them up a bit.

Here’s your go-to guide to help you master answering behavioral interview questions.

What Exactly Are Behavioral Interview Questions?

Behavioral interview questions ask candidates to share examples of specific situations they’ve been in where they had to use certain skills—soft skills especially—or explain how they navigated certain types of scenarios. (Read: It’s the “Tell me about a time when…” questions.) Interviewers like these questions because it can help them get a more realistic and nuanced sense of how you work.

It’s also a way for them to see what you’re capable of accomplishing based on your *actual* past work performance. Think about it: What would convince you of someone’s ability to work on a team better—them saying they totally love working on a team or them telling a story that shows exactly how they worked on a team of five for several months to implement a website redesign for a major client?

30 Common Behavioral Interview Questions

As much as I wish I could tell you exactly which behavioral questions you’ll get, I sadly cannot. But this list will give you an idea of the types of questions you might be asked. As you read through, think of stories you can share in response to each subset of questions—they can often be tweaked on the spot to answer any variation an interviewer might throw at you.

Teamwork questions

Almost any job requires you to work with others, so be prepared to talk about your experiences as part of a team. You’ll want a story that illustrates your ability to work with others under challenging circumstances. Think resolving team conflicts, dealing with project constraints, or motivating others.

  1. Tell me about a time when you had to work closely with someone whose personality was very different from yours.
  2. Give me an example of a time you faced a conflict with a coworker. How did you handle that?
  3. Describe a time when you had to step up and demonstrate leadership skills.
  4. Tell me about a time you made a mistake and wish you’d handled a situation with a colleague differently.
  5. Tell me about a time you needed to get information from someone who wasn’t very responsive. What did you do?

Customer service questions

If you’d be working with clients, customers, or other external stakeholders in this role, definitely be ready for one or more of these. Be prepared with at least one story about a time you successfully represented your company or team and delivered exceptional customer service.

  1. Describe a time when it was especially important to make a good impression on a client. How did you go about doing so?
  2. Give me an example of a time when you didn’t meet a client’s expectation. What happened, and how did you attempt to rectify the situation?
  3. Tell me about a time when you made sure a customer was pleased with your service.
  4. Describe a time when you had to interact with a difficult client or customer. What was the situation, and how did you handle it?
  5. When you’re working with a large number of customers, it’s tricky to deliver excellent service to them all. How do you go about prioritizing your customers’ needs?

Adaptability questions

Times of turmoil are finally good for something! Think of a recent work crisis you successfully navigated. Even if the outcome didn’t ideal, find a lesson or silver lining you took from the situation.

  1. Tell me about a time you were under a lot of pressure at work or at school. What was going on, and how did you get through it?
  2. Describe a time when your team or company was undergoing some change. How did that impact you, and how did you adapt?
  3. Tell me about settling into your last job. What did you do to learn the ropes?
  4. Give me an example of a time when you had to think on your feet.
  5. Tell me about a time you failed. How did you deal with the situation?

Time management questions

When an interviewer asks about time management, get ready to talk about a specific instance when you had a few things in the air, prioritized, scheduled, organized, and completed everything—preferably before the deadline.

  1. Give me an example of a time you managed numerous responsibilities. How did you handle that?
  2. Describe a long-term project that you kept on track. How did you keep everything moving?
  3. Tell me about a time your responsibilities got a little overwhelming. What did you do?
  4. Tell me about a time you set a goal for yourself. How did you go about ensuring that you would meet your objective?
  5. Tell me about a time an unexpected problem derailed your planning. How did you recover?

Communication questions

You use communication skills so regularly you’ll probably have plenty of stories to choose from. Just remember to talk about your thought process or preparation.

  1. Tell me about a time when you had to rely on written communication to get your ideas across.
  2. Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully persuade someone at work to see things your way.
  3. Describe a time when you were the resident technical expert. What did you do to make sure everyone was able to understand you?
  4. Give me an example of a time when you had to have a difficult conversation with a frustrated client or colleague. How did you handle the situation?
  5. Tell me about a successful presentation you gave and why you think it was a hit.

Motivation and values questions

A lot of seemingly random interview questions are actually attempts to learn more about what motivates you. Your response would ideally address values and motivations directly even if the question didn’t explicit ask about them.

  1. Tell me about your proudest professional accomplishment.
  2. Describe a time when you saw a problem and took the initiative to correct it.
  3. Tell me about a time when you worked under either extremely close supervision or extremely loose supervision. How did you handle that?
  4. Give me an example of a time you were able to be creative with your work. What was exciting or difficult about it?
  5. Tell me about a time you were dissatisfied in your role. What could have been done to make it better?
10 Sample Behavioral Interview Answers

So how do you go about actually answering behavioral questions? Quickly identifying the skill the interviewer is trying to learn more about is half the battle. Once you have that, share a relevant story and sum it up with how you generally approach situations like the one they presented. Check out these examples to see this advice in action.

1. Give me an example of a time you faced a conflict while working on a team. How did you handle that?

Ah, the conflict question. It’s as common as it is dreaded. Interviewers ask because they want to know how you’ll handle the inevitable: disagreements in the workplace. But you might be nervous because it’s hard to look good in a conflict even when you’re not in the wrong. The key to getting through this one is to focus less on the problem and more on the process of finding the solution.

For example, you might say:

Funnily enough, last year I was part of a committee that put together a training on conflict intervention in the workplace and the amount of pushback we got for requiring attendance really put our training to the test. There was one senior staff member in particular who seemed adamant. It took some careful listening to understand he felt like it wasn’t the best use of his time given the workload he was juggling. I made sure to acknowledge his concern. And then rather than pointing out that he himself had voted for the entire staff to undergo this training, I focused on his direct objection and explained how the training was meant to improve not just the culture of the company, but also the efficiency at which we operated—and that the goal was for the training to make everyone’s workload feel lighter. He did eventually attend and was there when I talked to the whole staff about identifying the root issue of a conflict and addressing that directly without bringing in other issues, which is how I aim to handle any disagreement in the workplace.

2. Tell me about a time you needed to get information from someone who wasn’t very responsive. What did you do?

Hiring managers want people who can take initiative and solve problems. Many workplace problems boil down to a communication breakdown, which is what this question is getting at. Try not to get too bogged down in the nitty-gritty details of the story and make sure finish with a clear lesson learned.

A good answer to this question might be:

Back when I was just starting out as an assistant to a more senior recruiter, I once needed to book interview rooms for several different candidates with a few sessions each, all on the same day. The online system the company used to schedule conference rooms was straightforward enough, but the problem was that it allowed more senior people to bump me out of my reservations. I had to scramble to get them back. When I didn’t get responses to my emails, I literally ran around the office to find the people who took my rooms and explain why I needed them. It was stressful at the time, but it all worked out in the end. Most were happy to move to a different room or time to make sure the interviews went smoothly. I also met a bunch of people and earned early on that talking to someone in person can often move things along more quickly than an email can.

3. Describe a time when it was especially important to make a good impression on a client. How did you go about doing so?

A perfect answer to this question has an outstanding outcome and illustrates the process of getting to that result. But even if you only have a decent outcome to point to instead of a stellar one, spelling out the steps you took will get you a strong answer.

For instance:

One of the most important times to make a good impression on a client is before they’re officially a client. When the sales team pulls me into meetings with potential clients, I know we’re close to sealing the deal and I do my best to help that along. That’s probably why I was chosen to represent the research team when we did a final presentation for what would become our biggest client win of the year. I spoke with everyone on the sales team who had met with them previously to learn as much as possible about what they might care about. The thing I do that sets me apart is that I don’t try to treat all the clients the same. I try to address their specific questions and concerns so that they know I did my homework and that I care enough to not just give the cookie-cutter answers. In this case, having the data pulled and ready for every question they had made all the difference in building their confidence in our company.

Read more