When applying for a job, you need to be well-prepared to ace the interview. After all, you need to stand out from all the other people vying for the same position.
Typical job interview questions revolve around your work history, your expectations for the position, and what you can bring to the table if hired.
However, more and more employers are beginning to include behavioral questions in their interviews.
What Are Behavioral Interviews?
Behavioral interviews are part of the job interview process wherein the questions aim to evaluate how you, as a potential employee, have responded to situations in the past, especially difficult ones.
Your answers can give your potential employer insight to your personality, problem-solving skills, and interpersonal skills. This will help them decide from the get-go if you could be a good addition to their team.
How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview
If you have a behavioral interview coming up, it’s best to spend some time preparing for it. Some of the things you can do before the interview are:
1. Review previous assignments that may be related to the job.
If your new position will require you to oversee a team, think of examples from your past when you’ve had to handle other people. How did it go? What did you do well? What did you need to improve?
However, if the new position includes responsibilities you’ve never done before in a professional capacity, be creative: consider the skills that the job calls for and think of ways you’ve exhibited those traits.
For example, if you’re applying for a supervisory role but have never managed people on the job before, think of the ways you’ve exhibited leadership skills or problem-solving skills that involved a team.
2. Review cases in the past where you’ve faced difficult situations on the job.
Most behavioral questions aim to determine how you respond to difficult circumstances. So, start by recalling instances where you were in such situations so you can easily bring them up during the interview.
Some situations to look out for are:
- Facing a deadline
- Experiencing an interpersonal conflict with a colleague, supervisor, or client
- Multi-tasking under pressure
- Needing to go the extra mile
- Responding to what you feel was a wrong decision by leadership over you
It’s important that you have these cases well thought-out ahead of time, as you never know which questions the interviewer may ask. To help you prepare more, we’ve included some sample behavioral interview questions later in this article.
3. Practice the STAR response.
One way to feel confident as you answer the interview questions is to have a structure in place. The STAR response is a great tool for answering behavioral interview questions. The acronym stands for:
We recommend adding one more ‘T‘ to the STAR response, for Takeaway. After you explain the results, share what you learned from the experience. Using the START method shows employers that you’re not just self-aware enough to evaluate your performance, but that you actually got something from the situation and used it to grow.
First, describe the situation. Then, explain the task you needed to do. After that, discuss the action steps you took in order to solve the problem, and then share the results that came from what you did.
Practice using the STAR acronym to provide examples from your past work so that employers can understand exactly how you perform in certain situations.
4. Practice your responses out loud.
Although you will not know which specific questions the interviewer will ask, practice answering questions out loud, in front of a mirror if possible. That way, you can get into the flow of answering confidently, clearly, and charmingly!
5. Prepare your answers to some of the most common behavioral questions.
The good thing is that most companies use variations of the most common behavioral interview questions, so you can actually prepare your answers in advance.
You don’t have to memorize your answers, but having specific examples in mind will help you feel more confident and ready to answer. Also, this gives you time to choose between several personal experiences, making sure you use the one that best exemplifies your best traits.
7 Common Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers
To help you prepare for your behavioral interview, here are 7 of the most common behavioral interview questions and answers:
1. Tell me about a time you worked effectively under high pressure.
Your answer to this question will give your potential employer insight to how you work under pressure. Think about a time when you faced up to the challenge and delivered quality results.
Example: There was a time when my team and I were working on a 30-day project for an important client. Halfway through, my manager told us that the client revised the deadline to 20 days. That gave us only 5 days to complete it! I got the team together and we reviewed our schedules: we decided to remove all unnecessary team meetings and postpone all other lower-priority tasks. We also committed to working extra hours for the next 5 days. We ended up leaving the office at 9 or 10 in the evening, but we finished the project and satisfied the client.
2. Tell us about a time you made a mistake. How did you deal with it?
For this question, remember that everybody makes mistakes, so don’t be embarrassed to admit that you have made mistakes too.
A good insight into a person’s character is whether they take responsibility or blame other people, so think of an example of when you handled the situation in a mature manner.
Example: When I was working as an HR manager, I hired someone I thought would make a good fit. But months down the road, the person was showing very little initiative, and the board was skeptical about his output. I had to make the difficult decision of confronting the person: first, I set clearer deliverables for him. When it still didn’t work, a few months down the road, I made the difficult decision to move him on to other jobs.
3. Describe a time when you had a conflict with a peer. How did you resolve it?
Whenever two or more people work together, conflict is bound to happen once in awhile. This question will help the interviewer see how you respond to conflicts and how you choose to resolve them.
Think of a specific situation and share a practical action step you took to resolve that issue.
Example: When I was working with a marketing team, one of my peers asked me to fill in for one of his responsibilities. This happened a couple of times, and by the third or fourth time, I mentioned that I also had my own tasks and couldn’t always fill in for him. This offended him, and it caused a strain in our team dynamics. I scheduled a time to sit down and talk with him, face to face, where we were able to discuss how the misunderstanding happened and how we both felt about the situation. Being able to understand where we were each coming from helped us resolve the issue.
4. Share how you set goals, and give an example of how you achieved one of your goals.
Potential employers want to hire go-getters, people with initiative. Having your own personal goals is a good sign, and knowing how to set practical steps to achieve those goals is another plus. If possible, think in terms of professional goals, and find the most ambitious goal you can think of.
Example: When I was working as a research analyst, one of my tasks for a 3-week research project was to interview at least 10 key players in the industry in order to get accurate insights into the market. Knowing that statistically, I need to call 10 people to get one interview, I set about a schedule of calling at least 100 people for that one week’s allotment for interviews. To overshoot the target, I had 120 people on my list: this meant I needed to make 24 calls per day, or 3 calls per work hour, during that week. I spent the first week compiling my contact list so that I had 100 people on it, and the first hour of the second week I was already making phone calls. By the end of the week, I got 20 quality interviews!
5. Share an example of a goal you set and did not meet. How did you manage it?
Through this question, the interviewer can see how you handle failure and disappointment. Do you wallow in self-pity, or do you know how to move forward? Think of a time when you failed in something but learned something in the process.
Example: When I was leading community outreach for my last company, we set a goal of establishing film training programs in 4 schools over one semester. Only 3 schools accepted our proposal, and the third one bailed out halfway through the program. I was really disappointed, but instead analyzed why the other schools did not appreciate our project. I realized that we may have started pitching proposals too late, as the schools already had other things lined up, and resolved to start earlier next time.
6. Tell us about a time when your workday ended but you still had items on your urgent to-do list.
This question helps the interviewer evaluate your work ethics and commitment. Think about a time when you went beyond what was expected in order to fulfill something you committed to do. Alternatively, if you opted to miss the deadline, be sure that you were able to communicate it effectively so that no one would be put at a disadvantage.
Example: In my role as a content writer, we had a content calendar set for every month. I consistently met my goals so that we had fresh interview content published twice every week. But when the Covid pandemic hit, we had to switch gears quickly, with changes to our content calendar. By the end of the first week, we were down to zero articles to publish for the following week. I had to make the decision to schedule some Zoom interviews over the weekend and get the articles up and ready for the following week. That way, we didn’t miss a beat in our publication schedule.
7. Tell me about a time you were able to encourage or motivate your peers, colleagues, or team.
Through this question, the interviewer will see how willing you are to lead even in an informal way. Plus, a great team player is one that helps encourage others in the team. Think of a time you offered support or help with work that may not be your main responsibility.
Example: One time, I noticed that one of my colleagues was discouraged for not having met her sales quota for the last couple of months. When we talked, she shared how she did not feel like upselling our product because she personally felt that it was overpriced. I helped her analyze the benefits that our product would give the client, helping her see that our price was indeed worth this wider range of benefits, compared to our competitors. After our talk, she was more enthusiastic about our company and our product, and she hit her quota the next month! Needless to say, we celebrated over dessert when she got her incentive!
How Do You Pass a Behavioral Interview?
The good thing about a behavioral interview is that there are no right or wrong answers. However, the way you respond to the questions can still spell the difference between being hired or passed over. Here are some tips to help you make a great first impression:
1. Come prepared.
Prepare for your interview by getting all possible examples ready in your head. Don’t be overconfident. Even though you know you can easily answer questions about past experiences, sometimes, the pressure during the interview can chase all the answers—especially all the good ones!—right out of your head.
2. Give specific examples.
In order to give a strong behavioral interview answer, be sure to give specific examples. Focus on situations that actually occurred in the past, and explain how you responded. The interview is not about what you would do in a given situation, but rather what you already did.
The logic is that your past performance will be indicative of your future success, so interviewers will use your past responses to gauge how you would perform in this new role.
3. Be honest and transparent.
Interviewers are not looking for someone who’s perfect and never makes mistakes. Instead, they want to know how you would respond to failure. For questions asking about past mistakes or failures, be as honest as possible (without beating yourself down to shreds!).
4. Be positive.
Even when the question is asking for a problematic situation, such as a conflict or a failure, remember to stay positive. Give just enough background for the interviewer to understand the situation, but spend more time on how you solved the issue and the outcome you achieved.
Ace that Behavioral Interview!
With these tips for acing your behavioral interview, you’ll be able to offer your potential employer a good glimpse into who you are as a person, and who you’ll be as a contributor to their company.
And, whether you get the job or not, consider this kind of interview a great way to reflect on your previous job experiences, and resolve to improve for your next role. Constant improvement will make you a better person, and a better addition to any team or company!
Did you find this post helpful? Let us know in the comments below!
If you enjoyed this post, then you might also like:
- 8 Common Job Interview Questions (And How to Answer Them)
- How to Accept a Job Offer: What to Look for and How to Seal the Deal
- Job Interview Tips: What to Expect and How to Prepare
- How to Find Your Dream Job: 9 Steps to Getting the Job You’ve Always Wanted
Yen Cabag is the Blog Writer of TCK Publishing. She is also a homeschooling mom, family coach, and speaker for the Charlotte Mason method, an educational philosophy that places great emphasis on classic literature and the masterpieces in art and music. She has also written several books, both fiction and nonfiction. Her passion is to see the next generation of children become lovers of reading and learning in the midst of short attention spans.