During your job interview, you may be asked a few behavioral interview questions. These questions, unlike others, are focused on your character, skills, and abilities, rather than your experience and educational history.
Behavioral interview questions and answers allow interviewers to learn more about how candidates would behave in certain workplace scenarios. For instance, an interviewer could ask you about a time when you handled a difficult situation, which will help them learn about your soft skills, such as problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
The key to successfully answering a behavioral interview question is to respond by mentioning clear examples that showcase how your skills and experiences have prepared you for the position for which you are interviewing. This will give an employer a clear insight into your strengths, interpersonal skills, and your fit for the job.
In this article, we’re going to discuss the top behavioral interview questions that you may encounter in a job interview. We’ll then explore a few tips on how you can answer behavioral questions effectively.
Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers
While behavioral interview questions will vary, there are similar questions that are asked at most job interviews. Here are ten common behavioral interview questions you can expect to come up in your interview, as well as some advice on how you can answer each of them.
#1: Tell me about a time when you were new to a task and had a lot to learn. How did you navigate this situation?
With these types of questions, a hiring manager is looking to learn more about how you adapt to new situations where you may have to take in a lot of information. To respond to this question, you should mention a time when you were assigned to a new project — or moved to a new job — and had to do a lot of research and learning to adapt to the scenario.
“During my last job, I was assigned to a project where we had to reduce rendering times on our website by 20%. I had very little experience in optimizing rendering times, so to navigate the situation I asked my co-workers for learning resources, and spent hours learning about new techniques I could use to accomplish the task I was assigned. Web development changes all the time, so I appreciate any opportunity to learn something new.”
#2: How do you navigate challenging situations? Please provide an example
In the workplace, no matter how good you are at your job, challenges arise. An unexpected situation may come up, or you may realize that something is more difficult than you expected. Common behavioral interview questions like this are used to help an employer learn about how you react to a challenging situation that may be difficult to handle.
“Once, in my last job, the systems that we used to manage our company’s calendar went down, right in the middle of our busiest month of the year.
When this happened, I had to quickly adapt by printing off paper copies of my boss’ schedule, and I had to work with other members of the sales department to ensure they all knew about my boss’ availability. I also called a meeting with the other administrative assistants to discuss how we could become more resilient to this situation in the future.”
#3: Tell me about a time when you had multiple responsibilities to manage. How did you respond to this situation?
This behavioral interview question is all about how you respond to environments where there may be a lot going on. To respond effectively, you should mention a specific example of a situation where you had a lot on your plate. You should use this as an opportunity to discuss both your good time management skills and also how you can be flexible when new things come up.
“Last year, I was assigned to the team writing our company’s balance sheet. I was already working on our income statements at the time and helping with taxation compliance, so I had a lot on my plate.
To navigate this situation, I spent a day prioritizing which tasks needed my time and created a chart to help ensure I was able to meet all the deadlines imposed. I had to work a few extra hours, but in the end, I was able to handle all the tasks I had been assigned.”
#4: Tell me about a time when you made a mistake. How did you fix your error?
Everyone makes mistakes — that’s a natural part of life. Common questions like this allow an interviewer to learn more about how you respond to mistakes, which is all that matters when an error has been made. To answer this question well, you should mention an example where you took responsibility for an error, then discuss the path you took to resolve your mistake.
“In my last job, at the accountancy firm, I noticed that I scheduled a meeting with our global executives at the wrong time. This had the potential to throw off the schedules of some of our top executive team members.
When I realized my mistake, I immediately reported it to my boss, who said that he appreciated my transparency. We worked to reach out to all executives notifying them that the wrong time had been scheduled for the event, and then we tried to reschedule the call for a new time.
The other executives understood the mistake and were appreciative of the few days’ notice they received in advance of the call. Since making this mistake, I always double-check the times I schedule meetings, and use a timezone app to help reduce the chances of an error when I am scheduling an international meeting.”
#5: How do you respond when you disagree with someone at work?
Sometimes, you will disagree with another employee on the approach that should be taken to solve a problem or to complete a project. This question is designed to give the interviewer an insight into how you handle these situations.
To answer this question, you should discuss a scenario where you disagreed with someone, and then explore how you went about resolving that disagreement. This question is an ideal time to give clear examples of strong communication skills.
“When I was working on a big data project last year, my manager decided that the hypothesis for the project should be changed mid-way through. I suggested that we should finish the analysis under our current hypothesis, to make sure we don’t miss anything.
In this situation, I sat down with my manager to outline the benefits of completing the analysis with our current hypothesis, and carefully mentioned that changing the hypothesis during the middle of a project could result in us missing key insights.
After our discussion, we decided that the decision was too big for the manager to make alone, so we had all team members democratically vote on our next steps. In the end, my boss realized after talking with other team members that his approach was not prudent, and so we went with my recommendation.”
#6: How do you work under pressure?
This question is used by interviewers to learn about how you handle environments where you may be under pressure. If you’re applying for a job that may involve a high degree of stress, this question is more likely to come up. In your response, you should give a clear example of when and how you have dealt with pressure.
“Last year, I was assigned to help the growth team boost retention by 2% by the end of the quarter. This was a big project, and I only had about 50 days to complete it.
To respond to this situation, I met with other members of the growth team to discuss their current retention efforts, and we all agreed to make changes to our schedules to ensure that we could meet the new goal. I also helped set up a stand-up system to hold our team members accountable for progress toward their goals.”
#7: Walk me through an example of how you set goals
Setting goals is an important part of any job. This behavioral question gives an interviewer a stronger insight into how you set goals that are both achievable and reasonable. To respond, you should discuss one specific goal you set, and the process you used to decide upon that goal.
“At around the middle point of working in my last job, I knew that I wanted to advance on to become a full stack web developer in my career. Because I was only a front end developer at the time, I decided that I was going to ask to be assigned to a small full stack project, to give me a taste of what I could expect further down the line.
"Career Karma entered my life when I needed it most and quickly helped me match with a bootcamp. Two months after graduating, I found my dream job that aligned with my values and goals in life!"
Venus, Software Engineer at Rockbot
I started spending some of my spare time learning about full stack development practices and invested heavily in building a few side projects to reinforce my skills. This helped me build the skills I needed to position myself as a good candidate for a bigger full stack web development task in the future.”
#8: Give me an example of how you have worked on a team
Most jobs require some degree of collaborative work. In a job interview, an employer may ask you this question to get a better sense of how you work with others, especially if the role for which you are applying involves a lot of teamwork.
To respond, you should give a clear example of when you worked on a team and discuss how you interact with your fellow team members. This is a great opportunity to showcase your teamwork skills and leadership skills.
“In my last job, I was a core contributor to our SEO team. My boss was leading a project to help us boost our domain authority, and I was assigned to optimize a number of our existing articles.
Every day, I participated in a stand-up with my colleagues to keep them abreast of my progress, and during this short meeting, we also offered each other our help and support if anyone was encountering any troubles.
To ensure we met our goals, I constantly checked in with my team members, and I also decided to pair up with another team member who was assigned to a similar project so that we could share best practices.”
#9: What strategies do you use to stay organized?
Organized employees work more efficiently to meet deadlines and not waste company time. Whether you are applying for senior, managerial positions, or entry-level positions, staying organized is key.
When you answer this behavioral interview question, use a clear example of a strategy you employed to keep organized. If you previously had a team leader or managerial role, you can talk about a time you used an effective strategy to meet tight deadlines.
“During my last job, I was in charge of the development team. We often worked on multiple projects and clients. This meant we had different deadlines and priorities. As team leader, I was responsible for delivering projects on time and meeting client expectations.
Before I arrived, the previous team leader allowed the development team to work on whatever projects they liked. This led to poor time management and projects were not being delivered on time. I wanted to prioritize our top clients and high-priority projects.
To do this, I created a shared to-do list using Google docs. I used color coding to easily identify high-priority tasks. The developers were able to see this document on any device and add comments or tick off completed tasks.
Furthermore, I projected this document on the walls of the development team offices. This meant that everyone was on the same page and knew exactly what needed to be done and when, as opposed to letting the developers work on whichever project they wanted.”
#10: Tell me about a project you’ve worked on recently.
Employees will not only want you to have previous work experience, but they will want to see some examples of projects you have worked on. If you have recently graduated from college or a coding bootcamp, you can use long-term projects you worked on during your studies.
Furthermore, you can use a project you worked on during your last job or something you designed or created yourself independently. Make sure the project you choose matches the job you are applying for. If possible, you can use a physical demonstration to show your interviewer what your final project looks like.
“I recently graduated from the software development bootcamp program at Fullstack Academy. As part of the program, we developed a simple web application to help students with time-management skills.
The application used a simple algorithm to show users how their time was divided between school, work, and recreation. The idea was to help users identify where they were spending most of their time to help them prioritize study. The project was successful and got an A grade.”
Common Mistakes When Answering Behavioral Interview Questions
During your interview, you will be in a stressful situation, so it is likely you will make a mistake. For example, you might hear the question asked or offer vague answers. Therefore, if you know ahead of time some of the most common behavioral interview mistakes, you will be able to avoid them. Here are some common mistakes when answering behavioral interview questions:
- Being too vague. This is one of the most common mistakes you can make. You must give clear answers and use specific examples. For example, if you are asked about working with a team, it is not good enough to simply say you have strong teamwork skills. You must give concrete examples.
- Talking too fast. When people get nervous they tend to ramble and talk quickly. Make sure you take your time when answering questions, and talk at a normal pace that is easy to understand.
- Interrupting. Do not interrupt the interviewer when they are halfway through a question. Be certain they have finished their question before you answer and don’t jump in too quickly.
- Not listening. This might seem obvious, but you must listen carefully to the questions asked to ensure you use relevant examples when answering. If you have any doubts about the questions, do not hesitate to ask for them to be repeated.
- Don’t lie. If you are asked about examples of a project you worked on, don’t make something up. Not every potential employee will have the same level of experience. If you cannot answer a question, or don’t have previous experience in a certain area, be honest.
How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview
Now that we’ve discussed a few of the top behavioral questions you can expect to be asked in a job interview, it’s time to explore how to prepare for behavioral interview questions. You can use the following tips while preparing for a behavioral interview:
Tip #1: Research the company in advance
Before the interview begins, you should spend as much time as possible getting to know the company and the job for which you have applied. For example, knowing who found the company or what the company’s achievements are is a good place to start.
While preparing for behavioral interview questions, review the job posting again, read over the company’s website, and familiarize yourself with its products and services. This will help you provide answers in your interview that are more relevant to the position you are looking to earn.
Tip #2: Practice behavioral interview questions
Use the questions we have discussed in this article to help you prepare for some of the most common behavioral interview questions you may be asked in your interview. As well as using this guide, you can find plenty of examples of behavioral interview questions on the Internet.
One effective way to prepare for your interview is to ask a friend or a family member to conduct a mock interview so you can practice hypothetical questions. This will allow you to simulate what you can expect in your real job interview, and get real-time feedback based on your answers. You should also use the STAR method when answering questions.
Tip #3: Think of examples before the interview
If you familiarize yourself with the top behavioral interview questions you can make a list of examples in your head that you can cite in your interview. This will help keep you on track during the interview and stop you from being too vague with your answers.
For instance, if you’re preparing to discuss challenges you have faced, you may want to think of a specific scenario where you encountered a challenge. Having these stories ready will mean that, if you are asked a question about work challenges, you’ll not have to think of a new example as you’ll already have one ready.
Tip #4: Review projects you’ve worked on
One of the most common behavioral interview questions is to ask you about a project you have worked on. It is important you review all your previous projects and pick the one that best represents your strengths that fit the job you are applying for.
It will be difficult to come up with previous projects on the spot and, if you are prepared, your answer will be more focused and relevant. This also allows you to bring an example of a project you worked on along with you.
Tip #5: Create a list of past experiences
Before your interview, write out a list of your past experiences. This will help you identify strengths and weaknesses, as well as any relevant skills you have for the job at hand. Preparing this list beforehand will keep your answers to the point.
Study examples of behavioral interview questions as you make your list. That way, you can practice answering the questions with your list in front of you or use the answers to help you create the list.
Behavioral interview questions are a common part of most job interviews and can come up at any stage of the hiring process. Therefore, no matter what type of job you are applying for, you should prepare behavioral interview questions and answers.
Interviewers use behavioral interview questions to get a better sense of who you are, and how you have handled different scenarios in the workplace. Your answers will help an employer determine whether you are the right fit for the job.
Behavioral interviews draw on past experiences and examples to identify ideal candidates. By practicing the top behavioral interview questions found in this article, you will be able to ace any behavioral interview and land your dream job.
Behavioral Interview Questions FAQ
A behavioral interview focuses on a candidate’s past experiences to predict what type of employee they will be. Behavioral interview questions focus on what you have done, not on what you would do. During a behavioral interview, you will be asked a series of questions relating to past experiences that are relevant to the job you are applying for.
How many behavioral questions are asked in an interview?
How many behavioral questions are asked in an interview completely depends on the interviewer and the position you are applying for. Typically, you are asked about five or six behavioral interview questions and you should expect the interview to last one hour.
How long should behavioral interview answers be?
Behavioral interview answers should be a couple of minutes on average. You should spend a maximum of five minutes on any answer and a minimum of one minute. How long should behavioral interview answers be is completely dependent on the question. For example, two-part questions or open-ended questions may take longer to answer.
How can I ace a behavioral interview?
If you want to know how to ace a behavioral interview then read this guide. This guide will help you identify the top behavioral interview questions and practice your answers. You can study sample questions and common behavioral job interview questions to ensure you are well prepared.
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