The Behavioral Interview: Questions and Answers

Woman in a black business jacket and pink blouse sits at a interview

If you’re prepared for behavioral interview questions and answers, you will be at an advantage during your next job interview.

Read on to learn about a type of question interviewers like to use: The Behavioral Interview Question.

What are Behavioral Interview Questions?

Behavioral interview questions are about how you handled previous situations in the work environment. An interviewer will ask you to analyze a situation. You will need to give details about how you addressed a given issue in the past. This is part of the behavioral interviewing method.

Here are some sample behavioral interview questions:

  • Tell me about a time where you made a mistake on the job. How did you handle it?
  • Share a time when you had to make a difficult decision. What steps did you take to make that decision? What did you do?
  • Have you ever had an instance when you disagreed with your boss or management? How did you resolve it?
  • Tell me about a time when you failed. What did you learn?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to complete a project on a tight deadline? What steps did you take to accomplish the task?
  • Share a time when you had to deliver bad news to an employee or colleague. How did you handle it?

Sometimes these questions are focused on your ability to solve problems. Others probe into how you would handle situations under difficult circumstances. The idea is to give a potential employer knowledge of how you anticipate and respond to different situations.

It’s great if you have experienced a similar situation in a previous job. You’ll be able to provide real examples of how you handled things and give the interviewer factual information.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Let’s review some behavioral interview tips and common answers to behavioral interview questions. These techniques work whether or not you have experience with the proposed situation.

How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions

Answering these questions, you’ll want to present a positive review of actions you took in the past. Many English career industry leaders agree that the STAR technique works best in these circumstances.

STAR stands for situation, task, action, result.

Illustration representing the STAR technique

The technique is great because it helps interviewees answer behavioral questions while staying on topic. Let’s use STAR method to answer this question:

Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a conflict with an employee. How did you handle it?

Situation

To answer a behavioral question it’s important to describe your situation. It’s like setting the scene in a play. The interviewer needs to have a clear image of your circumstances. Also, this will prevent you from going off-topic, and you’ll avoid the risk of rambling in the interview.

When you describe your situation, include the environment of the company you worked for. Were they strict? Was the office laid back? Was management completely hands-off?

Non-native English speakers have a distinct advantage here because many countries have work environments that differ from those in the U.S. This grants an opportunity to present interesting and memorable situations that differ from natives. Take the time to describe the environment for context. This could make you stand out above other candidates interviewing for the position.

You can also describe company protocols and processes to further elaborate. Again, this is an opportunity for a non-native speaker to provide valuable background information to an interviewer.

The goal is to provide relevant details to give the best context for the next part of your answer.

Here’s an example of an answer based on the question above:

In my previous role, I was in charge of a team of ten individuals. The company had a zero-tolerance policy regarding tardiness, and employees were given three warnings before termination over the course of a year. I thought the policy was strict, but fair.

Task (or Problem)

Describe your responsibility within the situation. Also, if the question asks about a problem or challenge (like our proposed example), you should describe the issue in this part of your response.

Non-native speakers may want to review a comprehensive list of descriptive words to talk about how things happened.

When speaking about a problem or failure, mention what kind of situation it was. Was is avoidable? Or was it a crisis?

Here’s the part of our answer that focuses on the Task/Problem:

I had a team member who had showed up late twice in the same week, so I had to do something about it. His attitude had become abrasive. He was also growing sluggish with his work load. I thought it was odd, as this team member had a spotless work history. Also, he was always thoughtful towards the team. He had bought breakfast for the team occasionally.

Action

Describe what actions you took. However, you’ll also want to show your reasoning behind them. Explain what solutions you thought of before making your decision.

If you worked with other people, stay focused only on your actions within the team.

Continued from above:

I knew that if he showed up late one more time without a valid excuse, company policy would require me to end his contract. Our team had a lot going on, and honestly, it would have been easy just to say nothing, keep working, and see if the situation resolved itself.

However, this employee had a great history. I called him in for a meeting to check if he had any outside problems. It turns out this employee lived with his grandmother. She had recently fallen and sprained her ankle. He had to care for her and wasn’t getting enough sleep.

I spoke with my boss. We were able to give him an extra hour to get to work until she was back in good health. We also removed the two tardy notices from his record.

Results

End your answer with the results of the actions you took. Show what you accomplished and how it helped your project or your company.

If possible, include statistics to quantify your results. Any concrete examples of the effects of your decisions would be ideal.

The last part of our answer:

As a result, the employee was very thankful and doubled his production numbers over the next quarter. He received an offer from two different competitors over the next year, but he chose to stay with our company. He took over my position when I received a promotion.

I learned that it’s better to speak with an employee first rather than let a bad situation continue.

Using the STAR technique, you’ll be able to effectively answer behavioral interview questions. If you don’t have real experience regarding a question, it is okay to make up a hypothetical answer so long as you make it clear that the answer is indeed hypothetical.

Follow the technique and explain step-by-step what you would do in a made-up situation. The important thing is to have an answer.

Interviewers ask behavioral interview questions to gauge your ability to handle different job-related scenarios. So, don’t reply, “I’ve never failed” to the question “Tell me about a time you failed. How did you deal with it?” Instead, find a way to showcase your insight, flexibility, and skills in handling problems.

Prepare your answers and stick to the STAR technique. You’ll be a step ahead of the other candidates!

If you’re ready to get practicing, follow along with this video as we guide you through each step of the STAR interview response method.

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