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How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions

Answering Behavioral Interview Questions

Numerous questions come up in a job interview. You can expect to field questions about relevant experience, employee goals, and the classic request - “tell me about yourself.” Equally important are behavioral questions, which are essentially versions of “What would you do in this situation?” 

While there are endless variations, behavioral interview questions all have the same goal — they’re designed to get a better understanding of your character, as well as make you think on your feet. They’ll often be about scenarios you might encounter on the job, so they can also gauge how you’ll fit the position too. They may be a bit tricky, so we spoke with Senior Internal Recruiter Ashley Allen who has over 7 years of recruiting experience. She provides a few insights into how to answer behavioral interview questions. 

What Are Behavioral Interview Questions? 

Through behavioral interview questions, interviewers inquire about your past experiences, skills and abilities to better understand how you may react to future work related situations and workplace challenges. 

Why Do Employers Ask Behavioral Interview Questions? 

Employers ask behavioral interview questions to gain a deeper understanding of your past behavior, experience, and decision-making process in professional settings. These questions help employers to predict how you may handle similar situations in the future, which can be an important factor in determining your suitability for a particular job.

Employers may ask questions that are specific to the job or industry, such as asking a salesperson about how they have handled difficult customers in the past or a project manager about how they have dealt with unexpected project delays. In such cases, the employer is trying to assess whether you have the skills and experience required to perform the job successfully.

However, behavioral interview questions are not limited to job-specific situations. Employers may also ask more general questions to get a sense of your character, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. For example, they may ask about how you work in a team, handle conflicts or challenges, or prioritize tasks.
By asking these questions, employers can assess your suitability for the job based on how you have responded to similar situations in the past. They can also evaluate your communication skills, decision-making process, and ability to learn from your experiences.
Overall, behavioral interview questions provide employers with valuable insights into your past performance and potential future performance. Therefore, it's important to prepare to answer behavioral interview questions by reflecting on your past experiences, identifying key skills and qualities, and practicing your responses to common questions.

“A lot of times behavioral questions help us evaluate important traits for the role, depending on the questions asked. It also helps interviewers evaluate problem solving and critical thinking skills. It shows that candidates can think on their toes and come up with solutions in high stress situations,” says Allen.

How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions

Common behavioral interview questions typically start with phrases such as "Tell me about a time when…" or "Give me an example of…" To answer behavioral questions effectively, you need to prepare in advance and follow a structured approach. Allen recommends the STAR method.

  • S: Situation (Explain the situation and set the scene)
  • T: Task (Explain the task you were given in the specific situation)
  • A: Action (Explain the action you took to achieve the task)
  • R: Result (Explain the results of the situation/close out the story)

“The STAR method allows candidates to thoroughly explain a situation and act as a storyteller to the interviewer, while staying on topic. Another recommendation is to be authentic in your answers and use the most relevant/relatable examples you can think of,” says Allen.

Behavioral-Based Questions and Answers

1. “Describe an occasion where you failed.” 

This is one of the trickier questions, which is why interviews like to ask it. Again, just be honest and don’t embellish — if you focus too much on the mistake, you’ll appear unconfident. The key to this question is to end on a positive note by telling how you grew or improved after the failure. 

2. “Describe a time when you had to motivate your team members.” 

If you’re applying for a management position, you can bet this one’s coming up. So, tell them about a time when you had to do just this. Explain why you decided on that tactic and how it worked. This will give your interview a better idea of your leadership and people skills. 

3. “Describe a time when you exceeded expectations.” 

Here’s the time to let your work ethic and enthusiasm show. Tell them a good story about where you impressed someone above you at your last job and went the extra mile. 

4. “Tell us a time when you were under pressure.”

Remember to stick to professional experiences here. Honestly, tell a time when you had your feet to the fire; this question may also lead to a time where you failed, or exceeded expectations too. Just explain what happened, your role in it, and what the outcome was.

With some research and preparation, behavioral interview questions present a great opportunity to tell the interviewer specific details of your career. When you’re ready to find your next job, search our job board.