Behavioral Interview Questions: Expert Tips, Industry Methods & Example Questions & Answers.
#1 – Interview Preparation:
You have been applying to jobs online, meeting with staffing recruiters and networking on LinkedIn and you finally hear back from the company you were hoping to hear from.
Most likely your first contact will be a phone interview with a member of the human resources team, this will be about you and your motivations for applying to the role, this can be a more casual conversation, but important to prepare and treat just this conversation as you would any other interview format, check out our blog on Expert Tips: 31 Questions to Ask In A Phone Interview to Stand Out.
The Formal Interview
Meeting with a company face to face can draw up a range of mixed feelings, from excitement to nerves and everything in between.
Most people know the saying; “failing to prepare is preparing to fail” and this very true when it comes to interviewing.
If the role you have applied to requires a specific skill-set or technical expertise, then preparation for this part should be straight forward and hopefully will be relatively easy for you as it is your job, you know it, you just have to articulate your answers clearly.
If interview questions were all technical based, then they would be fairly straight forward, but what other types questions could you get asked in an interview?
#2 – Tips on Handling Behavioral Interview Questions:
These questions are normally asked to determine how you would handle yourself or what you would do in a situation in the role you are applying for.
They sound simple but they can be the curve ball question in the interview that stumbles you…. but that’s ok, there are several methods and tips on managing the more difficult questions in an interview, giving you the best chance of success.
Take a deep breath
Try not to rush to answer the question, one of the key attribute people look for in a candidate is the ability to think first, digest and then respond.
Preserve some time
“That is a great question, let me think about that before I answer” – there is nothing wrong with stalling to give yourself an opportunity for head space.
Don’t fill silence with words
Just because there is what you believe to be an awkward silence, does not mean you have to fill it with words or noise, keep cool, relax.
Discuss the question out loud
Tough questions are tough questions because the interviewer does not expect you to have the answer immediately. Start to discuss the question in the room and talk them through your thought process and why it is a tough question to answer.
Relate & redirect
If you are asked a question that completely baffles you or you have no previous experience that directly related to the questions, then redirect to a situation or a subject that you are familiar with that has some relevance.
If a question is asked that you really do not have any relevant experience or skills that relate to the question, then just be honest with the interviewer and apologize that you cannot adequately answer the question but you are happy to research and respond after the interview (if appropriate).
3# – The STAR Method
The star method is one that I have used in interviews but also in business meetings and other situations where you may get asked a question you may not have the direct answer on the tip of your tongue.
The STAR method is simple and easy to remember:
Let’s go through an example question:
Q: “Tell me about a time in your last position where you were assigned an under-performing employee or team member and what was the outcome?”
S = Situation
Set the scene and the context for your response, for example; “I inherited a team member that had a personal issue with someone in another team and I was asked to take on the employee as they had a personality clash and to keep an eye on them”
T = Task
What were you assigned to do in the situation? Example: “It was my responsibility to assess and monitor the employees performance and ensure that they integrated into my team but any signs of repeat behavior has to be addressed”
A = Action
What did you actually do in this situation? Example: “I had heard rumors’ that this person was a trouble maker, but I wanted to make my own opinion, so I set weekly meetings in place every Friday afternoon, which was conducted in a casual setting so we could openly discuss for 15 minutes about how their week went and if they needed any support”
R = Result
How well did your actions play out? Was it a success? What happened? Example “The new team member became our star (no pun intended) performer on my team as this person disclosed to me they felt shy and uncomfortable in her previous team as they held group brainstorming meetings and felt uncomfortable talking in front of a group and appreciated being able to contribute in a one-on-one setting”
#4- Examples of 21 Behavioral Questions and example answers:
To further assist in your preparation I have provided 21 example questions and answers of typical behavioral questions that will help you prepare for your next interview:
Can you tell me about yourself?
The interviewer wants to hear about achievements, not personal life. More importantly, the interview is looking to unravel what’s unique about your story, and what has led you to applying to this position.
“I recently left my 5-year position at X because I am seeking a new opportunity. Basically, I outgrew my role there. During my time with them, I helped them modernize their IT systems by implementing new servers and migrating databases to the cloud. Now I am looking for a position where I can really thrive and show off my full skill-set. Your company’s values towards leveraging innovative tools and platforms, and collaborative nature perfectly align to what I’m looking for.”
What one word would you use to describe yourself?
The answer to this question needs to demonstrate a concise and confident worker, and ideally shouldn’t be a detractor to the necessary skills required for the job. Be sure to pick a trait that you know the company will value. For example, if it’s a large organization such as GE, punctuality may be the answer, while if you’re interviewing at a startup then it may lean towards self-descriptive traits such as ‘innovator’ or ‘problem solver’.
How is this position different/similar to others you’re after?
The interviewer uses this question to know if the applicant is applying to other jobs.
“This is actually only one of two positions I have applied to. The other one simply wasn’t the right fit for me because they needed someone with more management experience to head their IT department. I am much more hands-on. I want to do my job, what I love, not manage other workers doing their jobs.”
Can you list three strengths/weaknesses?
An inability to meet deadlines or work well with others are definite red flags.
“Previously, I would have said that my three biggest weaknesses were fear of making a mistake, over-analyzing, and being a perfectionist. However, in the past year since I took the time to identify these weaknesses, I have overcome them. The only thing that remains is a great attention to detail, but I always work diligently once I garner a thorough understanding of the work at hand.”
What makes you want to work here?
The interviewer uses this question to determine how much the applicant has researched the company and what is driving them.
“First and foremost, I love this company’s culture. I have spent a great deal of time digging into what you guys do, and I align with your company values of giving clients the best we have to offer. I love what I do, and I know I’ll love it even more when I’m surrounded by others who are enjoying growing in their careers too.”
Be sure to go into the specific cultural values and beliefs the company has and how it matches with your own personal values, that way you’re showing you’ve done the research and demonstrating the cultural fit required.
What makes you want to leave your current position?
The interviewer will use this question to determine if the applicant gets bored quickly, has issues working with others, or any other red flags/patterns.
“I would say that I outgrew my current position in the second or third year. I’ve stayed for the last two years to support them as they adapt, and they are now stable again so I am searching for a new, more challenging position where I can continue to grow.”
What are you most happy about with your career?
The interview wants to know what the applicant is passionate about and what they excel at. Furthermore, what in their career so far has felt most rewarding, as a way for the interviewer to know if this current position will provide the same benefits in the future.
“I am most satisfied with the sheer experience I have garnered through my previous positions. Particularly, this has been in challenging environments, with autonomy, and great mentoring from my fellow colleagues.”
Has entrepreneurship ever entered your mind?
The interviewer is making sure the applicant doesn’t have the desire to jump ship and start their own company.
“No, it has not. I enjoy the solid direction and stability that a strong employee-employer relationship provides.”
Have you ever taken a pen from your workplace?
The interviewer doesn’t care about inventory, this is a question of integrity.
“I don’t take office supplies from work unless I need to take them home to work on a project for work, like the annual report I completed last year where I needed to borrow some folders and clipboards for preparation purposes.”
What sort of boss have you had the most success with?
The interviewer wants to know if you generally have projects with people with different personality types.
“I have had seven bosses since I began working at sixteen and I have never had any issues with any of them. Any boss that gives me the tools I need to succeed, which is mainly proper on-boarding, is someone who I can succeed next to.”
If you could work anywhere, where would that be and why?
The interviewer is thinking about your loyalty and how much you’d like working for their competitors.
“Actually, I have spent the past few weeks heavily researching firms X, Y, and Z and yours seems to be the best match for my credentials.
What is your definition of success?
This gives the interviewer insight into your priorities.
“Consistently completing my projects on-time and to the best of my ability.”
What regrets do you have in your career?
The interviewer is honestly looking for psychological baggage. What mistakes have you made that they can get you to admit to?
“Absolutely none. All the little mistakes I have made to get to this point have only been lessons that have helped me grow.”
Why did you lose your previous job?
The interviewer does not want to sense defeat or anger with this question.
“Unfortunately, the last startup I was working with lost funding so my entire team was laid off. That was two weeks ago, and while I was disappointed in their failure, I enjoyed the experience and I decided to jump right back in so I can continue doing what I love.”
What would you do if you won $5 million tomorrow?
The interviewer is really asking if you would still work even if you didn’t need the money.
“That’s a question we all ponder, isn’t it? Tomorrow is Saturday, so I’d wake up, get dressed, and go to the gym like I always do. I can’t think of a thing I’d change in my routine or my personality. I’d put the money into investments for my family and give some to charity.”
Have you been asked you to compromise your integrity?
The interviewer is evaluating your moral compass.
“During my work as an IT assistant for an internet provider, I discovered that a medical office was in violation of countless privacy laws. I had family members who had gone to that clinic in the past and I thought it was a tremendous oversight that abused their clients’ trust. I left the premises right away and informed my supervisor.”
Why might someone not like working with you?
The interviewer wants to know if you have any glaring personality issues.
“In general, I have been fortunate enough to have good relationships with all of my co-workers.”
What is the reason for your unemployment?
The interviewer doesn’t just want to know why you need a new job, they want to know why you have been looking for X amount of time.
“I was laid off two weeks ago and I have been researching potential companies since the day I got that news. I worked a 3-day notice, as the company requested, and scheduled this interviewer as soon as I found out about this opportunity.”
Have you ever disagreed with a company policy?
The interviewer wants to know if the applicant will speak up if they see room for improvement.
“Yes, I have. While working with X, I studied the company manual and discovered several limitations regarding the organizational structure. I casually spoke to my manager about it over lunch and brought it to their attention. She was thankful for my insight and we ended up re-structuring the communication policy completely the following week.”
How did you make time for this interview?
The interviewer wants to know what the applicant told their boss.
“I asked my manager if I could take an extended lunch and come here. I have been very open with them about my decision to resign, and I intend to work a full 90-day notice, which is currently in progress. My final day will be December 3rd. I’m presently training my replacement, whom I located for the company.”
Can you describe a hard situation that you’ve overcome?
The interviewer wants to know how the applicant handles difficult situations.
“I was once faced with a severe system outage while running the IT systems for our local hospital. I was abruptly awoken at 3 in the morning, and I immediately knew what had gone wrong.”
The interviewer will look for signs of stress as the applicant describes the situation, and try to get a sense for their general problem-solving skills.
“That’s an emergency situation that I had trained for many times, so I knew the fix instantly. I logged in remotely and had the issue solved within the hour by switching to backups. I scheduled a support call ASAP with the company managing the servers. I went right back to sleep and came in bright and early in the morning to a fully functioning hospital. We got the main servers back on later that day.”
#5 – After the Interview
Once you have nailed your interview, get home, relax and reflect. Make note of the questions that you struggled which will only help better prepare yourself for next time. Sending an email after the interview is also important, check out our blog: Thank You Email After Interview – The Do’s & Dont’s.