23 Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers
Written by Emily Graham
Updated May 23, 2017
Have you ever wondered if there’s an easier way to prepare for an internship or job interview? I’m talking about a foolproof way to know you can answer any behavioral interview question they throw at you.
Keep reading, as I’m about to share the secret formula. It’s so simple it’ll blow your mind. Your confidence level will go through the roof and finding the right answers will be a breeze.
Here's what will be covered in this article:
- What are behavioral based interview questions?
- How to identify behavioral interview questions
- Examples of behavior based interview questions
- How to prepare your sucess stories
- How to create STAR success stories
- Detailed analysis of a sample STAR response
First, let’s talk about a specific type of question you’ll encounter in your interviews: behavioral questions.
Behavioral based interview questions require answers in the form of stories. Through those stories recruiters are seeking specific details from your work-related experience that will provide them with insight into how well you’ll perform on the job. The idea is that past performance predicts future success.
So, what if I don’t have any work experience?
That’s okay! Even without on-the-job experience, you still have a ton of transferrable skills from school and life in general.
Let’s take a closer look at how it works.
You’ll recognize common behavioral questions by the way they’re structured. They begin with phrases like “tell me about a time,” or “describe a time,” or “give me an example of.” To answer them, you just need to learn how to prepare stories to fit the internship or job.
Who uses them?
All the best trained recruiters and hiring managers do.
First, all behavioral questions provide consistency during an interview. Every candidate is asked the exact same set of questions. Candidates can be evaluated consistently and fairly.
Second, the questions also require detailed answers! The company learns more about you (and why you’re the perfect hire) by asking for specific, detailed responses.
When preparing for an interview, you should automatically assume every interviewer will ask behavioral questions. The questions can be tailored to fit any job, at any level, and in any industry.
If by some chance your recruiter doesn’t use them, your stories should still be used to answer their questions. They will bring wow factor!
Let’s look at some examples of behavioral interview questions with answers. I’ve grouped them below by skill or competency. Jump to the bottom to see how we apply our secret formula in interviews.
Behavioral and situational interview questions can be asked in different ways to get at the same information, so you may not get the exact questions below. But this will give you an idea of the types of questions you can expect.
The employer could be looking for a variety of things with these types of questions. How well do you work in groups? What role do you take on the team? Your communication style and strategy. When things weren’t going well, how did you handle it?
1. What is the most successful team project you have been a part of?
2. Tell me about a time when you had to work on a team and felt disappointed in the outcome.
3. Share a time when you had to work with a teammate that wasn’t pulling their own weight on a project. What happened? What did you do? What was the outcome?
Leadership isn’t always about directly managing people. It’s also about stepping up to take the lead when things stall, or speaking on behalf of the team when addressing your boss. Do you have the potential to train, motivate, and help others? Employers want to see that you can take initiative to go above and beyond.
4. Tell me about a time when you stepped up into a leadership position.
5. Who have you mentored or coached to achieve success?
6. Describe a time when you led by example.
Handling Conflict Questions
It may seem strange to talk about conflict. Your gut could tell you it will look better if there’s never conflict, but that’s just not realistic. No two people are alike. Conflict is always bound to pop up.
An employer wants to hear that you can talk about the conflict you’ve experienced. More importantly, they want to hear how you handled it. This tells a lot about whether you’ll fit into their company culture.
7. Give me an example of a time when you had to respond to an angry manager/customer/coworker.
8. Tell me about a time when you were working with someone on a project and you didn’t agree with the direction to take.
9. Tell me about the most difficult person you’ve had to deal with.
Problem Solving Questions
Employers are always looking for resourceful people. A problem doesn’t have to be big. It could be as simple as not knowing where to find something you need for a project and taking initiative to find it.
They want to hear that you can identify obstacles and troubleshoot solutions. The main competencies they’ll be listening for are things like creativity, determination, initiative, analytics, and getting results.
10. Tell me about a time when you suggested a new, more efficient approach to doing something.
11. Describe a time when you anticipated a problem was coming and you came up with options to solve it.
12. Give me an example of a time when you had to analyze information and make a recommendation to someone.
No interview prep would be complete without talking about failure. This is another area where people struggle. They don’t want to talk about failure in an interview. But everyone has failed at one time or another!
If you learn from the experience, it’s not failure. An employer wants to hear that you can admit failure, take responsibility, and learn from your mistakes.
13. Tell me about a decision you regret making.
14. What is your biggest professional mistake? How did you handle it?
15. Tell me about a time you failed.
Work Ethic Questions
Every single candidate who walks through their door will tell the employer that they’re a hard worker.
You need to prove it with stories that demonstrate your determination, initiative, and reliability. It’s also great for an employer to hear that you care about the outcome and take pride in what you do.
16. What are you most proud of? Why?
17. Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond to get the job done.
18. When have you had to juggle multiple important projects at the same time?
Computer Program Questions
In today’s world, skills related to computer programs and systems are a requirement. Many times, employers will want to hear you talk about your experience versus just simply asking if you’ve worked with a certain program. It helps them to understand whether you’re more of a beginner and learning or whether you’re an advanced user.
19. Tell me about the most complex spreadsheet you have built in Excel.
20. This role will require you to create presentations in PowerPoint. Tell me about your experience with PowerPoint.
21. When was the last time you used HTML coding in a project? Tell me about it.
Strength and Weakness Questions
I would be remiss if I didn’t at least touch on the most common interview questions out there. The actual question can come in different forms, but ultimately they want to know where you’re strong and where you’re weak.
Strengths are easy. What are you good at? Be sure to choose skills that relate to the job you’re interviewing for.
Weaknesses tend to catch us off guard. Try to come up with a few just to have them ready. Again, choose something job related. Honestly explain your weakness. Then tell them about the steps you take to compensate or how you are working to get better.
22. What is your greatest strength?
23. What is your greatest weakness?
Now that I’ve covered the major categories of questions, I like to think of the next step as reading between the lines!
Always start with the description of the job you’re interviewing for. This holds the secret to the types of questions you’ll be asked. Read it carefully and note any skills or experience a candidate would need to have to do the job.
Let’s say the internship is in marketing. What type of marketing is it—creative, analytical, social media? Are there software or systems mentioned—Excel, databases, online platforms? Does the internship require independent work, or teamwork, or both? Are there external or internal customers? Do they mention preferred experience in anything?
You need to come up with personal success stories for each of the areas you wrote down. They should highlight your skills and the value you bring to the table. This is what you need to be prepared to talk about.
PRO TIP: You can jot down reminders for your stories in a notebook. Take it into the interview with you. If you need to jog your memory when they ask a question, glance at it. Just don’t read it to the interviewer. Use a couple of words to help you remember. It takes some stress off.
Now that you’ve looked at possible question categories and analyzed the employer’s job description, it’s time to start bringing it all together.
There’s a little bit of a science to this. It’s not difficult, but it makes all the difference.
It’s called the STAR Interview Method. And following this method is the key to making your stories shine.
The STAR Method of interviewing gives structure to your story. It ensures your interviewer has everything they need to visualize you in the job. Employers want to hear specific details that tell them exactly what value you bring to the table. STAR does that.
STAR is an acronym. It stands for:
- S – Situation – Who, what, where, when, why?
- T – Task – What was your role, assignment or goal?
- A – Action – What did you do?
- R – Result – What happened? How did it end?
Piece together your success stories by answering each of the questions above. After a little practice, it will become second nature.
So how do you come up with great stories to use?
Go back to the list you put together while reviewing the job description. It’s also smart to study up on the company. Make special note of the company culture. Talk to anyone you know who works there.
Are they more formal or relaxed? Does their website talk about their mission? Work these themes into your stories where you can. Then start brainstorming.
Say the job you’re applying for is in marketing. You learn that it’s a creative role in brand marketing that includes some social media. There are a few software programs listed: PowerPoint, Photoshop, Instagram, and Facebook.
You’ll assist with creating ideas for brand campaigns and designing elements that will be used on social media to drive brand awareness. Don’t forget they want you to attend a couple of tradeshow events.
We now have a list of skills and experiences to help us brainstorm story ideas:
- Brand marketing/creative
- Social media (specific to Instagram & Facebook)
- Teamwork & brainstorming
- Customers & tradeshows
What experiences or exposure to do you have in these areas? Did you take any brand marketing classes? If so, what creative projects were required? Do you have any work experience in brand marketing? What have you done that can be related to creating a brand awareness?
Once you have a story, begin asking the STAR Method questions:
- Situation – In my brand marketing class during my junior year, I had to complete a project that required us to build a marketing plan around a product. I chose to market Uber’s car service to local college students since Uber had just opened in our area.
- Task – It was a solo project, so once I decided on Uber, I thought about why students might need them. Things like difficulty in finding parking on campus before a class, getting a ride home from a party, or not having a car on campus at all. From there I built my brand awareness and communication strategy.
- Action – I created and printed flyers using Adobe Photoshop to be posted around the campus in high traffic areas. The college has a digital newsletter and student email system, so I created a short branded video to be hosted on YouTube showing all the reasons to love Uber. I also came up with the idea to set up Uber drop-off zones in front of all the main buildings to draw attention to the curbside benefits and generate hype. It was a lot of fun.
- Results – The final project was turned in to the teacher for grading. I received an A.
HINT: If you’re going for a creative job, it would be wise to put together a binder with samples of some of the things you’ve done. During your story, you can open it up to show your work.
See how well the story flows? How all the details are included effortlessly? There aren’t many follow-up questions an interviewer could ask. You gave them everything they needed.
The key to getting good at the STAR Method is simply practice. You can hone this skill and learn more by clicking here to check out our STAR Method article.
Now that you have the basics, you’re ready to start creating the perfect behavioral interview responses for any question you’re asked. Just to be sure, let’s do one last example.
Let’s use an example from the leadership questions above:
Tell me about a time when you stepped up into a leadership role.
Now I’ll walk you through a STAR response to this question.
Remember, the goal is to include specific details. You want to make sure you’re succinct. The result needs to show how you can add value for the role you’re interviewing for.
Sample STAR Response
In my collective bargaining class last semester, we had a project worth a quarter of our grade.
The professor divided us into teams where some were management and others were union. Our project was to successfully negotiate a union agreement. We were given two classes of one hour each to complete it.
Each side of the negotiation was given a copy of the current agreement. Included was a list of demands from both sides. Basically, the union side wanted a raise, and management had no additional money to fund it without massive layoffs.
Then there was a secret document that included points we weren’t willing to concede on. What we didn’t realize at the time was these points were usually in direct opposition of things the other side wanted. It made quick agreements all but impossible.
Prior to class we had to prepare our initial proposal. There was no structure to the actual negotiation. As expected, arguments began to get heated. Each time someone mentioned what they thought were reasonable demands, we found out the other side wasn’t willing to budge.
While the rest of the team got stuck simply arguing, I stepped in to start asking questions. I knew the clock was ticking and we would never come to an agreement if we didn’t better understand what the other side was willing to give up.
We learned there were aspects of the benefit package that were underutilized. There were also concerns that they didn’t feel they had a voice. My team stepped out to discuss our options.
After running the numbers, we realized we could restructure the benefits and save enough money to cover 90% of the salary increase they were requesting. As a show of good faith, we offered to review it again in a year. We also invited their leaders to our monthly management meetings. It helped close the deal!
Let’s Break It Down
- Situation – Who? What? When? Where? Why?
- Collective bargaining class
- Team project to negotiate a union contract
- Last semester
- During two classes
- To successfully reach an agreement
- Task – What was your role, assignment, or goal?
- Team of people
- Given details (public and secret) to guide our terms
- Don’t spend more money than our current contract
- Action – What did I do? Focus on actions that answer their interview questions.
- Stepped in while the team got stuck arguing to ask questions
- My questions helped inspire creativity to find a solution
- Results – What happened? How did it end? Use numbers (financial, percentage, or analytical data) whenever possible. It adds that extra oomph.
- We reached an agreement
- Union got 90% of their increase and a voice
- Management saved on benefits to cover the raise – no net increase to spend
Last Words of Advice
Part of the typical behavioral interviewing technique is using probing follow-up questions to get more details out of candidates. If you’ve prepared your answers using the STAR Method, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Just be aware they could try to dig into your story a little more. Don’t be surprised. It doesn’t mean you missed something or did anything wrong. If you did, it gives you a second chance to get it right.
For example, after my STAR response, my interviewer could have asked me things like:
- What made you think to start asking them questions?
- How many teams reached an agreement?
- What was your final grade?
Sometimes their questions will be targeted at getting additional details to help them better understand your fit for their role. If your story is interesting, they may also generally be interested in hearing more. Either way, don’t sweat additional probing questions.
Now Go Practice!!
It’s so important to practice telling your stories. Say them out loud even. Repeating them helps you remember all the important pieces to complete your STAR response. It also helps ensure you sound confident telling it.
You want your stories to sound conversational. There’s nothing worse than coming across as if you’re reading an official document.
There you have it. The secret formula to creating the best responses to any behavioral based interview question you’re asked.
Keep practicing. You’ll be ready for that interview in no time!