Behavioral Interview Questions: Tips, Examples, and Answers

By Talentwolf

Many of us have heard stories from elderly people about how easy it was to get a job when they were young. They walked into a business with a smile, confidence, and a firm handshake, and walked back out with a job.

That isn't the case anymore.

Today's candidates can expect to go through an online screening process, phone interview, and at least one behavioral interview to get hired.

"What even is a behavioral interview," you may ask, "and how on earth should I prepare for one?"

If you're looking for behavioral interview tips, you aren't alone. The average job interview lasts 40 minutes, and many job seekers have no idea how to prep for almost an hour of unknown questions.

The fact that you're doing your research ahead of time gives you a leg up over other candidates—being unprepared is one of the most common mistakes that keep people from getting hired. To start you off on the right foot, here's a thorough list of behavioral interview questions and answers along with some tips and tricks that can help you land the job.

What Is a Behavioral Interview?

After you've made it through the first few hiring checkpoints, a recruiter will schedule a face-to-face meeting to find out if you're a good fit for the position. In this behavioral interview, they'll ask questions that tell them how you tend to behave in different work-related situations. Not only are they evaluating your competency, but they're also identifying whether you'll fit in with the company's culture.

In today's digitally-driven world, getting a behavioral interview doesn't guarantee in-person interaction. If you're applying for a remote or telecommuting position, you might end up doing a video call or phone conference instead. Don't panic—all the following tips will still apply.

Common Behavioral Interview Questions to Expect

There's no way to anticipate exactly what a recruiter will ask you. Even so, behavioral interviews tend to follow a few basic patterns. Have some answers to the following questions ready to go so you don't have to think of examples under pressure.

Tell Me About Your Teamwork and Communication Skills

Working well with others is vital no matter what position you apply for. A recruiter may have you describe a time you worked with someone who is different from you or how you handled conflict between colleagues. Choose an example that highlights your ability to communicate and collaborate.

This question may also tie into customer relations. Think of times you helped a customer navigate a difficult problem, dealt with a complaint, or were recognized for your customer service.

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How Are You With Time Management?

Your recruiter may inquire about a project you worked on with a tight schedule, ask about a time you had to multitask or have you explain what you did after missing a deadline. If time management is difficult for you, be honest about it, but make sure to also include the steps you take to stay on top of things.

What Motivates You to Succeed?

When they ask this question, recruiters are trying to figure out if your values are compatible with the company's own. They may ask about a time you took initiative, how you cope with dissatisfaction, why you left your last job, or what your definition of success is. Read up on the company's mission to find common ground in your values, and highlight key ideas that are important to both of you.

How Are Your Problem-Solving Skills?

Recruiters love to find candidates that are flexible and can adapt to dynamic circumstances. They may inquire about past times you creatively solved a problem, navigated major company changes, or dealt with failing at a task.

Behavioral Interview Tips and Tricks

Now that you know a bit more about the most common questions and how to answer them, let's take a quick look at some general tips to keep in mind. These can help you sail through your interview even when the recruiter throws you a curveball.

How Long Should You Spend Answering Interview Questions?

When you answer behavioral interview questions, it's easy to ramble on for minutes. You may feel like you're providing important details when you're actually causing the recruiter to lose focus, which can hurt your chances of getting the job.

The key is to strike a balance between saying too little and too much. Try to be brief when answering behavioral questions. Be sure to cover the most important aspects, but leave room for your interviewer to ask deeper questions if they're interested or move on if they aren't.

Be Honest, but Positive

Experienced recruiters can spot a coverup from a mile away. When you're answering tough questions that may put you in a negative light, it's tempting to lie or omit the truth.

Resist the urge and instead make sure you answer honestly, but remain tactful. You can always put a positive spin on your answer by mentioning how you've learned and grown from this experience. You may even want to mention how you would approach the situation differently now.

Be careful not to be too forward, though. Don't give away any confidential information from your last employer, as this can make you appear untrustworthy.

Answer Questions Like a STAR

Help! The interviewer just asked a question that wasn't on the list, and you don't have an answer prepared! How do you maintain your composure and avoid rambling?

In situations like these, follow the STAR method:

  • Situation: describe the setting and give any necessary details
  • Task: describe your responsibility or the conflict at hand
  • Action: describe how you handled the task
  • Result: describe the consequences of your action and how it affected your colleagues and the company

Once you've covered all four points, stop talking and leave it up to your interviewer to probe deeper or move on.

Mistakes to Avoid

Practicing your answers to the above questions and following the tips and tricks will give you a huge advantage in your interview, but there's still room for things to go wrong. If you want to make a great first impression, here are a few common mistakes you should make sure to avoid.

Ignoring the Basics

When you're prepping for a behavioral interview, it's easy to forget that not all questions will fall into that category. Hiring managers and recruiters also want to know that you've done your research. They may ask you what you already know about the company's culture and mission, what stood out to you in the job description, or why you want to work for them over their competitors.

One great way to prepare for these questions is to carefully read through the company's about page, social media, news feed, and blog. This will give you a better idea of the company's values and clue you into any charitable contributions or marketing initiatives they've been involved in recently.

Not Asking Questions of Your Own

"Wait a minute," you're thinking, "isn't the interviewer supposed to be the one asking the questions?"

Yes, for the most part. Once you reach the end of the interview, though, they'll almost always ask if you have questions of your own. Don't assume this means the interview is over—they aren't just asking to be polite.

Many recruiters use the questions you ask to evaluate how well you paid attention and how invested you are in the potential job opportunity. To make sure you don't freeze up, it can help to jot down a couple of questions ahead of time and bring them in on a small notepad. You can also use this notepad to make note of things that come up during the interview.

Try inquiring about the team you'll be working with, their conflict resolution philosophy, or the company's goals for future growth. You can pepper in your burning logistical questions, but make sure the conversation feels balanced. If you feel like the interviewer glossed over an important contribution you'd make to the team, ask a question that highlights it.

Forgetting About Body Language

Your mouth isn't the only thing that's talking when you sit in front of someone for an interview. Recruiters also pay close attention to your body language and non-verbal communication skills.

Everything from the firmness of your handshake to how much you play with your hair can influence a hiring decision. Pay attention to your posture, try not to fidget, and make an appropriate amount of eye contact during the conversation. If your body tells the interviewer that you're relaxed, confident, and interested, they're more likely to consider you a competent future employee.

Master the Art of Interviewing and Land Your Dream Job

Along with following these behavioral interview tips, the best way to improve your skills (and chances of getting hired) is to practice. Grab a friend or family member with professional experience—bonus points if they're involved in hiring—and ask them to run you through a few mock interviews. Over time your technique will improve and you'll find that you're able to answer even the toughest behavioral interview questions on the fly.

After you've had some practice, it's time for the real thing. Rather than tossing your resume into the void of the internet and hoping for the best, increase your chances of getting an interview by connecting with a recruiter. They'll take a look at your qualifications and preferences to match you with companies that could be a great fit.

Don't wait any longer to take the first step toward your dream job. Sign up for Talentwolf today to get matched with recruiters from hundreds of industries all over the world.