Top Ten Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers

Kellie Hanna by Kellie Hanna, Career Advice Expert Last Updated: October 03, 2022Rated 4.2/5 Stars

Whew! You’ve made it to the interview portion of your job application process — Congratulations!

Interviews can be nerve-wracking, but they don’t have to be. With some preparation and practice, you can ace a behavioral interview and get the job you’re after.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to prepare for some of the trickier behavioral interview questions hiring managers might ask,  provide expert example answers to some of the most common behavioral questions, and offer tips for getting through the interview with poise.

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What is a behavioral interview?

First, let’s take a look at the difference between a behavioral interview and other common types of interviews.

There are four basic types of interview questions:

  • Closed-ended — These questions seek specific details, like “Why did you leave X Company?”
  • Open-ended — These questions dig a little bit deeper than closed-ended questions and reveal your communication style and skill set. For example, “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?”
  • Situational — Situational questions focus on hypothetical future events and how you might handle them, such as “What would you do if you caught a colleague stealing from the company?”
  • Behavioral — Behavioral interview questions look at possible real work or school events from your past and how you responded to them.

Generally speaking, employers ask behavioral questions for the same reason they ask other interview questions: to get a sense of your abilities to perform the job requirements. However, interview behavioral questions differ from other interview questions because they show hiring managers who you are and how you perform through various challenges. Behavioral-based interview questions aim to know how you think, solve problems, and gauge whether or not you are a good fit for the team and company.

Common Behavioral interview questions by theme

5 behavioral questions about teamwork

5 questions about time management

5 behavioral interview questions about communication

5 questions about client-facing skills

5 questions about adaptability

5 behavioral-based questions about problem-solving

5 questions about motivation

5 questions about conflict resolution

5 behavioral interview questions about leadership

  • Describe a project you’ve undertaken that demanded a lot of initiative.
  • Describe a time in which you took the initiative. 
  • Have you ever had to discipline or counsel an employee?
  • Describe the characteristics of a successful manager.
  • Provide me an example of when your leadership skills failed you.

Top ten behavioral questions with answers

Let’s explore some of the most common behavioral-based interview questions and possible answers for them.

Behavioral question: Describe a time in which your colleagues disagreed with you.

Tip: When employers ask this question, they are often looking for how you resolve conflict and to test your communication, teamwork and persuasion skills. An excellent way to respond to this challenging question is by telling a story about a time you were able to avoid conflict and turn the situation into a collaborative effort.

Example answer: A few team members, including myself, were tasked with establishing a new sales procedure to improve efficiency while prioritizing customer satisfaction. I was mostly concerned with meeting all of the customers’ needs, but a coworker was concerned that I was not following our instructions by neglecting efficiency. At first, it seemed like we were in conflict, but I was able to get him to realize that we were each concerned with two halves of the solution, and by combining our two contributions, we’d be able to succeed. We focused on the areas we excelled in and found a way to fit them together, creating a procedure still in use with the company and improving efficiency by nearly 15%.

Behavioral question: Tell me about a time when you were under a heavy workload. How did you handle it?

Tip: This behavioral interview question presents an opportunity to display your ability to manage your time, ask for help and work efficiently under pressure. When preparing your answer to this question, be very specific about exactly what you did to manage your workload and why it was effective.

Example answer: One of my coworkers was about to go on maternity leave, which meant a heavy workload for me, as I was expected to do some of my current work. I asked my coworker to outline the projects she was working on, including information such as key contact people. I shadowed her for one day to ensure that I understood everything I needed to do, and before she left, we met with our supervisor to review her tasks, company expectations and other details. I organized my days by spending 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on my coworker’s job, with the remainder of the day devoted to tasks from my current job. Keeping them separated allowed for much more efficiency. When my coworker returned to work, all of the company’s clients expressed satisfaction with my work and all said that quality levels had stayed constant.

Behavioral question: Describe a time when you had to make a last-minute decision.

Tip: Interviewers usually ask this question to see how well you can think on your feet. We’ve all had to make work decisions on the fly, so it’s likely you have more than one in your arsenal. Pick one that highlights a win and how your decision helped the company.

Example answer: I had a hard deadline to submit a grant application on behalf of my boss, who was out of town on a Monday at noon. We had worked all weekend making sure every piece of the application was in place, but somehow we had both overlooked a key component. My boss was flying and would thus be unable to communicate until after the application was due, but the information required was something that only he was familiar with. However, by comparing previous applications and verifying the details with the department’s business office, I was able to put together the relevant information and made the decision to apply before the deadline. It was accepted, and we won the grant.

Question:  What have you accomplished that demonstrates your willingness to work?

Tip: Here, interviewers are looking for how much effort you’re willing to put in to achieve something and your thought process for getting there. Details are vital when answering this question.

Example answer: I used to think that having a minor role in a project didn’t really make a difference, but over time I’ve come to see that the smaller lifts are the ones that can make the biggest impact. I recall a site migration in which I had to keep track of URLs that needed to be redirected. Using Excel, I created a pivot table and used a color-coded system to keep track of over 300 URLs, slowly adding more of them as the site migration progressed. It was hard work but I successfully logged and submitted the URLs on time.

Behavioral question: What’s the toughest challenge you’ve had, and how did you handle it?

Tip: Employers ask this behavioral interview question across industries and job levels because they want to know what you’re made of. You don’t have to dig too deep for the worst work experience you’ve ever had. Think of a problematic situation you faced that you successfully overcame with your problem-solving abilities.

Example answer: When I became a graduate student, one of my biggest challenges was learning a new language to pass an entrance exam that the department required. With only two months to prepare myself, I devoted myself to a crash course in the language through various methods, including virtual classes and self-study. This was a bit overwhelming at times, but I used my organization and time management skills to ensure I was “on schedule” in learning what I needed. I also took advantage of meet-up groups to practice my language skills with others. I ultimately reached the competency level I needed to pass the exam.

Behavioral question: Describe when you came up with an innovative solution to a problem.

Tip: When answering this question, you want to show your creativity, ability to solve problems, and to stand out from the crowd, your collaborative side.

Example answer: My company had to increase production output because of higher customer demand at my previous job. I was in charge of a work group that needed to identify how to immediately increase production without having to hire additional employees. Because of the need, I called a meeting with the work group, and we brainstormed solutions. Many in the group thought that the only solution would be to hire additional employees to meet the demand, but I knew that the company did not want to hire employees that we would have to let go subsequently. I shared my idea to create additional after-hour shifts that would allow workers to get overtime. We could provide a free dinner so workers could easily continue working without significant disruption. The overtime and the free meal would increase employee morale and help us meet the increased production demands. I shared this idea with management and they implemented it immediately. We could keep up with demand, and these shifts became a solution the company could return to any time there was a need for increased production.

Behavioral question: How have you motivated others?

Tip: This behavioral-based question is meant to assess your ability to lead, persuade and work with others, as well as your sense of empathy and ability to communicate effectively. Think of a time you’ve led a team, presented at a meeting or conference, taught a class, or sold a product.

Example answer: When motivating others, I try to mix up my approach depending on their personal strengths and capabilities. For example, at my last job, we had a team member that was never fully invested in the project. In order to motivate him, I made a conscious effort to stop by his desk every morning. I complimented him on the things he had done on the project and pointed out the skills I noticed he had that were essential to what we were working on. Over a period of two weeks, he started voicing his opinion and giving us original, creative ideas during every staff meeting. He felt valued and like he had something to offer, and he was no longer afraid to show it because he knew others felt the same way.

Behavioral question: How do you establish priorities while scheduling your work?

Tip: Potential employers ask this question because they want to know how well you manage your time. When preparing your answer, describe your usual process for prioritizing work and be specific. If you use time management or project management software, then provide the name of the program. End with an explanation of how your process enables you to succeed at work.

Example answer: I always utilize a calendar to keep track of what I have going on. Whenever I need to plan an event, I refer to my calendar to make sure that I am not double-scheduling. When I worked my last job, I always made sure to look two weeks ahead on my calendar before scheduling shifts so that, most of the time, I never had to ask someone to cover for me since I had already set my schedule accordingly. I think it’s important to have things planned out ahead of time in order to be able to give my all to each task.

Behavioral question: Describe a time when you had to defuse an angry client (or coworker/colleague). 

Tip: Interviewers often ask this question to see how well you can turn sticky situations into positive ones. It tests your listening and verbal communication skills, ability to stay cool under pressure and your professionalism. Have a good success story ready to respond to this question and be clear about what you did to turn the situation around.

Example answer: As a store manager, I’ve had to handle angry clients a few times. In one instance, a client came into the store and demanded that his bill be resolved. Unfortunately, his issue could not be addressed by the store agents and had to be handled by the billing department, which was located out of state. I expressed this fact to the client and informed him that I could connect him directly over the phone. At first, the client was upset and did not want to speak with the agent over the phone. I listened to his issue carefully and could help pinpoint the problem, but I had to reiterate that it would be best handled directly with the billing department. I assured him that if he spoke with the right representative, he would have a limited wait time and would be able to get his issue addressed. He agreed and was able to get his problem resolved quickly.

Behavioral question:  Give an example of how you’ve adapted to different people and environments.

Tip: This behavioral interview question tests your flexibility and ability to go with the flow. It’s often asked during job interviews for fast-paced work or for environments that change frequently. Frame your answer to highlight your ability to take on multiple responsibilities while adapting quickly and maintaining a professional attitude. Emphasize successful outcomes with measurable achievements that result from your adaptability.

Example answer: I spent a week abroad to help build houses in college. It was a unique experience, and I learned to adapt to a new culture. By learning some essentials of the language, I was able to communicate at a basic level with the local people so we could work together more easily. We were initially only supposed to build 20 houses and ended up constructing over 30.

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How to prepare for behavioral interviews

Anyone can answer behavioral questions confidently — even job seekers who are just starting their career or don’t have much work experience — by using the time-proven STAR method when preparing for their interview.

Here’s how to use the STAR method: to prepare for your behavioral interview:

  1. Describe the situation, such as when you had to compromise with a manager, coworker, colleague or classmate or meet a tight deadline.
  2. Name the task you had to complete during the situation. For example, perhaps you had to research an event space for a company.
  3. Explain the action or actions you took to complete the task or overcome the challenge you faced in the situation. For example, maybe you delegated duties to get something done.
  4. End your story by revealing the result of your actions while emphasizing your achievements, like getting a promotion.

Behavioral Interviewing Tips:

  1. Tell your behavioral interview answers like a short story with a beginning, middle and end, and stick to the point.
  2. Be wary of rambling. It can be easy to talk too much when you’re nervous and you feel like you’re on the spot. Stay focused and keep each answer to about one-minute long
  3. Be honest. Don’t create imaginary anecdotes because you don’t think you have  real-world examples to refer to. It’s acceptable to answer with situations from school or volunteer work, for example, if you are interviewing for your first professional job.
  4. Review the job description closely and take note of the requirements when preparing to answer behavioral questions for an interview. It’s impossible to know which questions interviewers will ask, so the best way to prepare is to know what the employer is looking for and touch on those key points when answering.
  5. Highlight your achievements at the end of each answer to behavioral-based interview questions, just like you would when writing your resume and writing your cover letter.
  6. Be specific when formulating your answers to behavioral questions. Provide enough details, so the interviewer knows what you have done and how you did it. Describe what you achieved after the situation and what you learned in the process.

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Behavioral interview questions FAQ

What is a behavioral interview?

Behavioral interviewing is a method employers use to assess your past behavior in order to predict how you might behave in a hypothetical future situation. Answering behavioral questions can feel daunting, but a little thought and preparation using the STAR method will help you answer them confidently.

How do you answer behavioral questions when you don’t have work experience?

When you don’t have professional work experience, draw on your skills, school experience, volunteer or community work, or personal projects to answer a behavioral interview question.

What’s the best way to prepare for a behavioral interview?

Follow these steps to get ready for interview behavioral questions:

  1. Study the job description for requirements matching your skills and experience.
  2. Recount your work, school and community experience, and review major achievements.
  3. Write up stories about your experiences, framing them around the STAR method.
  4. Practice your responses with a trusted friend or family member and ask them to review your answers.

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