Behavioral Interview Questions

Updated on January 4, 2024
Article byPriya Choubey
Edited byRashmi Kulkarni
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Are Behavioral Interview Questions?

Behavioral Interview Questions refer to a set of questions put forth to candidates to evaluate their past behavior in specific situations. These questions are designed to assess the skills, abilities, and suitability of a candidate for a job based on the real-life experiences and responses they give during such interviews.

Behavioral Interview Questions

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Employers seek answers to these questions to gauge the way candidates handle challenges, solve problems, manage conflicts, and work with teams. Interviewers want to understand whether a job aspirant responds to a stressful situation positively or negatively. By analyzing a candidate’s past behavior, employers can make informed decisions about their future performance and ascertain if they are a cultural fit for the organization.

Key Takeaways

  • Behavioral interview questions come from interviewers interested in evaluating a candidate’s skills through past experiences. 
  • Through such interview questions, interviewers interpret a candidate’s soft skills and their ability to handle stressful situations. They also ascertain a candidate’s ability to address problems, work with teams, resolve conflicts, and achieve the required goals.
  • The best way to answer behavioral questions is to listen and understand them carefully and then frame responses using the Situation, Task, Action, and Result (STAR) method.
  • A candidate’s goal is to showcase their abilities while demonstrating favorable behavior when facing different challenging or complex situations. Hence, providing specific, concise, and well-structured answers to behavioral questions usually makes a strong impression on the interviewer/s.

Behavioral Interview Questions Explained

Behavioral interview questions are devised to understand how a candidate handled a specific situation in the past. This is because past situations can indicate their abilities, soft skills, and traits. Candidates are expected to provide specific examples from their past experiences.

By asking these real-life questions, employers can gain insights into a candidate’s problem-solving skills, teamwork abilities, communication aptitude, and manner of addressing difficult situations.

Common categories of behavioral interview questions and answers include those focusing on problem-solving, teamwork, leadership, adaptability, conflict resolution, time management, and communication. Interviewers use these questions to understand a candidate’s experiences and behaviors, offering insights into their future performance in a specific role.

These questions are asked in interviews held for various sectors and job roles. They are especially relevant to jobs that require strong interpersonal skills, teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, and adaptability. Some examples of such job roles include customer service representatives, sales and marketing executives, managers, supervisors, human resource executives, project managers, finance executives, advisors, teachers and educators, and healthcare professionals.

While both hard and soft skills can be evaluated in behavioral interviews, the questions typically focus on soft skills because it is challenging to quantify these abilities. The information gathered through such interviews can be used to make sound hiring decisions, ensuring that the right candidate is selected for the job in question.

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How To Answer?

One must adopt a structured approach to answer behavioral interview questions effectively. Some ways to answer these questions include:

  • Comprehend the Question: The most important aspect of answering well is to listen to the question carefully. Interviewers often start behavioral questions with phrases like, “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of…”.
  • Apply STAR Method: The Situation, Task, Action, and Result (STAR) method helps candidates frame clear answers and communicate them well during such interviews. The STAR method has been described below: 
    • S – Situation: The candidate should describe the situation or context. What was the challenge they were facing, or what was the goal in sight?
    • T – Task: Candidates should explain the specific task for which they were responsible.
    • A – Action: They should describe the actions taken to deal with the situation, i.e., what steps did the candidate take, and why?
    • R – Result: At this stage, candidates should explain the outcomes of their actions to the interviewer. They should communicate what happened as a result of these efforts. It is better to mention relevant numbers if possible.
  • Be Specific: One may put forth examples from their previous experiences, which could be from school, college, jobs, volunteering activities, event handling, or any other relevant situation that demonstrates their crisis management and other soft skills.
  • Focus on Soft Skills: Interviewers are mainly interested in gauging a candidate’s soft skills. They wish to understand the qualities a candidate has—attributes relevant to the job for which they are being interviewed. So, if the question is about teamwork, one should emphasize their collaboration skills in specific situations.
  • Be Positive: If the situation was challenging, and the candidate was unable to manage it efficiently, the response should emphasize and elaborate upon the learning and experience gained from such situations.
  • Conclude the Answer: Closure is an essential part of any response. Candidates should conclude the answer well, highlighting their learning and explaining their contribution (use of soft skills) to the task highlighted in the situation being narrated or shared.
  • Prepare and Practice: Chalking down a list of common behavioral questions based on the job description before the interview and preparing answers for these questions boosts a candidate’s confidence and ensures prompt answers during the interview.

Sample Questions

Let us now discuss some sample behavioral interview questions based on the type of soft skills the interviewer is looking for in the candidates:

  1. Adaptability: The ability of an individual to adapt to changes taking place in a particular environment is a crucial consideration for interviewers. For this purpose, they ask questions like – Tell me about a time when you were asked to learn a new system or software?
  2. Teamwork: Interviewers often judge a candidate’s ability to collaborate and work in a team with questions like – Describe your interaction with previous team members and how you managed to work with someone who had a different perspective than yours?
  3. Cultural Fit: This category of questions gauges a candidate’s potential to adjust within a corporate setup and culture. Questions like – Describe the thing that kept you energized, positive, and enthusiastic at your previous workplace? are asked to understand a candidate’s disposition.
  4. Conflict Management: Such questions endeavor to assess an aspirant’s response to stressful situations. For instance, interviewers may ask – Give an example of the time when you were involved in a conflict and how did you handle it?
  5. Time Management: Time equals money; hence, interviewers consider it essential to understand how an individual accomplishes the tasks assigned to them and whether they do it on or before time. For this, interviewers may ask – Describe a situation where the project you were working on was behind schedule, and what did you do to resolve it?
  6. Work Prioritization: Individuals who prioritize and manage their tasks well are valued in an organization. To evaluate this ability, interviewers may ask – Describe a situation where you had to choose between a vacation and a project with a stringent deadline; what did you choose and why?
  7. Leadership: There are times when candidates need to demonstrate leadership skills in the workplace. Interviewers ask behavioral interview questions about leadership, like – Tell us about a time when your actions set an example for your team?
  8. Customer Service: An individual’s interaction with clients and external stakeholders outlines and underscores their commitment to the company. Hence, to understand it, interviewers may ask – Tell us about a time when a client appreciated you for your dedication and support?
  9. Communication: Organizations succeed through effective communication; thus, interviewers may ask a candidate – Give me an example where you persuaded your junior to work extra hours to meet a deadline?
  10. Growth Potential: An employee’s growth results in a company’s progress. Hence, behavioral questions in this context may include questions like – Tell us about a situation when you took charge in your manager’s absence?

Behavioral Interview Questions vs Situational Interview Questions

Both behavioral and situational interview questions and answers are commonly employed in interviews to gain a comprehensive understanding of a candidate’s soft skills, capabilities, and suitability for a particular role. These questions differ in the following manner:

BasisBehavioral Interview QuestionsSituational Interview Questions
DefinitionThese questions prompt candidates to provide specific instances from their previous experiences that demonstrate their particular skills or behaviors in that situation.Situational interview questions involve presenting hypothetical scenarios and asking candidates how they would navigate these situations if they found themselves in one.
PurposeThey take a candidate’s previous conduct and use of soft skills as an indicator of their probable future performance.They evaluate a candidate’s problem-solving abilities, critical thinking, and capacity to apply their knowledge to various work-related circumstances in hypothetical situations.
SituationPast experiences or scenarios are considered.Future scenarios or hypothetical situations are considered. 
Situation Demonstrated ByCandidates explain the situation and provide relevant answers. Interviewers give candidates a hypothetical scenario to consider and seek answers. 
Examples1. Give me an example of a time when you had to make a difficult decision under pressure.

2. Give me an example of a time when you had to overcome a considerable obstacle to achieve a goal.
1. Suppose you are working on a project. Your team is struggling to meet deadlines. What steps would you take to improve the team’s performance?

2. If a project you are working on is going over budget. What would you do to bring the project back on track?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What are the most difficult behavioral interview questions?

The trickiest behavioral interview questions are the ones that discuss a candidate’s failure in a specific situation. It includes questions like:
– Give an example of a situation where you took a decision, and it did not pay off;
– Tell us about a time when you undertook a task that was not part of your job but could not complete it.

2. What not to say in behavioral interview questions?

Some of the don’ts candidates should follow while answering such questions are:
– Do not mention weakness or failure alone; accompany it with learning,
– Do not speak badly about a previous job, employer, or company,
– Do not stay blank or silent when asked a question, and
– Do not underestimate experiences or knowledge.

3. Is “What is your biggest failure” a behavioral interview question?

Yes, it is. When asked about failures, candidates should not be afraid to explain what went wrong. Also, they should emphasize the efforts they made to handle the situation, although in vain, and what they learned from this experience. Talking about how candidates changed their approach later is also recommended while answering such questions.

4. What is a good response length for behavioral interview questions?

The answer to such questions should ideally not be stretched beyond one to two minutes.

This article has been a guide to what are Behavioral Interview Questions. We explain sample questions, how to answer them, and comparison with situational interview. You may also find some useful articles here –

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