You’ve prepped endlessly for that upcoming interview.
You memorized all of the most common job interview questions (and came up with your answers).
...But you’re not just there yet.
You still need to prepare for the behavioral interview questions.
And in this guide, we’re going to teach you how!
- What are the behavioral interview questions and how are they different from the usual questions?
- How to answer ANY behavioral interview question with the STAR method
- 21+ most common behavioral interview questions (and how to answer them)
What’s a Behavioral Interview Question?
Behavioral interview questions are questions based on how you acted in a specific situation.
They’re meant to gauge how you react to stress, what’s your skill-level, and how you conduct yourself in a professional environment.
They also allow the interviewer to get a much better understanding of you as a candidate.
Just about anyone can answer a question like “what’s your greatest strength?”
Not everyone, however, can answer a question like:
“Can you tell us of a time when you went above and beyond the line of duty?”
After all, to answer such a behavioral interview question, you really need to have some serious work experience and achievements.
Here are a few other popular examples of behavioral job interview questions:
- Give us an example of a goal you failed to meet, and how you handled the situation.
- Tell us about a time when you solved a problem at your job that wasn’t part of your job description.
- Tell us of a time when you took a risky decision and it didn’t pay off.
Pretty simple, right?
Now, we’re going to teach you a proven method on how to answer every single behavioral interview question successfully.
How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions With the STAR Method
The easiest way to answer behavioral interview questions is to follow the STAR method.
According to the STAR method, each interview answer should use the following structure:
- S for Situation. Describe the situation where everything happened.
- T for Task. Describe the task you had to complete in order to solve the problem/issue at hand.
- A for Action. Explain what actions you took to complete the aforementioned task.
- R for Results. Talk about the results of your actions and try to be as detailed as possible. How did your actions lead to the company or organization to function better?
Now, here’s what a good answer looks like according to the STAR method:
Q: Give us an example of how you handled a challenge in the workplace.
Situation: Around the time I started working at Company X, the team I was working with was just finishing up on a very important project on a tight deadline. They had to review everything before submitting the work to the client, and my manager didn’t have a lot of time to pay attention to me to make sure I was caught up to speed.
Task: Everyone around me was constantly working, and because of the timing, they didn’t seem very approachable. So, to make sure I didn’t get left behind, I had to prove myself and take initiative.
Action: My plan was simple. I wanted to talk to my manager and a few of my colleagues whenever they had time (e.g. over lunch, getting coffee together). Then, I would try to get to know them in a different environment and also learn about the company better too. In the meanwhile, I would always go over my onboarding material and resources to get better at my job.
Results: In the end, I’m glad to say everything worked out and I actually made a few good friends too. By the time my manager came around to review my work and talk about the next steps - I already knew most of it and the company’s main clients in detail. And I also knew my colleagues who I’d be working with too. If anything, he was a bit surprised, but ultimately, happy I didn’t fall behind. This saved him a lot of time, something he was very grateful for.
Simple enough, right?
Now, to make sure that you’re 100% ready for any behavioral interview question the recruiter can throw at you, we’re going to cover 21 of the most common questions out there.
21 Common Behavioral Interview Questions (+Sample Answers)
In this section, we’ll cover all the common behavioral interview questions split by category:
- Questions about time management
- Questions about communication skills
- Questions about teamwork
- Questions about working with clients
- Questions about adaptability
- Questions about leadership
Behavioral job interview questions about time management
Question #1 - How do you accomplish tasks when under a tight deadline? Give me an example.
Situation: Well, typically, I try to never commit to a deadline I don’t think I can make. But sometimes, unexpected things happen and you’re forced to think on your feet. For example, at my last job, my coworker had to take some time off work because of an emergency, and his project was left without a manager.
Task: My supervisor then instructed me to take over his project and complete what work was left. Suddenly, I had a new project on my hands, and I wasn’t really sure how to handle it, as the deadline was in 1 week.
Action: First, I requested a reduction on my own daily sales goals - which I was granted. This way, I could pay more attention to the project, and only a few hours per day to my original tasks. Once I had a consistent schedule and hours set for each of my tasks, it was mostly easy from there.
Results: Thanks to my teammates and my good time management skills, I managed to finish up 2 days early before the deadline. And once my coworker came back to work, I was able to review the whole thing with him before submitting it. For what it’s worth, he was thoroughly impressed. And a few months later, I even got promoted based on my performance.
Question #2 - Describe a long-term project you managed. How did you make sure everything was running smoothly?
Situation: When I was at Company X, I was managing the web development team in charge of setting up a new website for one of our biggest clients at the time. With most projects, we had a process set up and we would get most sites done in up to 2 months. This project, however, was a bit different, as the website was supposed to be more detailed, with a lot of unique pages. So, we had to be a lot more careful with our time-management.
Task: We had a strict deadline of 15 weeks, and I had to make sure that we used up our time as efficiently as possible.
Action: Before getting to actual work, I decided that we should plan everything out by the week. After some research and consulting with our team of developers, we decided to split the workload between different stages. We would devote around 1 week to the discovery phase, 5 weeks to design, 3 weeks to initial development and the rest to any modifications and updates.
Results: In the end, we actually finished the website with all the promised functionalities in just under 3 months. The client was very satisfied with the result and eventually ended up recommending partners to our firm.
Question #3 - Sometimes, it’s almost impossible to get everything done on your to-do list. What do you do when your list of responsibilities becomes overwhelming?
Situation: As a senior at University X, there were times when I just couldn’t physically get everything done on time. For example, towards the end of my final semester, I was the Student Council President and I was also writing my University thesis. I had to submit my thesis the next day, and I was also working with my fellow student council members to organize the end-of-the-year ceremony for the University.
Task: If I had tried to multitask both, I would just have done a poor job. Now, for me, the University thesis was clearly higher up in my list of priorities. After all, this was what my studies were building up to for so long. But I couldn’t just abandon my council members either. With 24 hours until my thesis deadline, I had to think fast.
Action: I decided that the best approach was to send all of my notes and outlines for the event to the Student Council VP, who was also a close friend of mine. Luckily, he understood my situation and took over my event-management responsibilities. Then, I had just enough time to edit and finalize my paper.
Results: Thanks to the VP, I was able to fix and finalize my Thesis. And fortunately, the event went without a hitch too. In the end, I learned a valuable lesson on time-management, and the importance of having the right team around you who you can rely on.
Question #4 - Tell me about a time you set a personal goal for yourself. How did you ensure you would meet your objectives and what steps did you take?
Situation: I think the most recent, and important, personal goal that comes to mind is that I managed to teach myself web development from scratch. You see, I wasn’t very satisfied as a sales rep at Company X. My coworkers were nice, and the pay was decent too, but I just didn’t see myself growing there.
Task: So, I decided that I wanted a career change in a field I’ve always been interested in - web development. Now, because I was working full-time, I had to be very efficient with my time-management skills.
Results: In the end, I’m glad I stuck to my plan and continued with my set curriculum. If I did not have my calendar planned out with specific objectives, I surely would have been overwhelmed. Sure, at times, it felt like I was basically working 2 jobs and that a lot of the material wasn’t making sense. But I just kept moving forward, and then, I got my first real break as a junior web dev at Company Y.
Question #5 - Can you describe an instance where your supervisor or manager just gave you too much work with not enough time? What did you do?
Situation: I had a pretty rocky start with my manager at Agency X, as we had different expectations for my workload. Normally, I don’t have a problem with a fast-paced working environment, and I tend to thrive when I’m thinking on my feet. But at the agency, I had just finished onboarding, and I was already bombarded with tasks and weekly reports. For the most part, I was managing to get everything done on time, but I realized the quality would suffer if my list of tasks kept getting longer.
Task: So, I had to take up my work schedule issue with my manager and let him know about my concern. I decided that being direct, and also respectful was the best approach, and booked the meeting.
Action: During the meeting, I remained calm, and just went straight to the point. I explained how I liked my work, but the heavy workload was really impacting the quality of the work.
Results: Luckily, he was understanding. I was the first in-house designer they’d hired, and they weren’t 100% sure what was a lot of work, and what wasn’t. We ended up working together to better define my responsibilities. From then on, I was, for the most part, only getting the workload I could handle without diminishing the quality of my work.
Behavioral job interview questions about communication skills
Question #1 - How do you handle a disagreement with your colleagues? Give me an example of when you successfully persuaded someone to see things your way at work.
Situation: When I was working as a recruiter at Company X, I noticed that one of the candidates who had sent in their application was perfect for the role. Though he didn’t have a university diploma and his resume wasn’t too polished, reading his cover letter, it was obvious he knew the industry and had delivered clear results.
Task: I thought it was worth giving him a shot, but my supervisor didn’t see it that way. She skimmed through the resume and told me not to waste time, and just discard the candidate.
Action: I was, however, still pretty confident in the candidate, so I talked to the supervisor over lunch. I took a bit of an indirect approach, though. Instead of trying to directly pitch the candidate, I asked her to clarify the job description a bit more. We went a bit in-depth on what, exactly, we were looking for in the candidate, and once we were done discussing it, I told her that we happened to have a candidate that possessed all the relevant experience, but his resume was a bit weak.
Results: Convinced, the supervisor decided to give the candidate’s application a more in-depth look and realized that they were, in fact, very qualified. She thanked me for bringing it up and agreed with me that the candidate was worth calling in for an interview.
Question #2 - What would you do if you misunderstood an important task on the job? Give me an example.
Situation: At my previous internship at Company X, I underestimated the amount of time it would take me to finish a presentation for a team meeting. The deadline my boss gave me was around a week, which was completely fair and I didn’t think it would be a problem. However, apparently, we had some miscommunication with what he’d meant with the deadline. I thought it was the date where we would go through the presentation, edit it together, and submit it like that. Apparently what he’d meant, though, was to have the presentation 100% ready on that date.
Task: So, I had to submit a draft presentation first, edit it based on my manager’s comments, and then present the report, all within 2 days.
Action: I booked a meeting with the manager for the following day, and spent 4 extra hours at the office to make sure that the first draft of the presentation was spotless. We held the meeting the next day, and went through the presentation together to make sure it’s spotless.
Results: The manager loved the work, and it only took us around 30 minutes to finalize the whole thing.
Question #3 - Have you ever had to work under someone who wasn’t very good at communicating? What happened?
Situation: Yes, at my last job as a tech recruiter the hiring manager I was working directly with was somewhat more difficult to communicate with. He had very strict and precise requirements on the type of candidates he wanted to invite for interviews. He wasn’t open to much communication on the matter or trying new things even when the company desperately needed new hires. This one time, I got a candidate that was a pretty good fit for the job, but was lacking in some aspects.
Task: I wanted to make sure that we got the person in for an interview, but I was 100% sure that my hiring manager would shut me down.
Action: So, before running the candidate through him, I called them and collected his biggest strengths to present to the hiring manager.
Results: The hiring manager did, indeed, end up liking the candidate and calling them in for an interview.
Question #4 - Tell me about a time when you successfully explained a technical problem to a colleague or a customer who didn’t have a tech background?
Situation: I’ve worked as a tech support specialist before, so I really excel at this. I’ve had to explain complex concepts to customers on a regular basis, but to give you one single example, I’ve had to explain to clients with next to no understanding of computers how to delete a virus on their computer.
Task: After trying to give basic instructions to the client, they still didn’t really understand much, so I had to come up with a smarter solution.
Action: So what I did was, I walked them through the entire thing step by step while explaining it simply but in no condescending terms. Instead of making them do most of the work, I walked them through the process of getting me to connect with their computer, and then I explained to them what, exactly, I did.
Results: The customer was very happy with my work, and we managed to fix the issue with their computer.
Question #5 - Can you tell me about a time you gave a presentation that was particularly successful? Why do you think it went well?
Situation: Sure thing. As the business development manager at Firm X, there were quite a few opportunities when I had to speak in front of a crowd. The most recent, and successful, one was for the new project we were launching.
Task: I was called on to speak for a 2 department-wide meeting, of up to 50 people. Now, I had never delivered a presentation to this many people, but luckily, I knew most of them quite well after years of working with them.
Action: Working with 2 other members of my team, I decided to take a more creative approach, and create a short video (a skit) to hook the audience. That was the intro, and then we used PowerPoint and hands-on examples to show what to expect from the new project launch. And finally, we dedicated the last 5 minutes to a Q&A session.
Results: It felt longer, but the whole speech took about 15 minutes in total. We got great feedback from the audience, and I was later asked to present at the all-hands meeting the next month. I knew my colleagues well enough and I tried to make the speech as if I was having a one-on-one conversation with a friend - with a few jokes in-between.
Behavioral job interview questions about teamwork
Question #1 - Tell me about a time when you had to work with someone completely different from you. How did you adapt to collaborate better?
Situation: Sure, I always enjoy working with new and different people. Usually, because they bring something new to the table. At Company X, there was a particularly young developer who was assigned to work with me on a new software development project, and I was to run him through what our typical coding process was like.
Task: It was also my job to get to know him, and find common ground so that we could effectively work together. The fact that he was younger wasn’t an issue for me, but because he was completely self-taught, he didn’t know a lot about the industry methodologies we used.
Action: Teaching him everything from scratch would take too much time. So, instead, I briefly explained the development process (waterfall model) we were using for that specific project, and taught him how to write tests for our code-base. Writing tests is the number 1 way to learn what code does. After all, that’s how I got started with development.
Results: I also sat down and helped him go through the material at times, but in the end, he surprised me by how much of a fast-learner he was. He just needed a bit of encouragement and guidance. Through this approach, he learned our whole routine in less than a week, while most of our new hires needed at least up to 2 weeks. In return, I learned a lot about multitasking and time-management from him. The whole thing was a win-win situation, and it was all smooth sailing the next time we worked together (which was quite often).
Question #2 - What do you do when your team member refuses to, or just can’t complete their part of the work? Give me an example.
Situation: There was one co-worker at Company X who was notorious for being bad at deadlines. But she would always end up delivering exceptional work, just a few hours (or worse - days) late. For some reason, the company was ok with this as her work was just too good. So, this one time, the management put us together to work on a time-sensitive project.
Task: Our task was to turn in a sales presentation together and have our manager go over it before sending the client the final version. Because of how important the project was, I didn’t want to risk going over the deadline - as this would also directly impact other people. Either way, for everyone’s sake, I had to somehow get her to hurry up with the project. So, I decided to try and push her a little and see what would happen.
Action: I started regularly checking in on her to see where she was with work. I would bring it up at times over lunch, send a quick Slack message, and so on. She wasn’t taking this quite well, but it DID get her to work faster and more efficiently.
Results: At the end, the constant check-ins and pushing did have a positive effect, even though the co-worker didn’t particularly like me too much once we were finished with the work. We even managed to submit the final version of the presentation 2 days before the deadline.
Behavioral job interview questions about working with clients
Question #1 - Clients can be difficult to work with sometimes. Can you describe a situation when a client was wrong and you had to correct them?
Situation: Absolutely. One of our past clients at Agency X came to us because his Facebook advertising strategy wasn’t working. He was driving traffic but wasn’t getting any conversions, so they thought that it was because they weren’t reaching the right audience. We realized, though, that it was actually because their product homepage wasn’t really that convincing. The client, however, was adamant about “not fixing what wasn’t broken.”
Task: I had to somehow communicate with the client that the service he wanted wasn’t what he wanted - there was no way for us to fix his Facebook ads if his homepage wasn’t selling the product.
Action: We had to give the client an ultimatum - they either go with our approach, or we wouldn’t be able to get the results (and hence, work with them).
Results: After some back and forth, the client grudgingly agreed to do an A/B test between the existing landing page, and one that we’d propose. So, we tested the two landing pages with the same ads he’d been running, and ended up getting 2.5x better results. From then on, the client was a lot more willing to allow us to experiment with whatever we proposed.
Question #2 - How do you handle irate customers? Give me an example.
Situation: Working in customer support, you really get to talk with many different kinds of people. I remember I had one angry customer that called the helpdesk once to complain. He kept repeating the product he bought was faulty and demanded me to resolve the situation then and there.
Task: Customers calling for refunds happen all the time, but this one was different as he just kept shouting over the phone the whole time. I had to get him to calm down if I wanted the call to go anywhere.
Action: Fortunately, I had experience dealing with loud customers, and knew the first thing I had to do was listen to his story. Halfway through telling his story, he calmed down once he realized I was trying to help. He explained that the product was supposed to be a gift, and that’s why he was so frustrated. Then, I offered 2 solutions: a refund or a replacement for his product with express delivery.
Results: The customer opted for the replacement option. I called him back once they received the order just to check-in if he was happy with the product. He turned out to be happy both with the product and our service, and thanked me for the help.
Question #3 - We all make mistakes sometimes we wish we could take back. Is there a time that comes to mind where you wish you had handled a situation with a client or colleague differently?
Situation: This one client we worked with was particularly difficult. They were extremely unpleasant to work with and treated our staff pretty badly. The management, however, insisted on sticking with them, since they made up for a good chunk of our income. At one point, though, the client just barged into our office and started yelling at their account manager for a small mistake on their end.
Task: At this point, I realized that working with the client was really affecting our staff negatively, and we’d be losing some good employees if we kept working with them.
Action: So, I set up a meeting with the management team, and gave them concrete facts and figures about the client. Sure, they were paying us good money, but they were really hurting the workplace morale.
Results: After hearing me out, the management agreed and fired the client. They decided that overall, the impact such clients had on the company wasn’t worth it, and started doing stricter vetting during discovery calls.
Behavioral job interview questions about adaptability
Question #1 - Tell me about your first job in the industry. What did you do to learn the ropes?
Situation: Well, my first job in the field was as a junior dev ops engineer. While I did have extensive knowledge of the field, I didn’t have too much experience doing it.
Task: This made it very hard for me to get started with the job. While I was working almost all the time, I wasn’t getting too much done.
Action: So, what I did was, taking a lot of my personal time to really work and learn the ins and outs of dev ops. I also made sure to talk to my team members and get their input on daily tasks.
Results: A few months into the job, I managed to learn the ropes and ended up being a lot more productive.
Question #2 - Can you give me an example of when you had to adapt to a new and sudden change in the workplace? What happened?
Situation: Sure thing. In my previous position as an account manager at Company X, we had to suddenly change all of our CRM software and move all the data to a new tool. The CRM tool we’d been using till now wasn’t fit for a growing team, and on top of that, they were upping their pricing, so it wasn’t really worthwhile for us.
Task: I was put in charge of finding the replacement CRM, as I was the one who knew the previous one inside-out. And this was also an opportunity for me to clean up our outdated info and start fresh. All the while, I still had to handle my daily responsibilities and as usual.
Action: So, the first thing I did was ask our sales associates and lead generation teams what they thought of the old CRM, and if there were any new features they were lacking. After doing a bit of research and asking around, I found the perfect tool that had it all - sales analytics, email integration, and more. And because I typically have no problem with learning new tools, I stayed in one evening, transferred our data to the new tool, and wiped the old account. Finally, I sent a new announcement to the entire team about the new software, as well as a video on how to use it.
Results: We completed the transfer with 4 days to spare, the team was satisfied with the new CRM, and my daily responsibilities as an account manager didn’t suffer.
Question #3 - Give me an example of when you had to suddenly perform under pressure. What happened and how did you handle it?
Situation: As a seasonal worker, there have been a lot of times where I had to juggle extra responsibilities. My last position as a line cook at Restaurant X comes to mind. During summer, we were pretty much always full, and sometimes, even understaffed to handle all the customers. To make things worse, we didn’t have the best shift system at the time either. So, if someone were to unexpectedly not show up for their shift, we’d have to put out the fires as they came up.
Task: Which is exactly what happened when one of our waitresses had to cancel her shift due to an emergency.
Action: So, I stepped up and took her shift as soon as I had clocked out of mine as one of the line cooks. Luckily, I had previous experience working as a waiter.
Results: I was tired and a bit uncoordinated at the beginning, but at the end of the day, everything worked out just fine.
Behavioral job interview questions about leadership
Question #1 - Tell me about a time when you successfully delegated tasks to your team.
Situation: Well, at my first job as a team lead, I had to really get to know most of my team in order to delegate tasks appropriately.
Task: Most team members were new to the company, so I didn’t have much to go with.
Action: So, I sat down with each team member individually, and really got to know them and their strengths and weaknesses, and distributed tasks based on their personality.
Results: Team members were pretty happy with the tasks they got, and started off their relationship with our company on a positive note.
Question #2 - Can you tell me about a time when you had to perform a task or work on a project you had no previous experience before? How did you approach this situation and what did you learn?
Situation: In my previous position at Company X, my manager had to leave unexpectedly for about a month due to a medical condition. Fortunately, she was able to give us a week's notice.
Task: Because of that, our director asked me to fill in as the interim manager. I was familiar with the basics of management on a theoretical level, and I had worked with my manager closely before, but I certainly wasn’t trained to be a manager yet. Though, I wasn’t going to say no, and I, more or less, felt confident about my ability to take on the new challenge.
Action: So, I accepted the position. The first thing I did was gather the team and let them know about the situation. I was very open about my lack of experience, and asked them to be open about giving feedback when possible. I also asked a manager for an hour of their time to pick their brain and make sure I’m doing everything right.
Results: In the end, we managed to get through the month without any problems, and delivered all the projects on time. When my manager returned, she was very pleased with the work, and I even got compliments from our director. Because of my success with the role, I was then promoted to team manager at the end of that year.
So, to recap, behavioral interview questions are questions based on how you behave in specific situations.
Interviewers usually use them to gain a better understanding of you as a candidate. Down to how you react to stress, what’s your skill-level, and how you behave in professional working environments.
And the best way to answer them, is to use the STAR Method. According to the strategy, each interview answer should use the following structure:
- S for Situation: Describe the situation and the context for your story.
- T for Task: Describe the task you had to complete in order to resolve the issue.
- A for Action: Explain what steps you took to complete the above task.
- R for Results: Talk about the results of your actions, and try to be as detailed as possible. Try to use numbers and data here.
Need more job-search and interview advice? Check out our Novorésumé career blog for more industry-leading career-development articles!
Most Common Interview Questions + Answers:
- Why Do You Want to Work Here?
- Why Should We Hire You?
- Tell Me About Yourself
- What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment?
- What Is Your Greatest Strength?
- What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?
- What Are Your Career Goals?
- Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?
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