10 Common Behavioral Interview Questions (Example Answers Included)

By Mike Simpson

Most job seekers know that they’ll face off against some behavioral interview questions during their next interview. But knowing what the most common behavioral interview questions are is also critical. That way, you’ll be ready for what the hiring manager is likely to ask, increasing the odds that you’ll impress.

So, are you ready to learn more about common behavioral interview questions? Awesome! Here’s what you need to know.

What Are Behavioral Interview Questions?

Before we take a look at the most common behavioral interview questions, let’s talk about what these types of questions are and why they come up during interviews. We’ve actually taken a deep dive into behavioral interview questions and answers before, but if you want a quick overview, we’ve got you covered.

In the simplest sense, a behavioral interview question gauges how you think and act in various situations. Many questions of this kind focus on scenarios, requiring you to outline what you did (or would do) under specific circumstances.

There’s a good reason why hiring managers turn to these questions during an interview. Unlike traditional interview questions – which mainly assess whether you have particular technical capabilities – these give the hiring managers overviews of capabilities that are harder to ask about directly.

Usually, your answer helps the hiring manager assess your mindset and gather insights when it comes to your soft skills. Plus, they’ll learn more about the hard skills you put to work to handle challenges or address problems of a particular nature.

In some cases, hiring managers ask common behavioral interview questions because they think that past performance is a predictor for future success. However, whether that’s true isn’t actually clear.

One report indicated that prior work experience – essentially, past behavior – didn’t guarantee a solid performance at a new company, even if the new hire had related experience. But a different study showed that behavioral interviewing was 55 percent predictive of future behavior at work, while traditional interviews were a mere 10 percent predictive.

Since 73 percent of hiring professionals use behavioral interviews, it’s best to be ready regardless. That way, you can excel when those kinds of questions ultimately become part of the equation.

How to Answer a Behavioral Question

When you’re answering behavioral interview questions, you need to present examples of what you’d do in a particular situation. It could be describing a moment from your past or outlining the steps you’d take based on a theoretical scenario.

In either case, you need a strong strategy for creating a meaningful response. What’s the best way to get started? By getting to know the STAR Method.

The STAR Method lets you take your answer and turn it into a compelling story. You’ll address all of the main pieces of a stellar response, ensuring you don’t overlook a critical detail.

After you get comfortable with the STAR Method, it’s time to add the Tailoring Method to the mix. The Tailoring Method is all about relevancy, ensuring your answer speaks to the hiring manager’s needs directly. That way, your response isn’t just compelling; it also positions you as an exceptional match for the precise role the hiring manager is filling.

Common Behavioral Interview Question Mistakes

As with all kinds of interview questions, it’s possible to make some mistakes when answering behavioral questions. Luckily, by knowing what they are, you can avoid them.

One of the biggest missteps you can make is being overly vague. As mentioned above, most common behavioral interview questions need you to navigate a situation. As a result, you want to tell a story, outlining what you did (or would do) in the presented scenario.

However, rambling is another major no-no. Even though you’re telling a story, you don’t want to get long-winded. Otherwise, the hiring manager may tune out when you start sharing unnecessary details. Additionally, you may not have enough time for the other questions, which works against you.

Seeming unprepared also causes problems. Since behavioral interview questions require comprehensive answers, it’s best to practice your responses until you’re completely comfortable, ensuring you can respond with ease.

You may also have issues if you spend too much time talking about group work instead of personal contributions. While it’s fine to reference what your colleagues did to paint an accurate picture, the majority of your answer needs to focus on your efforts.

Finally, using any example where the end result was incredibly negative is problematic. While you may be asked to talk about a time where you made a mistake or failed at work, you need to choose an experience where you were ultimately able to learn and recover. That way, you can show how the negative was turned into a positive.

10 Most Common Behavioral Interview Questions

1. Tell me about a time where you had to juggle multiple priority tasks. How did you decide where to begin.

This question helps the hiring manager assess a few things. Along with your ability to handle stress, it lets them learn more about how you organize your work when you have multiple critical activities on your plate.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“In my last administrative assistant position, I was given two high-priority tasks from two different managers I supported. The deadlines for each were tight, and both projects were vital, so the nature of the duties alone wasn’t enough to establish how I should approach the situation.

To figure out how to proceed, I took a moment to outline the required steps for both tasks. This allowed me to estimate the time necessary while also ensuring I wouldn’t overlook something critical.

I then decided to start with the duty that had the lowest amount of time required. My main reason is that one could be completed in hours and the other would take a few days. By choosing the shorter one first, I could fully wrap up that responsibility, eliminating the need to provide updates in the coming days on that assignment, giving me more time to focus on the tasks themselves, and allowing me to complete both by the deadline.”

2. Describe to me a time where you had to manage stress on the job.

Workplace stress can harm an employee’s performance. As a result, hiring managers want to know what you do to keep yourself calm and level, even when you’re faced with challenges.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“While I’ve found that some stress actually pushes me to be my best, it’s also essential to ensure that my stress levels remain reasonable. One approach I’ve found that works for me is focusing on organization.

I’m a big fan of breaking large responsibilities down into small tasks, making them feel more manageable and giving me a roadmap to follow. For a recent project in my current job, I divided the work up into ten micro-goals. Then, I blocked out time on my calendar for every activity. Not only does this keep me on target, but it also reduces the odds that I’ll feel overwhelmed.”

3. Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a coworker. How did you navigate the situation.

This is one of the most common behavioral interview questions because hiring managers want to know that you can navigate the typical disagreements that can occur at work. It’s also a way to gauge your interpersonal skills and self-reliance.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“While in my current job, I was part of a project team that was tasked with coming up with a new campaign for a client. A coworker and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on the direction the campaign should take when it came to the tone, leading to some conflict.

To address the issue, I requested a meeting with my coworker to discuss their perspective. My goal was to understand why they were adamant about that approach, asking clarifying questions and rephrasing what they shared to ensure I saw the complete picture.

Then, I did the same, sharing my perspective in a calm, professional manner. This led us to a very beneficial discussion, one where we both saw the merits in the other’s strategy. Ultimately, this allowed us to work together to create the best possible campaign, one that boosted the client’s sales by 15 percent.”

4. Describe a time where you had to adapt quickly to a change in priorities.

Regardless of whether a workplace is fast- or slow-paced, unexpected events can occur. Hiring managers want to know that you can shift gears quickly if the need arises, so they ask questions like this one to assess your agility.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“As a member of my current employer’s IT department, COVID-19 required some quick pivoting. I was part of a team that managed remote work permissions and technologies for the organization. When it became clear that a shelter-in-place order may be on the horizon, we had to reprioritize quickly, ensuring we could get everyone their needed credentials, applications, and devices handled as fast as possible.

I spoke with my manager about my workload, allowing us to identify tasks that could be set aside temporarily. After that, prioritized the employee list based on their position, ensuring those who needed to stay connected were handled before those where a short delay wouldn’t be as problematic.

Then, I dedicated as much time and effort to setting up telecommuting solutions as possible. This includes everything from ordering mobile devices and laptops, coordinating the service providers to add relevant user accounts, and creating initial training documents to ensure those who began working remotely had the information they needed to transition as seamlessly as possible. While the situation was challenging, I was able to complete everything tasked to me before a shelter-in-place order was issued in our area, and even had time to assist others, increasing the success of the entire project.”

5. Can you tell me about a time where you failed on the job?

This is probably one of the most uncomfortable interview questions around, as you have to talk about a time when things didn’t go to plan, leading to a poor outcome. However, it’s also an important one for hiring managers to ask.

With this question, hiring managers can see how you handle mistakes and recover from failures. Plus, they can assess your honesty, accountability, and self-awareness.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“In my first job, I had trouble gauging my workload. After getting my first big solo project, I underestimated the time it would take to complete the work and handle my other duties. As a result, I gave the client a deadline that was ultimately unrealistic, and I wasn’t able to deliver in time.

The client was understandably displeased when I informed them that the project would be late. I made sure to take full responsibility for the issue and worked with them to ensure the project was completed to their satisfaction, albeit behind schedule.

In the end, they were pleased with the results. However, the moment when I had to inform them that the deadline would be missed stuck with me. It became a powerful lesson for me about time estimates and workload assessments. I used what I learned to improve my approach and, since that project, have finished every project either on time or early.”

6. Tell me about a time where you led a team.

With this question, the hiring manager is trying to learn more about your leadership skills. Additionally, they might be looking for insights about how you oversee the work of others and keep multiple people on target as they work toward a singular goal.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“In my last position, I was tasked with overseeing the transition to a new order management system. This involved coordinating with multiple teams to ensure that the date from the existing solution would transition successfully to the new one. Additionally, I had to communicate with all of the end-users, ensuring they knew about use limitations or downtime in advance.

I created a project plan for the transition and implementation, and worked closely with each team to ensure the timeline was workable. Along the way, I monitored progress, answered questions, and facilitated conversations to keep everyone on the same page. Additionally, I provided reports to the leadership team, ensuring they were informed.

Ultimately, the project was a success. All of the transferred data was in place, and we finished on time, ensuring the company could reach full productivity on the desired schedule.”

MIKE'S TIP: If you don’t have an example from work, that’s okay. You can use one from school or a volunteer experience instead. As long as you took the reins and guided others, it’s a valid way to answer the question, even if the project itself was fairly small and limited in scope.

7. Describe a time when you had to deal with an upset customer. How did you handle it?

Whether you’re looking for a retail job, a sales position, a tech support role, or anything in those veins, there’s a chance you’ll have to deal with an upset customer at some point. Hiring managers ask this question to see how you’ve navigated this type of challenge in the past, allowing them to determine if you have a reasonable strategy.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“At my current job, a customer contacted us saying they were displeased with their most recent order. Along with complaining about the product, they began yelling threats about what they would do if they weren’t issued a refund and given a new item immediately.

I didn’t take the tone personally, as I was certain it was out of frustration. I pulled up the customer’s file to learn more about the order, as well as review their history with the company. At that time, I discovered that they had been placing regular orders for some time, and this appeared to be the first time they called about an issue.

I apologized for the inconvenience and began asking clarifying questions to ensure I fully understood the nature of the issue. As I spoke, I focused on keeping my tone calm and professional.

While company policy didn’t typically allow a replacement and refund, it also gave me some leeway when it came to finding a solution, particularly since they had been a loyal customer for some time. I explained what was usually allowed in these situations but requested a moment to consult with my manager regarding the issue. I was able to secure them a replacement product and a 20 percent discount on a future order. Ultimately, the customer was happy with the outcome, and they remained a customer during the rest of my time there, and possibly beyond.”

8. How do you approach goal-setting?

Most hiring managers know that goal-setting is a powerful tool that can facilitate greater success. As a result, they want to see how candidates view goal-setting, leading them to ask this question.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“I believe goal-setting is essential, as it helps me focus my efforts based on organizational objectives. My preferred approach is to review the company’s priorities and how they relate to my position. Then, I create well-defined, actionable targets using the SMART goals process. That way, I have clear objectives that are measurable and motivating.

However, I also go the extra mile, breaking down larger goals into micro-goals. That way, I can see every step between myself and the objective, creating a roadmap that guides me toward success.”

9. Tell me about your greatest professional accomplishment.

This behavioral interview question does a few things. First, it lets the hiring manager learn more about your values. Second, it gives them insights into your skills and achievements, both of which can help them determine if you’re the right fit for the job.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“My biggest achievement was revamping the company’s marketing approach, leading to a 34 percent increase in sales within six months. The past campaign wasn’t resonating with younger buyers, causing us to lose market share. I refocused our strategy to make it more social media-focused, creating a comprehensive campaign that worked well on platforms that appealed more to the target audience. Ultimately, this allowed us to reach our target demographic, boosting overall profitability and securing a solid ROI.

10. Tell me about a time you had to make an unpopular decision.

If you’re applying for a management role, this is one of the most common behavioral questions you’ll encounter. Many members of the leadership team have to make difficult choices and, sometimes, they won’t resonate with team members. The hiring manager wants to know that you can handle those situations, so they ask questions like this one to gauge your capabilities.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“When I was a manager at ABC restaurant, employees were originally able to change shifts with one another without notifying management in advance. While it was convenient for team members, management wasn’t able to effectively predict an employee’s hour, at times leading to unplanned overtime. Additionally, if someone didn’t arrive for a shift, there could be confusion regarding who was actually responsible for the no-show.

As a result, I had to make the decision to bar shift changes that weren’t presented to management before the scheduled time arrived. While it wasn’t a popular choice, it did streamline timekeeping and scheduling while also ensuring no-shows were properly noted in the correct employee’s files.”

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, all of the questions above are some of the most common behavioral interview questions around. By preparing for those, your odds of interview success will go up. Use the tips and examples as a guide, ensuring you can create your own great answers before your next meeting with a hiring manager.

Good luck!

About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.