Behavioral interview questions are an important part of the hiring process, and help interviewers evaluate a candidate’s work experience and work style. These “situational” questions ask candidates to share how they’ve handled specific past situations, helping employers learn about their ability to perform in a position. These questions delve into how candidates have used certain kinds of skills — in particular soft skills.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) says that behavioral interviewing “focuses on a candidate’s past experiences by asking the candidate to provide specific examples of how they have demonstrated certain behaviors, knowledge, skills and abilities.”
Behavioral interview questions typically begin with statements such as “tell me about a time…” or “give me an example of a time...” To respond, interviewees must dig into their background and give specific examples and details from their past experiences.
Interviewers use these questions to help get a more realistic and nuanced sense of how candidates work, who they are beyond their resumes and what they’re capable of accomplishing in a new role based on examples from their actual past work experience and performance. This style of interviewing is used by most employers.
By adding behavioral interview questions to their screening process, interviewers get concrete answers to how candidates behave in different work situations and settings. Looking at candidates’ past behavior, skills, and critical thinking experience can reveal if a candidate has the attributes necessary to match the job description’s requirements.
These questions can be hard to plan for as a candidate, and hard to come up with, so we’ve created a list of 36 behavioral interview questions to study up on regardless of whether you are a hiring manager or interviewing for a new job yourself. These questions can be tailored to specific organizations and roles.
- Tell me about a time when you had to work closely with someone whose personality was different from yours.
- Tell me an example of a time you faced a conflict with a coworker. How did you handle that conflict?
- Describe a time when you were asked to perform a task or lead an initiative that went against your values. What did you do? What was the outcome?
- Describe a time when you had to step up and demonstrate leadership skills.
- Tell me about a time you made a mistake and wish you’d handled a situation with a colleague differently.
- Tell me about a time you needed to get information from someone who wasn’t very responsive. What did you do?
- Tell me about a time when you had too much to do, but not enough resources. How did you handle the pressure, overcome the deficit or achieve your goals?
- How do you prioritize projects under pressure?
- Can you talk about a time when you were unable to get your point across effectively? What contributed to this? Have your communication skills changed or improved since then?
- Give an example of when you persuaded someone at work towards your point of view. What made you successful in persuading them?
- Think about the most exciting and energizing aspect of your current or most recent position. What did you specifically enjoy about it? Why?
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult client or customer. How did you handle the stressful situation?
- Describe a situation in which you had to make a tough decision that normally would have been escalated to your boss. How did you handle the decision-making process? What happened?
- Tell me about a time when you went the extra mile when it would have been as acceptable to do the bare minimum. Why did you exert the effort? What was the outcome?
- Can you talk about a time when you had to deliver bad news to someone? What did you do to prepare, and what was the outcome?
- Describe a time when you worked as part of a team on a project. Explain your role within the team and the actions you took to contribute to the team.
- Talk about a situation when your team members disagreed with you. How did you handle it?
- Can you talk about a time when you had to embrace a new system, technology, or way of thinking that was a departure from the previous way of doing things? What was the outcome?
- Have you ever worked on multiple projects at the same time? How did you manage your time and prioritize the work?
- Tell me about a time when you were able to delegate an important task that succeeded.
- How do you estimate a reasonable time to complete a task?
- Describe a time when an employee approached you with concerns. Explain how you handled the situation.
- Tell me about a time when a project’s priorities had to change. Explain the steps you took to shift the project’s priorities.
- Can you talk about a time when you had to build credibility with stakeholders? Describe the actions you took.
- Can you talk about a time when you discovered new information that affected a decision you had made already? Explain how you proceeded.
- Talk about a time you presented a great idea to management but there wasn’t a buy-in. What was your next move? Did you change their minds?
- Tell me about a situation that challenged you as a leader? Did this change your way of thinking? Did it improve your leadership abilities?
- Give us an example of a time when you needed information from a coworker who wasn’t responsive. What did you do?
- Describe a project you planned. Explain how you organized and managed the project.
- Describe a time where you did everything you could think of but still failed to achieve your desired outcome. What happened and why were you unsuccessful?
- Tell me about a time when you made a mistake or overlooked a solution to a problem and learned from it. What did you learn?
- Tell me about a time when you were assigned a task outside your normal job duties. How did you handle the assignment? Describe the outcome.
- Talk about a task you worked on that had a major obstacle. How did you get around that obstacle to complete that task?
- Can you describe a time when you followed a rule that you didn’t agree with? Why did you follow it? Explain how you felt.
- When was the last occasion you asked for direct feedback from your manager, and why did you ask for their feedback?
- What is a big career goal or milestone that you achieved recently?