If you want your organization to be successful, you need to hire top talent. And part of being able to successfully hire that talent comes down to your interview process.
The type of questions you ask during your job interviews can help you better understand your candidates. If you want to better understand your candidates’ behaviors, personalities, and thought processes, there’s one interview question strategy to adopt.
Behavioral interview questions.
Behavioral interview questions can be an extremely effective interviewing tool. Let’s take a deep dive into behavioral interview questions. We’ll discuss what they are, why they’re effective, and the questions you’ll want to ask during your interviews:
Defining behavioral interview questions
Before we get into the most common behavioral interview questions? Let’s define what, exactly, behavioral interview questions are.
Behavioral interview questions are an interviewing tool. (They’re also sometimes called situational interview questions.) They are helpful for hiring managers, recruiters, and other stakeholders when interviewing candidates. These types of interview questions help interviewers better understand the interviewee’s past experiences. It can also help them understand how those experiences apply to the job they’re interviewing for.
Behavioral interview questions are often in the format of “give me an example of a time you…” or something similar. (For example, “Explain a time when you…,” “Can you walk me through a time at work when you…,” or “tell me about a time when…”) These questions ask candidates to cite specific work-related situations or experiences from their past.
The STAR method of interviewing is a way for candidates to structure their responses to behavioral questions. STAR stands for situation, task, action, and result. In their responses, candidates will outline:
- Situation: A description of a past work situation
- Task: The responsibility or role they had in the situation
- Action: The action they took to overcome the challenge and successfully navigate the situation
- Result: The outcome of their efforts
Behavioral interview questions differ from other types of job interview questions. For example, technical questions can be a great way to understand job seekers’ hard skills and work experience. (For example, proficiency in a specific software.)
On the flip side, behavioral interview questions help you better understand a candidate’s soft skills. This includes skills like time management or leadership skills. Behavioral interview questions also differ from more general questions. For example, “why are you interested in this position?” This is because they ask candidates to cite specific experiences from past jobs.
Why ask behavioral interview questions?
Let’s jump into why you should ask smart, behavioral-based interview questions.
As mentioned, with behavioral interview questions, candidates get specific. They go in-depth about how they handled specific situations at work. This can deliver key insights into a candidate’s:
- Soft skills. For many roles, soft skills can be just as important as hard skills. For example, communication skills are a must for client-facing roles. And leadership skills are critical for anyone in a management role.
Behavioral interview questions help you better assess a candidate’s soft skills. And that information can help you decide whether they have what it takes to succeed—both in the role and within the organization.
- Past behavior. As they say, past behavior is a great predictor of future behavior. By asking clients how they behaved in past roles, you can get a sense of how they’ll behave in the role you’re hiring for. Or, in other words, how they handled similar situations in a past role?
That behavior can help you understand how they would handle those situations if they were hired for the new role. And once you have that information, you can decide whether their behavior is aligned with what you need for the role they’re interviewing for.
- Personality. How candidates answer behavioral interview questions can also help you understand their personality. (For example, if they keep their calm when talking about a stressful situation, they’re likely calm under pressure.) This can help you determine if they’re a culture add (not culture fit) — and the right person for the role.
- Problem-solving and decision-making abilities. It doesn’t matter what role you’re hiring for. You want to hire people who can effectively solve problems and make decisions.
Behavioral interview questions give you insights into a candidate’s thought processes. This includes how they solve problems and make decisions. And their answers can help you assess their problem-solving and decision-making abilities.
Certain candidates will look great on paper but not be the right fit for the role. For example, their resume might be a great match for the role, but they may lack the critical thinking or time management skills you need for an employee.
Behavioral interview questions will help you identify candidates that have it all. Not just the right work experience or skill set but also the right soft skills to succeed in the role.
The top 10 behavioral questions to ask
Clearly, behavioral questions can be a helpful addition to your list of job interview questions. But what, exactly, should you ask candidates?
Let’s take a look at the top 10 behavioral interview questions to incorporate into your job interview process:
Top 10 behavioral interview questions
- Can you give me an example of a time you had to navigate a challenging or difficult situation at work — and how you ultimately handled it?
- Can you give me an example of a time when you made a mistake at work — and how you fixed it?
- Can you give an example of a professional accomplishment you’re particularly proud of — and share why it makes you proud?
- Can you give an example of a professional decision you regret and what you would do differently in the future?
- Can you explain a time when you had to prioritize tasks and projects with conflicting deadlines?
- Can you give an example of how you manage interruptions at work?
- Can you share an experience of when you had to handle disagreements with co-workers or other team members?
- Can you give me an example of a time when you faced a professional setback and how you handled the situation?
- Can you walk me through your process of setting goals at work and your process for following through and achieving those goals?
- Can you give me a specific example of when you showcased your leadership skills at work?
Other common behavioral interview questions
You’ll definitely want to ask candidates the common questions listed above. But there are plenty of other behavioral interview questions you’ll want to consider.
Some questions you may want to ask during the interview process include:
Adaptability behavioral interview questions
11. Can you give me an example of when you faced a challenging situation at work — and how you overcame it?
12. Can you tell me about a time when you experienced a major change at work and how you adapted to that change?
13. Have you ever worked on a task or project outside of your typical job scope or responsibilities? And, if so, can you tell me about the experience?
14. Can you tell me about a time when you had to learn something new at work (for example, a new software) and how you were able to adapt?
Time management behavioral interview questions
15. Have you ever missed a deadline? And, if so, can you explain how you handled the situation?
16. Have you ever had to choose between hitting two deadlines? And, if so, how did you make that decision?
17. Can you tell me about a time you felt stressed and overwhelmed at work and how you handled that experience?
18. Can you tell me how you decide how long to spend on a particular task or project?
19. Can you walk me through the system or process you need to manage your time at work?
Client/customer service behavioral interview questions
20. Have you ever had to deal with an angry client or customer? And, if so, how did you navigate the situation?
21. Can you tell me about a time when you went above and beyond to provide the highest level of service to a customer?
22. Have you ever felt frustrated with a client or customer? And, if so, how did you handle your frustration?
Leadership behavioral interview questions
23. Can you share an example of when you motivated your colleagues?
24. Can you share an example of when you felt motivated by a boss or supervisor and what about that situation you found motivating?
25. Can you share an example of when you had to make a tough decision that your co-workers didn’t necessarily agree with and how you managed their reactions?
26. Have you ever delegated tasks to co-workers? And, if so, can you walk me through how you chose what task to delegate, who to delegate it to, and how to assign that task to another team member?
Teamwork behavioral interview questions
27. Can you tell me about a time when you had to collaborate effectively?
28. Can you tell me about a time when you contributed to your team’s success?
29. Have you ever had a hard time working on a team? And, if so, can you share how you overcame those challenges?
Communication/conflict behavioral interview questions
30. Can you give me an example of when you had to communicate with someone who wasn’t very responsive? How did you handle the situation?
31. Can you give me an example of when you had to work with someone who had an aggressive communication style? How did you handle the situation?
32. Can you give me an example of a time when you felt like a co-worker didn’t listen to you and how you handled the situation?
33. Can you explain a time when you had a disagreement with your supervisor and what you did to resolve the situation?
34. Can you give me an example of when you had to deal with a conflict or disagreement between other team members?
35. Have you ever had to have a hard or uncomfortable conversation with a colleague? And, if so, can you explain how you navigated the conversation?
4 tips for asking the right behavioral interview questions
Behavioral interview questions can improve the quality of your interviews. They can also help you get a better sense of the candidates’ behaviors, thought processes, and personalities. And ultimately, this can lead to better hires.
But only if you do it right and ask the right questions.
Here are a few tips to ensure that you’re maximizing behavioral interview questions. And that, ultimately, you’re asking the questions that are going to help you hire the best people for your organization:
Use behavioral questions to screen candidates
Generally, hiring managers use behavioral interview questions later in the interview process. For example, you might use these questions during a final round interview or a working interview. But they can also be an effective tool for screening candidates in early types of interviews.
Is there something you want to know about potential new hires? And would behavioral interview questions get you the information you need? If so, ask those questions during the very first interview. (For example, the phone screen interview.) This will help you eliminate any candidates that aren’t a behavioral fit from the get-go.
Choose questions based on the role you’re hiring for
When it comes to choosing the right behavioral interview questions, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The “right” behavioral questions will depend on what role you’re hiring for. They’ll also depend on what kind of person you’re looking for.
For example, if you’re hiring for a client-facing role, you’d want to ask a lot of behavioral questions about customer service and communication. If you’re hiring for a management position, you’d want to ask a lot of leadership behavioral interview questions. If you’re looking to bring on a project manager? You’d want to use behavioral interview questions to get a better sense of their prioritization and time management skills.
The point is, certain behavioral interview questions will be more effective for certain roles. So make sure to choose the interview questions that give you the information you need to hire for the specific role you’re interviewing for.
Ask your current employees for their insights
If you need ideas for what behavioral interview questions to ask during interviews, tap your current employees.
Survey your employees. Ask them what kind of information they think is important to know about potential new hires. Then, develop your behavioral interview questions based on their responses.
For example, let’s say you’re looking to expand your engineering team. You might ask your current engineers what they think the most important qualities are in an engineer.
If they respond with “the ability to juggle multiple priorities?” You might ask interviewees, “can you tell me about a time when you had to manage two competing deadlines?” Or, if your engineers say attention to detail is top priority? You might ask candidates “have you ever made a mistake at work? And, if so, how did you navigate it?”
Once you have your questions, share them with your team. Ask them for interview feedback before you roll it out to potential new hires. You could even have them answer the questions themselves. That way, you can compare potential new hires’ responses to your top performers.
Bottom line? Your employees are the people that are most familiar with the day-to-day responsibilities of their role. So, if you’re trying to choose the right behavioral interview questions? Ask the people that know the job best—your employees.
Pair behavioral interview questions with other types of interview questions
Behavioral interview questions are a great way to get to know the candidates you’re interviewing. But if you want your interviewing process to be effective? They shouldn’t be the only interview questions you’re asking.
Make sure that, in addition to behavioral interview questions, you’re asking other types of interview questions during your interview. (For example, motivational interviewing questions or technical questions.)
And get creative with your interview questions! The more well-rounded your interview process and the more types of questions you ask candidates? The more likely you are to find — and hire — the right person for the role.
Use behavioral interview questions to hire the right candidates
The right interviewing strategy is essential for finding the right candidates. And while it’s important to ensure candidates have the right skills, know-how, and professional background for the role? That’s only part of the equation.
Behavioral interview questions give you insight into a candidate’s behaviors. The same goes for their thought processes and personality. It helps you better understand their soft skills, and it can show you how they would react in situations they’re likely to face on the job.
This can help you determine whether they have everything they need to be successful in the role. And that information can help you make better hiring decisions — and ultimately build a more effective team.