For a long time, interview questions were pretty standard. So much standard so that people got to be able to predict what kind of questions they were going to get and prepare for them.
Which was good for the interviewee but not always so much for the interviewer – they were left feeling that they didn’t get to know the person but got some pre-scripted answers.
Then the idea of behavioral interview questions came along.
These types of questions are used to get an idea of the skills and competencies someone has based on situations they have experienced in the past.
They can be both a great way to showcase what you can do and a way to make a bit of a mess of an interview. That’s why preparing by looking at common behavioral interview questions is a good way to get ready for an interview
Types of behavioral interview questions
Before we dive into some real-life examples, there are some general types of behavioral interview questions that you are likely to run into.
Companies will use their own variations of them but by thinking about some of the examples from your past that would help with these categories, you have the first step of being prepared covered.
If you had people reporting to you, then you will get questions that are designed to show your leadership abilities.
This isn’t so much about telling people what to do but taking the lead in something and demonstrating leadership qualities.
The aim here is to answer the basic question of how do you handle conflict? The questions will sometimes be direct such as “how did you handle a difficult situation?” while other times they may be a little less direct.
These are situational questions that involve you working with others, showing that you are part of a team and how you utilized that teamwork to achieve a solution.
Again these can be quite direct; the recruiter may ask you “tell me about a situation where you had to solve a difficult problem” or he may ask about a problematic situation, ask you to break down what happened and what you did to overcome it.
Biggest failure questions
At first glance, these may seem like the interviewer is trying to embarrass you or make you feel uncomfortable. But this is more about seeing where you went wrong with something and what you did to correct it.
They don’t expect you to say you have never had any failures because we are all human, and we all make mistakes. It is how you handled the failure and what you did to avoid the same situation to repeat itself that is the key.
Work ethic questions
Showing that you have a strong work ethic and can get the job done is at the heart of any interview, so these questions are very important.
You want to be able to give examples of how your work ethic has shone through, accomplishments that are due to the hard work and dedication that you (and your team) have shown.
Greatest accomplishments questions
This is a chance to boast a little but in a productive way – highlighting your best achievements as a way to showcase your benefits to the employer.
Try to keep it factual and even throw in some statistics if relevant.
Examples of common questions and answer ideas
Knowing the types of questions you might get is one thing but what about some examples of the questions and answers in action?
You can always take these ideas and change them to use your own skills and experience, but these are some ways that real people have answered some of these behavioral interview questions to inspire you.
1. Tell me about a time you worked effectively under pressure?
We had a project that had a 60-day deadline, but my supervisor approached me saying that we needed to cut two weeks off that date in order to keep other projects on their deadlines.
I knew my team was feeling the pressure so rather than stress the deadline, I made it into a challenge to finish the job early.
We amended our schedules, allocated a little extra time and managed to finish the project in 42 days.
My team responded brilliantly, and we were all very proud of what we had done.
2. Describe a situation where you handled a challenge?
I once attended a meeting with my boss where we were discussing a new contract with a potential customer.
Just before the meeting, my boss had to leave due to unexpected circumstances, so he tasked me with creating a presentation based on his notes and delivering it to the customer.
They were impressed with what I showed them and arranged a follow-up meeting to finalize it with my boss.
We got the deal in that meeting.
3. Tell me about a scenario where you set goals and how you met them
When I first started in my role with my first employer, I realized I loved the industry and wanted to work through the levels and have a career in the industry.
I set myself a goal of reaching department manager and start to attend night classes to get the qualifications I needed to do this.
I got on the job experience in the role and the qualification, and within five years, I was department manager.
4. Please describe a difficult situation you encountered in a previous job and how you resolved it
When I was transferred to the new office, there was a bad situation with the staff – internal disputes, people not getting along, lots of backbiting.
I set up a meeting with each of the staff to go through their grievances then held a group meeting where I laid out some new practices to help eliminate many of the issues.
I set up a regular meeting where we could all air views and within three months, staff morale was vastly improved, people communicated better, and productivity had increased.
5. Give an example of working as a team
During my last year at college, I was part of a research team that was helping the professor write a book.
Each of us was assigned a section to focus on, to conduct research and provide the information that the professor needed.
I also suggested that we meet independently before our weekly meeting with the professor to see how we were doing and help each other out.
That way we had everything ready for the professor, the book was a success and was delivered on time.
Preparing for the interview
Getting clear in your mind how to handle some of the common behavioral interview questions is a big part of getting ready for an interview but don’t think it is the only part.
For starters, be prepared for what kind of interview you are facing. There are a few main options:
- Telephone – an initial interview to make sure you are suitable for the role before moving to a face to face interview, these usually last around half an hour
- Video – these are a modern alternative to phone interviews and will usually use things like Skype or FaceTime and will last a similar time to a telephone interview
- Face to face – these remain the most common types of interview either with a single interviewer or a panel. Sometimes you may be interviewed alongside other candidates. Interviews can last up to 1-2 hours depending on the type of role
- Assessment centers – large graduate employers use these to compare several candidates in a range of situations; they will often include things like group work, written tests, presentations and in-tray exercises. They are usually a day in length
Once you know what type of interview you will be facing, then you can get ready with your behavior question ideas. But that’s not the only prep that you need to do.
The first step is to plan your journey to the interview if you are attending one. Make sure you get there at least 10 minutes before the start time and if you are unfamiliar with the area, do a ‘dry run’ beforehand to see where you need to go.
Do a little research on the interviewer if you know who they are and make sure you are well versed on company basics. LinkedIn can be a good resource for this. Also, check out the latest trends and news in the industry so you are up to date on everything.
Check over your resume and consider any gaps – there’s a chance you will be asked what you were doing and want to have an answer ready.
Finally, the night before, get an early night, make sure your outfit is prepared and don’t be tempted to have a whiskey to knock you out!
A successful interview
A successful interview can’t be guaranteed by preparation but if you are as ready as you can be, you always increase your chances. Good luck!