Behavioral Interview Examples

Preparing for a behavioral interview

Behavioral interview questions are prevalent in large organizations.  Employers use them because there is a belief that past behaviors are strongly related to how people behave in the future.  So if you were able to drive results in your last job, chances are you’ll do the same in the new position.

Today we’re looking at some of the top behavioral interview questions and how to answer them.  These questions are all about storytelling using the STAR model.  In all of your examples, it’s important to stay positive.  Sometimes the questions can be tricky and occasionally phrased in a way that seems to encourage complaints.  Don’t fall into the trap.  When you talk poorly about your people in an interview, it’s a HUGE RED FLAG for the hiring managers.

Remember that behavioral interview questions are driving towards specific attributes and behaviors that the organization wants.  If you could peek into the hiring manager’s interview packet, you’d usually see a rating scale and maybe even some descriptors on the targeted behaviors they want.

For example, If the hiring manager asks a question about teamwork the book might contain something like this:

  • 1: Did not demonstrate the ability to work as a member of a team.  Hostile, negative or unengaged. The employee did not complete the task.
  • 3: Worked cooperatively as a team member.  The task was completed and met expectations.
  • 5: Went out-of-the-way to help ensure team success.  Put the needs of the team before personal agendas.  Exceeded business goals.

Tell me about a disagreement with a co-worker?

This question is used to gauge how well you can deal with other people.  Ultimately, hiring managers are trying to make sure you’re not going to be toxic in the workplace.  When you think about situations for these questions, try to come up with times where you were able to work out a conflict amicably, and you weren’t the one responsible for creating the conflict or issue.

In my last position, I was a part of a team working toward a significant, high visibility deliverable.  There were four team members including myself, and we all had different responsibilities on the project.  One of my jobs was to complete our weekly scorecard and report status to upper management.  One member of my team was consistently late providing updates, and it was reflecting poorly on the entire team.  

I took him aside and talked to him about the problem.  Initially, he was upset that I approached him.  First I explained to him my concerns about his work and how his delay impacted the deadline.  Then, I asked him if he needed any help and if there was anything I could do.  He said he had a lot of work on his plate and it was overloading him.  We talked about different options and finally settled on one that would help us meet our deadlines and allow him to feel under less pressure.  Ultimately, we were able to meet the deadlines, and the leadership was satisfied with the work the team completed.  I also built a healthy working relationship with him.

Tell me about a time you were spread too thin?

Call it multi-tasking or juggling; most employers want to hear about how you can manage your time.  These questions are looking for prioritization skills, knowing when to ask for help and being able to deliver on critical projects.  One of the most common answers I hear in these examples is, “I worked a lot of overtime and got everything done.”  While sometimes that’s the truth, it’s not the answer an employer wants to hear.

Multitasking questions during a behavioral interviewI was working on two special projects for different business partners in my last role when my boss stopped by my desk with an important assignment.  The Director of our group needed some reports and analysis completed for a high-profile customer meeting scheduled for next week.  I sat down with my manager to make sure I had a solid understanding of the new project requirements and estimated that the project was going to take about 20 hours of my time.  Unfortunately, between the other two projects and my regular statement of work, it quickly became apparent that something was going to have to give.  I reviewed the timelines of the projects

I went over the schedules of the projects and spoke to my business partners about their plans.  We found about a week of flexibility in one of the projects, and I was able to adjust that schedule. The other big project was time sensitive and needed my attention.  I proposed to my manager that this could be an opportunity for a junior employee to take over my daily duties so I could focus on the two big projects.  She was supportive of the plan.  I was able to bring the junior employee up to speed on the daily processes and remained available for questions during the week.  

In the end, I finished the reports, my business partners were taken care of, and both the director and customer were thrilled with the analytics. The company was able to book $150,000 in additional revenue with the client.  

Tell me about a time you had to deal with an upset client?

In any job where you’ll be dealing with customers, you can expect to get a behavioral question around customer satisfaction.  If you come across this question and can’t think of a particular client example, take a broader view of what a customer is.  Maybe you’re in a role that has internal customers.  You can use that as the basis for a story too.  Do your best to avoid stories where you weren’t able to resolve the concern or the client wasn’t happy.

Conflict Behavioral Interview QuestionsI was an account manager for a business selling B2B services, and I had just taken over some new accounts. One day I received a call from an upset customer.  He had made several requests to the previous account manager for changes to her account and had yet to see the updates take effect.  I was still trying to build strong relationships with this client as the new account manager, but I wasn’t familiar with his concerns.  First, I apologized to him for the oversight and told them I would look into it and get back to them later that day.  

I put my other work aside for the day so that I could focus on this issue.  When I started looking into it, I saw that the requests had been made, but weren’t input correctly.  I spoke with engineering and asked if they could make these changes a priority.  Fortunately, the changes were pretty simple, and engineering was able to implement the change that day.  We worked together to re-run the reports for the customer and later that day when I called the customer back, I provided the updated data.  In the end, the client was very satisfied with the results and how quickly I fixed the problem.  The next month the client called me to add additional services to their account, generating more revenue for the organization.

Describe a complex issue you solved with a single solution?

In every job, you’re going to have to do some form of problem-solving.  This question looks at your ability to think outside of the box to solve problems uniquely.  One of the common pitfalls is when you don’t explain the why the problem was so complicated.

Strategic Behavioral Interview QuestionsOne of my first roles outside of college was to collect and input transactions from a team of 15 people.  I was working with one other person, and 80% of our job was getting them into the system.  The transactions came via email from all 15 people, and they usually didn’t have the information we needed.  We were spending an enormous amount of time going back and forth and searching to find the information we needed.  Since we both received the emails, we also ran the risk of duplicating the inputs in the system

After doing this for about two months, I realized that there had to be a better way to streamline these transactions.  I met with my partner and our manager to propose a process improvement.  I suggested that we develop a file which we could use to input and track the transactions.  After I had received buy-in, I developed an Excel spreadsheet and programmed macros to automate some of the functions.  The partners would input the info into the database and could check the status of their requests.  Initially, I had some pushback from the team.  A few team members were resistant, but once they saw how much more efficient it was, they came on board.  This initiative reduced our time spent tracking down data so much that we were able to focus on different work.  The organization similarly adopted the process as a best practice.

Behavioral Interview Questions: Summary

All of the questions you encounter on a behavioral interview drive towards a particular competency or behavior.  If you pay close attention to the job descriptions and the company values, you can anticipate the subjects that they’ll ask you about during the interview and prepare examples for those areas.  Provide specific examples and be clear about what role you took on in each story.  Stay positive, even if it was a challenging situation and address issues diplomatically.  Finally, practice your stories as much as you can!

If you found this information helpful, please share it!  We’d love to hear from you, so please tell us what you think and or are any topics you’d like us to cover in future blog posts.




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