How to Tackle Behavioral Interview Questions

If you prepare to answer behavioral interview questions, you'll be armed with examples no matter what you're asked.

How to Tackle Behavioral Interview Questions

Be prepared for behavioral interview questions.

Behavioral interview questions aren't exactly like your traditional job interview questions. When you're asked a typical question like, "What would you do if you had a customer who wasn't interested in buying the product?" you can make up a story, invent a scenario, and go from there. Standard issue job interview questions—gotta love 'em! But behavioral interview questions are not that black and white.

What Is a Behavioral Interview?

A behavioral interview involves an interviewer asking questions that begin with phrases like "tell me about a time when" or "give me an example of."

The idea with behavioral interview questions is that the interviewers want to know how you have behaved in the past because it gives them an indication of how you will behave in similar situations in the future (say, when you're working at their company). This is your chance to talk about your accomplishments.

If you can demonstrate through examples (preferably recent ones) that you've succeeded in certain areas of interest, you'll likely be considered a strong candidate for the position. After all, if you did it somewhere else yesterday, you can do it for this company tomorrow.

How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions

When you answer behavioral interview questions, your success stories should include the following three things:

  • the situation
  • the action you took
  • the result

Here is an example of a behavioral interview question and answer if you were interviewing for a sales position:

"What would you do if you had a customer who wasn't interested in buying the product?"

  • The situation: I had a customer who did not want to hear about the features of my merchandise because of a prior interaction with my company.
  • The action: I listened to her story and made sure I heard her complaint. I then explained how I would have handled the situation differently and how I can offer her better service. I showed her some facts that changed her mind about dealing with the company again.
  • The result: She not only bought the merchandise, but also complimented how I handled her account. She is now one of my best customers.

While it may seem like the main achievement here is the sale itself, the answer also speaks to the self-awareness and emotional maturity of the candidate. This person was able to recognize the issue, listen to the disgruntled customer, acknowledge the shortcomings of her previous experience, and explain how the situation would be rectified should the customer choose to purchase the product this time around.

How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

One way to prepare for a behavioral interview is by writing out some career-defining stories ahead of time. Determine what stories you have that would be appropriate for the position based on its job description.

If the job requires dependability, write your story about a time when your dependability was recognized or made a difference with a customer.

You can use the stories you prepare even when the interviewer does not ask behavioral interview questions. If you are asked a traditional question, use your prepared story and preface it with, "I can give you an example of a time when I used that skill on a previous job." This way, you've taken advantage of the strategy behind behavioral-based interview questions.

Just don't leave it to chance. By preparing for the interview ahead of time and recalling your past successes, you will be able to have examples in mind and will not be caught off guard.

More Examples of Behavioral Interview Questions

  • Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a conflict with a coworker?
  • Tell me about a time that you made a mistake at work. How did you resolve your error?
  • Tell me about your greatest professional achievement to date.
  • Give me an example of when you took on a leadership role at work.
  • Give me an example of how you persuaded someone to go with your plan/idea.

Want More Job Interviews? Do This Now

There is no way you can predict whether or not you'll be asked behavioral interview questions—and if so, which ones—but you can prepare what you want hiring managers to know about your past as a predictor of your future performance. Could you use some help with that? Start by creating a free profile on Monster. We can show you how to craft smart answers to tricky interview questions and send even more job search tips directly to your inbox. The sooner you start, the more comfortable you'll feel promoting your successes to woo hiring managers.