Soft Skills

10 minute read

6 Common Behavioral Interview Questions (and How to Answer Them)

Kat Boogaard

Kat Boogaard

What if you can’t find the office or your Zoom connection doesn’t work right? What if you spill coffee on your shirt or have something stuck in your teeth? What if your mind goes blank when they throw out one of those dreaded, “Tell me about a time when…” questions?

It’s totally normal to feel anxious (a whopping 93% of people admit they get nervous about job interviews). The key to squelching those stomach butterflies and boosting your confidence lies in adequate preparation, especially when answering behavioral interview questions

So, let’s dig into some example behavioral interview questions and answers, as well as some strategies you can use to answer them in a way that’s poised, polished, and professional. 

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What are behavioral interview questions?

Let’s back up and cover the basics. What exactly is a behavioral interview question?

This is a type of question that asks you to recall a real, previous experience and share it with the interviewer. It’s important to note that behavioral interview questions are different from situational interview questions, which are hypothetical (i.e., “What would you do if…?”). 

Behavioral interview questions are usually easy to recognize in an interview because they’ll start with something like, “Tell me about a time when…” “Explain a situation when…” “Have you ever…” or something similar. 

These questions don’t exist just to torture you. They provide a lot of useful information for the interviewer because they require that you offer evidence that supports your skills.

After all, anyone can say they’re a problem solver on their resume. But, behavioral interview questions demand that you share an example of a time when you actually solved a problem.


How to answer behavioral interview questions

You get it—these types of questions are beneficial for the interviewer. But that doesn’t change the fact that they’re sort of brutal to answer. When your nerves are running high, it’s tough to remember your name, let alone a time when you successfully led a team.

That’s why the STAR method is so helpful. It’s a simple framework you can use to thoroughly and strategically answer these questions without rambling through unnecessary details.

The STAR method is an acronym that stands for:

Situation: Set the scene by providing some basic details about the scenario you were in. 

Task: Describe what responsibilities you had in that situation. 

Action: Explain the steps you took. 

Result: Highlight what you achieved.

Following this framework helps you deliver a focused answer that hits on everything the interviewer needs to know. Here are a few more tips for using this acronym effectively:

  • Keep things brief: You only need to dedicate a sentence or two to each piece of the acronym. That’s the perfect length to keep your answers thorough and impactful, without getting too long-winded.
  • Focus on results: It’s easy to get hung up on providing way too many details about the situation (“Oh, it was a rainy Tuesday and I had just finished a burrito for lunch…”), but you should place the majority of your focus on the results. Employers don’t just care about what you did—they want to know why it mattered. 
  • Be flexible with your anecdotes: Before your interview, take some time to reflect on a few memorable and compelling experiences from past positions. These anecdotes can likely be repurposed for a variety of questions. For example, that promotion you landed could be used as an example of a time you achieved a challenging goal or a time you were recognized for outstanding work. 

Example behavioral interview questions and answers

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know what questions your interviewer will throw your way until you’re actually in the hot seat.

However, there are some common behavioral interview questions that employers like to lean on. We’re spelling those out below—along with some example answers that use the STAR method. 

Behavioral interview question #1: Tell me about a problem you solved at work. 

Example answer: I was working as a sales representative at CompanyXYZ (situation). Myself and other representatives were losing track of which leads were being followed up with, and we knew we needed a more streamlined system in place (task). I stepped up to evaluate different CRM options and select the one that would be best for our needs (action). We implemented my choice, and our more organized approach meant that we converted 25% more leads that quarter (result). 


Behavioral interview question #2: Give me an example of a time when you achieved a challenging goal.

Example answer: Four years ago, I worked full-time as a human resource generalist (situation). I decided that I wanted to fulfill a lifelong goal of going back to school to get my MBA (task). I found a program that offered evening, weekend, and online classes so that I could balance it with my career, organized my application materials, and mapped out the different courses I would need (action). I was accepted into the program and ended up receiving my MBA three years after beginning the program—an accomplishment I’m super proud of (result). 

Behavioral interview question #3: Explain a situation when you had to work under pressure.

Example answer: I was working on the PR team at CompanyXYZ (situation). It came to light that an influencer we frequently worked with was involved in a scandal, and we needed to work fast to cut ties and preserve our company reputation (task). I immediately drafted a press release and copy for social posts for our company to publish (action). Understandably, some people were still upset about our previous affiliation with that influencer. But, most customers and audience members praised our swift action and separation (result). 

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Behavioral interview question #4: Describe a time when you had to work with someone you didn’t get along with.

Example answer: I previously worked as an accountant at CompanyXYZ and was paired up with another accountant who had a reputation for shirking responsibilities (situation). We needed to handle the entire company’s migration over to another accounting platform (task). I was worried that he wouldn’t contribute and would leave the bulk of the work to me, so I split the project into smaller tasks and assigned some to each of us, along with a deadline (action). This boosted accountability, ensured he completed his assigned duties, and allowed us to complete that migration efficiently (result). 

Behavioral interview question #5: Share a time when you failed or made a mistake.

Example answer: In my position as a content marketing specialist at CompanyXYZ, I drafted blog posts and promoted them on social media and through our newsletter (situation). I accidentally mixed up our publishing schedule and ended up promoting a blog post that wasn’t published yet, meaning the links on social and in our newsletter were broken (task). I took action quickly by publishing the blog post so that the promotional links would be functional (action). I acted fast enough that none of our audience members noticed, and it taught me the importance of double-checking my work. I haven’t made the same mistake again (result). 

Behavioral interview question #6: Tell me about a time when you made an unpopular decision. 

Behavioral-interview-questions-and-answersExample answer: I used to work as a UX designer at CompanyXYZ (situation). We were working on a total redesign of the company’s website, and the majority of the design team wanted to use a hamburger menu rather than a traditional navigation menu at the top of the page (task). I had the final say and believed strongly that conventional navigation was our best option—despite the vocal disapproval of my team members (action). It ended up being the right choice, and my team members commended me when our time on site increased by 18% (result). 

Behavioral interview questions aren’t impossible to answer (we promise)

If your stomach drops to your shoes when an interviewer says, “Tell me about a time when…” you aren’t alone. Behavioral interview questions are nerve-wracking to answer, but they certainly aren’t impossible.

We can’t help you with your Zoom connection or a coffee stain on your shirt, but this guide will make preparing and polishing your own anecdotes a little more straightforward. With enough practice, you’ll be able to head into that interview feeling cool, calm, and collected. Good luck! 

Want even more resources to take your interviewing skills to the next level? Check these out:

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Kat Boogaard

Kat Boogaard

Kat is a writer specializing in career, self-development, and productivity topics. When she escapes her computer, she enjoys reading, hiking, golfing, and dishing out tips for prospective freelancers on her website.