Sample Behavioral Interviewing Questions

Compiled from the interviewing experiences of hundreds of managers and recruiters, the following list represents common behavioral interviewing questions.

  1. Give me an example of your initiative in handling a challenging situation.
  2. What are some of the things you find difficult to do?  Why is that?
  3. Tell me about a situation you faced that seemed to be impossible.  How did you handle it and what was the result?
  4. Do you consider yourself to be successful?  Why?
  5. Tell me about a situation where you had to deal with an angry or frustrated co-worker or client.  Specifically, how did you handle it?  Why did you choose that approach?  What were the results?
  6. What was the most important thing you have ever learned from your professional experience?  Why do you attach such great importance to this learning experience?
  7. What is the biggest mistake you ever made in your career and what did you learn from it?
  8. How would you define a work environment that is conducive to you being as productive as possible?  Why?
  9. If you could make one constructive suggestion to your current (or last) manager, what would it be?
  10. How does your manager get the best out of you?
  11. How do you get the best out of your manager?
  12. Describe the best manager you ever had?
  13. Describe the worst manager you ever had?
  14. Tell me about an occasion when your performance did not live up to your expectations.  How did you feel about it?
  15. What determines how long you stay with a company?  If they respond “challenge”, then ask:  How do you define “challenge”?
  16. Recall for me a major project you have worked on.  How did you organize and plan for it?
  17. What type of people do you get along with best?  Why is that?
  18. What do you consider to be your greatest strength?  Can you give me a recent example form your work where this strength was particularly useful?
  19. Do you consider your technical abilities (name specific technologies or software) to be basic, intermediate, or advanced?  Can you give me examples of specific projects where you have successfully utilized these technical abilities?
  20. In hindsight, how could you have improved your performance at your last position?
  21. Tell me about a time when you made a decision or handled an assignment where the procedures or instructions you had been given were unclear, ambiguous, or contradictory.  What did you do?
  22. Give me an example of a problem you encountered which required you to create a unique approach to coming up with a solution?
  23. Tell me about a time when you went beyond what is expected of you on your job.  What prompted you to do this?  What were the results?
  24. Describe a situation when you set challenging objectives for yourself and accomplished them (or did not accomplish them).


Behavioral Interviewing
Planning Worksheet

What technical skills are critical for high performance in this position?




   What “performance skills” are critical for high performance in this position (e.g., communication, leadership, influence, teamwork, planning/organizing, etc.)?


List the key/major projects and assignments you have completed in the last three years and the skills you developed while working on these projects/assignments.


Skills Developed



Note where there is overlap between the skills you believe to be important for the job and the skills you developed on previous projects.  Where this overlap exists, spend some time thinking through the details of the project and how you used your skills.


Skill Overlap





  1. In what type of position are you most interested?
  2. Why did you choose your particular field of work?
  3. What qualifications do you have that make you feel that you will be successful in our position?
  4. What were your extracurricular activities in college?  Now?
  5. Do you prefer working with others or by yourself?
  6. What kind of boss do you prefer?
  7. Can you take instructions without feeling upset?
  8. How did previous employers treat you?
  9. What have you learned from some of the jobs you have held?
  10. Can you get recommendations from previous employers?
  11. Have you ever had any difficulty getting along with peers, bosses, subordinates, customers, etc.?
  12. Do you have an analytical mind?
  13. What job in our company do you want to work towards?
  14. Do you like to travel?
  15. How about overtime?
  16. What kind of work interests you?
  17. What are your short-range objectives?  Long range?
  18. What can you do for us that someone else cannot do?
  19. Why should we hire you?
  20. Can you work under pressure?
  21. What were your five biggest accomplishments in your present (or last job)?
  22. What are the five biggest accomplishments in your career?
  23. How long would it take you to make a contribution to our company?
  24. What do you think of your boss?
  25. What do your subordinates think of you?  Peers?  Boss?  Customers?
  26. How would you describe success?
  27. How would you describe your personality?  Would others say anything different?
  28. Have you helped increase profits?  How?  Reduced costs?  How?
  29. And of course any questions involving technical areas of the jobs you have had.



  1. What can I do to be of the most benefit to your company?
  2. What responsibilities would you like this position to take over?
  3. What are some of the objectives that you would like accomplished by the person in this job?
  4. What other departments does this position interact with?
  5. How much orientation and training will be provided?
  6. Once I am trained, what additional responsibilities would you like me to take on?
  7. What is your personal philosophy or style of management?
  8. Why is this position open?
  9. What direction will the company be taking in the next five years?  What is the company’s vision?
  10. What kind of person will fit in best in this department?
  11. What are the backgrounds of the other people in the department?
  12. Why should someone be interested in your company?  In this position?
  13. If there were one thing you could change about the company (department), what would it be?
  14. What characteristics or traits make someone a success at your company?
  15. What does a typical workday or workweek consist of?
  16. What are the major short and long range department and company objectives?
  17. What one or two characteristics does the company feel are attractive about itself?
  18. What outside influences effect the company’s growth?
  19. In what areas, does the company excel and which areas does the company need improvement?
  20. Based upon what you have seen in me, where do you think I could contribute effectively?



Acing Behavioral Interviews

Acing Behavioral Interviews

“Tell me about a time you took initiative and went above and beyond the call of duty.”

“Describe the most creative idea that you’ve implemented to solve a problem.”

“Tell me about the most difficult group project you have ever had to work on.”

If you’ve heard questions like these during a hiring process, you’ve been part of a behavioral-based interview. It’s an assessment that focuses on what you’ve done in the past. And as you might expect, behavioral interviews are different from traditional ones.

Want to ace your next behavioral interview? Then it’s critical to learn the theory behind behavioral interviews, the types of questions asked, and the best preparation methods.


Why Do Employers Use Behavioral Interviews?

Over the past 15 years, behavioral interviews have become increasingly popular because they allow companies to make better hiring decisions. They’re based on the premise that past behavior is the best way to predict future performance. It’s a practical approach to interviewing, because the fact is, people do not tend to change. That’s why the interviewer is interested in how you did behave in the past, not how you would behave in the future.


What Kinds of Questions are Asked in Behavioral Interviews?

The interviewer first identifies the key behavioral traits a candidate should possess to be successful in the position. He or she then develops a list of questions designed to find out whether candidates show evidence of the desired traits. For example, if teamwork is one of the critical traits, the interviewer might ask questions like these:

  • Give me some examples of how you encouraged others to share their ideas with you. Were their ideas useful?
  • Tell me about a time when you felt it necessary to modify or change your actions in order to respond to the needs of another person.
  • Tell me about your most challenging work situation in a team environment. How did you resolve it?


How Can You Perform Well During Behavioral Interviews?

Preparation is the key! Here are some tips to help you get ready:

  1. Learn about the company and the position. Pay particular attention to its core values, since several of the behavioral questions will likely relate to them. You should also uncover the key traits of the position for which you are applying. Start by looking for clues in the job description, or ask the hiring manager what abilities will be assessed during the interview.
  2. Gather your workplace success stories. These examples should demonstrate that you possess the traits necessary to perform well in the position. You should identify at least one example for each of the identified traits. Recent ones are the best. Be sure these stories reflect well on you (even if the outcome itself was not favorable).
  3. Make sure your stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. A great way to include these components is by using the STAR technique. The beginning of your story should describe the Situation you were in or the Task you needed to accomplish. The middle of your story should recount the Action you took. The end of your story should outline the Results you achieved.

If an interviewer asked you about your most challenging work situation as a team member, for example, you might respond with a STAR story similar to this one:



As team leader for a new product analysis, I once worked with an employee who consistently failed to deliver information he was responsible for gathering. Without his data, the project could not be completed by the aggressive deadline.
Action I spoke about the problem with this person, and I determined that the large number of administrative functions he was responsible for were preventing him from meeting his objectives.
Results To solve the problem, I asked another employee to take over several of this team member’s administrative duties. He was able to focus better on the project, and I was able to make sure it was completed on time.
  1. Be specific–be honest. When you tell your stories, include all of the important details. Provide hard facts and statistics whenever possible. And be honest at all costs. Behavioral interviewers are trained to probe, and they will discover if you are embellishing or lying.

Practice Makes Perfect

With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to use a relatively small number of stories to answer a great number of behavioral questions. And once you can show an employer you possess the traits necessary to succeed, you’ll be on your way to landing the job you want.

Typical Questions Asked by Clients and Candidates

Typical Questions Asked by Clients

  1. Tell me about yourself
  2. What do you know about our company?
  3. Why do you want to work here?
  4. Why are you looking to change positions?
  5. What do you like most about your current job (or manager)?  What do you like least?
  6. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  7. What is the best thing (strengths) that your boss will say about you?  What is the worst (improvement area)?
  8. How much money do you want?
  9. Why did you choose to major in ______?  Why that particular college?
  10. What is there about this job (this company, this industry) that interests you?
  11. What do you do in your spare time?
  12. Can you do this job?
  13. Why are you the right person for this job?
  14. What are you really good at?


Typical Questions Asked by Candidates

  1. What skills do you feel are important to be successful in this position?  Reconfirm strength or overcome a weakness.
  2. What can I do if I am to start here to ease your workload or make an impact over the first few months?
  3. What is it going to take for a person to come in and be successful at doing this job?
  4. What are your plans for the company/department and where do you see US 2-3 years from now (mentally jump on board and join the team)?
  5. Based on good performance in the current position, where could you see this opportunity leading 2-3 years from now?
  6. What in your company has caused you to look outside for a person to fill this job?
  7. Are there problems you are trying to solve by hiring from the outside?
  8. Could you share with me a little about your background and why you decided to join this company?  (People love to talk about themselves and it lets the person take off their interviewer hat for a moment).
  9. What is the culture/environment like?
  10. Can you give me any insight about the company (beyond what is on the website)?.
  11. What concerns do you have about my background that would prevent me from being a viable candidate?

Successful Job Interviewing

There is no more important hour than that spent in an interview. Remember, you are there to provide information. The employment interview is more than a recitation of your background and experience. It is a competitive process wherein information is exchanged, impressions formed and conclusions drawn. Your chances of presenting yourself favorably will be enhanced if you follow some simple advice. You should have a good, clear idea of what you have been successful at and your strengths. You should also be able to talk about your weaknesses and what you are doing to improve them. Confident people who have researched the company score points. Being pleasant and polite, with a clear understanding of what you are best at with specific examples, make the best impression. The best way to separate yourself from the competition is to be prepared!


Date and Time:

  1. Prepare for the Interview. Research the company on the Internet. Read annual reports and other material on publicly traded companies. Get an understanding of the company’s business.
  2. Understand the purpose of the interview. Most employers base hiring decisions on subjective information. Your past experience is usually a good predictor of your future success. It is up to you to help them understand what you have accomplished, how you have done it, and why you have made the choices you have. Rehearse your material in advance. Think of everything you have done that is related to the job you are seeking. Explain the challenges you have met successfully. Begin by explaining the problem, what steps you took to solve it, and the results. Time your responses to make sure they are not too long.
  3. Stay away from any negative aspect of the industry or previous jobs. Know your skeletons and move on. Try to communicate the negative situation in a clear, short and concise manner. Also, be careful so as not to sound like a complainer about previous companies and bosses.
  4. Have a positive attitude. Blow their socks off and land the offer. An offer won’t be made unless the interviewer feels you will accept or are interested.
  5. Be in a selling mode. Sell yourself, your experience and your ability to do the job. Enthusiasm and energy are important.
  6. Review your resume thoroughly. Be able to talk about your experience without looking.
  7. Take a daily planner/portfolio along. In the planner, write your technical or job related questions. This makes them available to you. Also have it available to take notes. If there are questions that occur during the interview you would like to discuss, jot them down.
  8. Follow their lead. In other words, mirror their personality. If they talk slow, follow by talking slower. If they are fast paced, pick up speed. However, don’t become someone you are not!
  9. Wear proper business attire. Suit/Business Attire is the right choice in almost all situations. Keep in mind, those first impressions are important. Even though you may be overdressed as far as what you would wear to work at this company, professional courtesy says PROPER BUSINESS ATTIRE for interviews.
  10. Make sure you give a firm handshake and maintain good eye contact. Include a firm handshake at the conclusion of the interview.
  11. Bring 3-5 copies of your resume. One for yourself, one for each person on the schedule and 1-2 extras. Bring to light any significant accomplishments or letters of recommendation.
  12. Money– You should never bring up money until they do. Discuss this with your Consultant if you have questions or concerns. Feel free to discuss what you are currently making. However, if they want to know “what you are looking for? What you will take? Respond with: “I am open for a competitive offer. OR I am currently making (was making ____when I left ____ company), however I am open for a competitive offer (Include all aspects of compensation that you want them to consider, i.e. bonus, 401k match, PTO, pension plan, upcoming reviews etc. when describing your current compensation). If the interviewer asks again or inquires more, try: “I hope you will evaluate my experience and ability to do the job and make me an offer accordingly.” I will negotiate on your behalf. Clients know offers should come through us—this ensures that there are no misunderstandings or miscommunications. You can also say, “I am confident that when we get to the point that you are going to make me an offer, you will make a competitive offer.”
  13. How to answer the question about “strengths and weaknesses”…..Stick to professional responses. Mention a few adjectives that describe you, professionally. Try to pick strengths that apply to the job at hand. Regarding weaknesses, try to show a development area and specific steps that you have taken or are taking to improve in that area or minimize the weakness. Find a way to turn it into a positive.
  14. Stay away from benefits questions in a 1st interview. We will gather this information for you when things move forward.
  15. If you are not interested in the position, do not tell them, tell me later.
  16. If you are interested in the position, CLEARLY STATE YOUR INTEREST LEVEL. Ask questions about career path, company organization and growth potential. Mention the company name several times & ask about job duties.
  17. Leave a positive closing statement: “I appreciate the time you’ve spent with me today and based on what you’ve shared with me about the company and position, I’m looking forward to becoming part of your team or looking forward to the next step in the process.” You can also state that “I know I can handle the responsibilities and challenges”.
  18. Ask for a business card and thank them for their time
  19. Immediately following the interview, call me from your cell phone in the car.
    1. “My telephone number is ___________. If any other information is needed or if you have any follow up questions or would like to address any major concerns or selling points, contact me.”
  20. Send a thank you note (hand written or email)and try to personalize it to the conversation. Email tends to work well if they could make a quick decision and hand written is preferred for a slow process or as a follow up a few days after an email to keep your name in front of the hiring manager. Make sure you send a note to everybody that you met, thanking them for their time and reiterating your interest, as well as your confidence that you can succeed in the job.
    1. Some examples of things you can include in your thank you note include the following list. Remember to personalize it the best you can to each person you met.
      1. Thank you for the time you spent with me discussing your opportunity.
      2. I like the way you described the position and the company.
      3. I know I can handle the responsibilities and challenges that we discussed.
      4. Please contact me if you require any further information or have any follow up questions.
      5. I am very much looking forward to our next meeting.
      6. Address any major concerns/selling points.
      7. I look forward to the possibility of joining your team at _______ .
  21. Be aware of body language. Posture, hand gestures, eye contact, facial expressions, and head movements are all important. Also, watch the interviewer to see if he/she looks away bored or otherwise distracted. Keep smiling. A smile can make you appear more self-confident and help cover nervousness and insecurity.
  22. Personal Appearance. Arrive a little bit early. Try to look your best. Dress in a manner appropriate for the job. Good grooming includes neat, clean hair, coordinated accessories, and minimal jewelry. Skip the cologne or heavy perfume and don’t spoil your attractive attire by run down or scuffed shoes. Do not chew gum, but you may try a breath mint in the waiting room before your interview. Take an occasional deep breath letting it out slowly to calm yourself before you arrive for your interview.
  23. Eating & Drinking. If you are being interviewed in a restaurant, select something simple. Keep in mind that you are going to be doing a lot of talking and won’t do much eating. Select an entrée that is easy to eat so you can concentrate on what you are saying. Do not talk with your mouth full. At lunch do not drink anything alcoholic even if the interviewer does. At dinner, one (and only one) beer or glass of wine is O.K. only if the interviewer is drinking. If the interviewer is not drinking then you don’t either.
  24. Make a good first impression. Don’t forget to practice your handshake, firm but not bone-crushing. If you are interviewing someone from another culture be prepared for a softer handshake and adjust yours accordingly.
  25. Try and establish rapport. Most interviewers start with some small talk, which can set the tone for the rest of the meeting. Try and break the ice by commenting on something in the office of interest: art work, sports trophies, plants, the view, the weather, the building, anything about which you can comment pleasantly. If the interviewer does not follow your lead, no harm done, simply let him/her take the next step.
  26. Humor. Do not crack jokes or make light of your experiences. If the interviewer injects humor, respond appropriately.
  27. Be prepared for tough questions. Prepare answers to the tough questions. Do not be caught off guard. Prepare your answers to the questions you hope you won’t get asked. If you are not sure if you have communicated all of your points, ask.
  28. Do not try and be all things to all people. Acknowledge negative points honestly. Link your abilities to the company and its needs. Do not talk yourself out of a job. You need to be forthcoming and give information, but you should not talk too long. If you drone on, you will eventually talk yourself into trouble or contradict yourself. Limit each response to 60 seconds or less. Show enthusiasm and energy.
  29. Have two ways to answer questions: the short version and the long. When a question is open ended, use “Let me give you the short version. If we need to explore some aspect more fully, I would be happy to go into greater depth for you.” Interview responses should be tailored to answer the interviewer’s desire to know, without a lot of extraneous rambling or superfluous explanations. Wasting time creates a negative impression.
  30. Questions you need to ask.Not only do you sell yourself during an interview, you also must find out if the job is a good fit for you. Prepare good, well thought out questions. Focus the questions on the job, the responsibilities it entails, and the opportunities for learning and growth. Do not hesitate to direct the interview back to previous questions on which you would like to elaborate. Before the interview ends you should have asked questions so you know why the job is open, to whom it reports, what happened to the incumbent, and what they want accomplished by the new person.
    1. Possible questions (also see detailed list on the next page):
      1. What is the biggest challenge facing the company or the department right now?
      2. What kind of person will succeed in your organization/department?
      3. What will be the greatest challenge I will face in this role?
  31. Listen. Ask your questions and shut up and listen, do not interrupt. Talk about aspects of the job that are exciting to you. Never leave an interview without exchanging information. The more you know about each other, the more potential for establishing rapport.
  32. Compliment others. Remember that you did not accomplish everything on your own. Be generous in your praise and give credit to others.
  33. Do not correct the interviewer, make him/her feel stupid, or blast a former employer. It does not matter how qualified you are, if you shoot yourself in the foot during the interview or offend the interviewer, you won’t get a second chance. Do not put down a prospective employer or a company’s products, services or operations. Arrogance and the inability to listen are big knockouts. Do not carry a grudge into an interview. If you are bitter about the loss of your last job or have been looking for a long time, you still need to convey a positive attitude.
  34. Get an Offer. Approach every interview with the objective of getting an offer. You must emphasize your good points and eliminate or avoid discussion of negatives. Without lying, you must answer all questions with whatever positive comments you can make. Every time you answer a question with a no, you decrease your chances of an offer. It is better to respond with a comment of what it is you know, than referring to what you do not know.
  35. Have your references prepared. Dependable, effective references can be of assistance. Analyze who you will approach. Make sure they are individuals that can comment on your qualifications for the job. Take into consideration the reference’s ability to communicate. A reference may think highly of you, but unless they can verbalize it to the employer, the employer may walk away with a different opinion. Once you decide someone would be a good reference, ask them if they would be willing to be a reference. Let your references know in advance when and by whom they will be contacted, the kind of position you are interviewing for and the skills and background needed. Develop a list of at least three to five professional references and have the list available to give to prospective employers when asked for them. Do not give the list out prematurely. References may be checked by either the Search Consultant or the employer.
  36. Overall have fun. Enter each interview with the idea of learning something new. Don’t close any doors, even if you find during the interview, it is not for you. Keep your enthusiasm up if you are interviewing with multiple people. Do not short change anyone. The last person may be more important than the first. Have multiple questions, so you do not get bored asking the same ones over and over again. Get a good night’s sleep and eat appropriately so you don’t get low blood sugar. Take your resume and be prepared with all the information you need should you be asked to complete an application.
  37. Bad interviewers. Most human resource professionals and personnel recruiters are skilled at interviewing. At times you may run into someone who is not skilled. The toughest interview you may have is with a person who does not ask any questions other than encouraging you to talk about yourself. On the other side, you may encounter someone who asks too many questions that have little relevance to the job. If you run into these types of interviewers, you must make sure that you do not lose the opportunity to sell yourself. Don’t lose the chance at a job because you encounter a bad interviewer. Help the interviewer do a better job by taking control of the situation in the nicest possible way. Go into every interview determined that you will sell yourself effectively no matter what questions you are asked and no matter how good or bad the interviewer is.
  38. Never use foul language in any form, even if the interviewer does.