As a staffing agency, we always receive inquiries regarding what questions interviewers should ponder when hiring for new positions. And, as a staffing agency, we can’t shy away from the question. Ultimately, that’s what we are here for. Our profession, by definition, is to find the best possible candidates through all means. Therefore, we are required and willing to share some of the secret sauce every once in a while. So, we’ve decided to jump into the realm of behavioral interview questions and which ones we believe are the most potent.
At this point, you might be wondering about our intention. Why would a national staffing agency be willing to share the golden secret to determining an applicant’s behavioral stance? Why would we be willing to give out the golden egg that could put us out of business?
Jokes aside, we care about providing great workers to great businesses. We care about putting the right employees with the right employers. Henceforth, we are willing to give out a secret here and there (wink wink).
Let’s dive into it. Here are our favorite behavioral interview questions with example answers.
If you are looking for overall interview questions, we broke down our
Top 34 Interview Questions to Ask Candidates With Answers here!
What Are Behavioral Interview Questions?
Before we begin, it’s crucial to be on the same page. Otherwise, we are preaching to a choir that doesn’t even know they are at church.
What are behavioral interview questions? Well, it’s pretty straightforward. Overall, behavioral interview questions are used to figure out how an applicant acts in certain situations. From stress to leadership, the questions are used to gauge a worker’s ability to act and behave (aha). And, in a way, these questions work in 2 different paths. Firstly, the candidate gives you answers that help you understand them as a worker. Secondly, the high-stress and toe-catching nature of the questions tells you about their behavior at the moment.
These aren’t your normal interview questions. Therefore, you get to see how the interviewee responds to quick-reaction situations in the high-stress environment of a job interview. That tells you all about their behavior, too. A win-win.
How Are They Useful for Staffing?
Other than the aforementioned social distinguishing of the interviewing process, behavioral interview questions tell you a lot about the worker as a worker.
Think of it this way: Sure, you can find out a lot of information through a candidate’s resume, but you are truly unable to tell their working style, ethics, and energy level until they are in the position. It’s almost impossible to tell behavior results through an actual interview. Candidates put on an act, rightfully so. In the application process, the only thing that can be considered certain is the candidate’s documented experience.
Nearly 23% of new hires leave before their first anniversary (whether fired or quit). Though the application may look great, you can find out all sorts of work-based issues around a professional once they are in the role. Most of the time, these issues are behavioral.
Ah, the worker has 10 years of experience, but once hired, they begin screaming at their employees and ruining the company morale. Though they nailed the interview and resume, the behavior is outlandish.
You can sort of tell an employee’s overall behavior through their success in other roles and employment history, for the most inappropriate or harsh of workers won’t hold jobs for long, but you can’t know for sure. And, to be fair, behavioral interview questions still don’t paint the full picture, but it’s better than nothing.
Should You Implement Them in Interviewing?
Now, through the nature of the article, there will be an overwhelming amount of behavioral interview questions coming up. But, that doesn’t mean that the majority of your interview should involve them.
A perfect blend of behavioral, job-specific, and personality questions should be dispersed throughout your interview. If you note back to the general interview questions article we linked (above), you’ll note that there are multiple categories to choose from. Even in this article, despite being about behavioral questions, there are various subgenres.
Ultimately, you should include some of these questions in your interviews, depending on the job and industry. We can’t pinpoint how many or which ones, for that would be impossible without knowing the position. For example, if you are interviewing for a fast-paced role, you may ask the interviewee more questions about high-stress scenarios instead of, say, office situations.
What you include is up to you, but we suggest asking questions that adhere to the behavior and situations necessary to succeed in the specific role.
Before We Begin.
At the end of the day, there are 2 ways to go about this article and the questions involved. We could write to job seekers, detailing how employees should formulate answers and why the specific questions are asked; we could also write to job providers, explaining why you should ask the candidate the question and how they should answer.
We could write to both, sure, but it would involve a mind-numbing amount of reiteration and repetition. Therefore, we have decided to pick one specific audience. Though this article will address employers and why they should ask each question. We will also provide example answers, showing how employees may answer, and answers that would be sufficient and successful.
If you are an employee looking for help with a new job interview, don’t go away! You can still use all of this information to help build and prepare your own answers. You can also use the examples answers as the bones for your own. Just because it isn’t pointed toward you doesn’t mean it’s not for you.
We are all together here! Let us begin…
Top 57 Behavioral Interview Questions With Answers
Adaptability is the… Ability to adapt. It’s the idea that the worker is able to switch roles, tactics, and attitudes depending on the exact situation. Overall, this is especially important in high-stress or leadership roles. If you are firing for a job that will never do the same thing every day, these are questions you should bring up in the interview.
How well can the worker pivot? How well can they problem-solve and handle situations, regardless of the pressure surrounding them?
All of these questions may seem a bit sporadic and random compared to the other categories we will dive into, but that’s the nature of the topic. Responding to stressful situations and solving new problems is the key behavior that most employers are looking to sort out before hiring.
1. Explain a time when you were under a lot of pressure. How did you get through it?
The best behavioral interview questions to help predict employee stress resolve is to ask about employee stress resolve. It’s simple and outright. How do you handle pressure?
Obviously, it’s impossible to tell for sure. Employees have the tendency to lie in their interviews in order to boost their appearance (and its understandable. Therefore, you can’t truly determine how well they handle pressure from a question, but providing a specific example helps bolster the proof that they can handle it.
Ultimately, the employee’s answer should involve a detailed example. It should be easy to determine if they are making a story up through how vague it is. If they have a true story, you will be able to notice quickly.
Example Answer: When I was working on this (specific project), we ran into a delay that pushed up right into the deadline. The pressure was high, but we had to get it done. Therefore, it was important to focus that anxiety on the work to make sure it got done, but also to remain calm to make sure it got done correctly.
2. When you started your last job, how did you get settled and learn the ropes?
One of the scary things about hiring a new worker is how well they will fit in. We have spoken ad nauseam about the importance of company culture, and if you plop a worker that doesn’t fit in into a team, you are looking at trouble.
One of the biggest parts of a new hire is how well they can adapt to the already-existing team. If they are the only new hire and their department already has established workers, it can be tough sledding. How they handle the situation is important to the quickness that they reach max productivity. Put a new worker in at a high-stress time that doesn’t have the best adaptability skills and you are looking at a delayed learning period.
In the answer, you want to see a go-getter who works to fit in immediately. They are willing to quickly communicate and do whatever to become efficient in their new role.
Example Answer: First, it was important to pay close attention during the onboarding process to make sure I understood everything. Asking questions was important, too. Once I felt I had a good grasp on the job, I was ready to start working and asking any further questions. Also, I made sure to introduce myself to the entire team and establish teamwork immediately.
3. Give me an example of when you used logic to solve a problem.
Depending on the job, logic may be a crucial part of the perfect employee’s skillset. If, for example, they are going to be troubleshooting hardware or software, they need an ample amount of logic on top of the tech-specific knowledge.
Some people can be smart as a whip but crumble under tense situations, forgetting even their left and right. Therefore, it’s important to see how a worker can apply their knowledge and how quickly they can get swept off their feet. Having an example of used logic is a good starting point in understanding the worker’s style.
The answer should include an example in which the worker used job-specific knowledge, flexing their ability to problem-solve and their experience in the field.
Example Answer: Once, we were having trouble figuring out where a bug was in the software's code. I used my general knowledge of the programming language, pinpointing the direct placement of the issue. I had seen the bug thousands of times before but had never needed to fix it. It was easy once we figured out the direct issue.
4. Describe a time when you used your problem-solving skills at work.
While some roles may require more problem-solving abilities than others, any great worker should be able to quickly identify and troubleshoot problems. By this, we mean both physical and communication. If the role is in IT, the worker should be able to problem-solve computers. If the position is with customers, they should be able to problem-solve communication issues. So on and so forth.
Asking this question allows the candidate to explain and demonstrate their ability to overcome stressful or problematic situations. Their answer should include an example that can correlate directly to the new role. As noted, if the job is in IT, their example should involve fixing IT issues (if they have the experience).
Example Answer: In my last role, we had an issue where the computer system went down across the board. Using the IT skills that I have picked up through my training, I asked around and examined the equipment. It took a few steps of troubleshooting, but I was eventually able to get the team back online without too much time lost.
5. How can you use creativity to overcome an issue? Do you have an example?
Now we’re reaching some spicy questions.
Every great candidate can spin some tale of using their training or industry knowledge to solve a problem. But what about issues outside of the box? What about problems that don’t directly adhere to their role or industry? How do they manage then?
Ultimately, the perfect candidate doesn’t need to be MacGyver, but they should be able to think outside of the box when addressing issues. Let’s say, for example, a tech worker is faced with a mechanical issue. A mechanical worker is faced with an IT issue. Something out of left field. How can they handle it?
Example Answer: When I was working as a graphic designer, we once had a server issue. It was something out of my wheel house, but I was determined to help solve the issue. Though I was not able to fix the problem myself, I did come up with a plan to continue production during the blackout (explains plan created).
6. How do you approach problems with teammates?
Though we will dive more into teamwork in the next section, problems and overcoming them is a key point of adaptability. When things begin to crumble or become heated, can the worker handle it?
With this question, you are testing both resolve and the ability to overcome in-house adversity. A candidate being able to handle irate customers is one thing, but being able to handle struggle within is an entirely different beast. Without this ability, one disagreement can crush the entire foundation and culture of the team, leaving production at an all-time low.
The answer should involve aspects of empathy and clear communication. Obviously, you don’t want the worker to answer by stating something about flexing power, snitching to a boss, or not saying anything at all.
Example Answer: I believe the first step in handling the issue is to see where the teammate is coming from. Ask them why they feel the way they do. Then, it's all about creating an amicable solution. You don't want anyone to end up hurt or feeling as if there wasn't a compromise.
7. Tell Me About a Situation Where You Disagreed With Your Boss and How Did You Handle It?
This is the same as the question above but involves a person of superiority.
The answer should involve maturity, empathy, and willingness to communicate. You want a candidate that will stand up for themselves but not fight. You want a worker that’s willing to take criticism but also be open.
Another thing to note: take any personal information as a red flag. If the candidate starts openly insulting or speaking badly about their former boss, that’s not a good sign for them as a worker.
Example Answer: Once, my manager and I disagreed on the deadline of a project. They wanted it done faster than I believed to be possible. I took my time to collect my thoughts and approached them respectfully. I told them that I didn't believe we'd create the best product in that timeframe and asked how we could handle the situation together.
8. How Do You Prioritize?
Employees are often bombarded with multiple tasks at once. By asking this question, you can see how the candidate will rank each task.
Does the candidate handle each task in the order they come in or do they rank the tasks based on importance?
There’s really no wrong answer here. This is just a question of subjectivity. It shows what kind of workers they are with a lot on their plate. Multitasking versus finishing each task first doesn’t have a correct answer (except in some industries).
Example Answer: I believe in prioritizing things by importance and timeframe. Obviously, if a customer is waiting for something, that should come first. Otherwise, what needs to be done now, and what needs to be done later? I am great at multitasking, so I can handle multiple projects at once, but having a clear sense of deadlines is crucial.
9. What’s the best idea you’ve come up with on a team-based project?
Like creativity, this gives the worker time to show their out-of-the-box skills. Furthermore, it gives them a chance to brag about themselves and their work achievements.
A subtle hint to pay attention to is the inclusion of the entire team. Does the candidate just speak of themselves, or do they speak of the entire team’s success? Ideally, the right candidate should drop ‘we’ in the answer a few times to show selflessness.
Example Answer: Once, our team was having trouble meeting the deadline on a project. After discussing, I pitched the idea of (specific example). With this, we were all able to do our best and meet the goal. It seemed dire at first, but we succeeded. It ended up being a successful product, too.
Example Answer: Once, our team was having trouble meeting the deadline on a project. After discussing, I pitched the idea of (specific example). With this, we were all able to do our best and meet the goal. It seemed dire at first, but we succeeded. It ended up being a successful product, too.
10. Tell me about a time you failed. How did you overcome and learn from it?
Later in this article, we will discuss questions that involve learning from mistakes, but this is a taste. Failure happens. Everyone makes mistakes and has to learn from them. The question is not to pinpoint a mistake or hiccup, but to show a willingness to accept failure and move on stronger.
If the employee doesn’t come up with an answer, it’s a red flag. It shouldn’t be considered a death sentence, for it could just mean they were unprepared. But the unwillingness to admit failure is a scary possibility of over-confident candidates.
Example Answer: I once messed up a customer’s order (specific example). In all honesty, it was a lapse of judgment on my behalf. I spoke with them and apologized. I offered to fix the problem and handled it respectfully. I learned to always pay attention when dealing with a customer. It’s not the time for other thoughts.
Example Answer: I once messed up a customer's order (specific example). In all honesty, it was a lapse of judgment on my behalf. I spoke with them and apologized. I offered to fix the problem and handled it respectfully. I learned to always pay attention when dealing with a customer. It's not the time for other thoughts.
Teamwork makes the dream work. Right?
We probably don’t need to spend too much time discussing the concept behind teamwork questions. If the open job requires being part of a team or working directly with multiple peers, then you need to find out if the candidate is a team player. Therefore, collaborative behavioral interview questions should ensue.
Sometimes the best worker with the best intangibles is just not cut out for teamwork. It happens. This isn’t to discredit the candidate as a worker, thinking mind, or individual, but there are different people for different roles. If you find that the person has an extensive resume and great knowledge but isn’t a team player, and the job is a team job, then it may not be the best fit. Sometimes that’s okay.
Anyway, here are the best teamwork behavioral interview questions:
1. Have you ever worked with a team before?
I mean, this is pretty straightforward. Do we need to go on?
Some people haven’t worked with a team, believe it or not. If the candidate is young and began their professional career around the pandemic, they may have never been a true part of a team. It’s entirely possible and has become more likely every year. Isn’t that wild?
2. Are you better at working with a team or working on your own? Which do you prefer?
On one hand, this question tests the interviewee’s honesty. If it’s a team-based job and they note that they are truly an individual worker, you have to respect their willingness to be open. They may be a great candidate but note they aren’t great with a team. They may then note they are willing to try and learn to be collaborative. That may be worth it as an employer.
On the other hand, most candidates will say they are good at both. This may be true, it may be a lie. Who knows? That’s the fun of interviews (sarcasm).
In this regard, you have to take a complete stance as honesty. If the worker is willing to say they prefer one over the other, they are probably telling the truth. Though this isn’t to say someone liking both is lying every time (but it’s more likely).
Example Answer: Overall, I prefer to work with a team. I think that feeding off the energy and ideas of others makes me a better and more motivated worker. Also, I really don’t like working alone. It’s as simple as that. I can do it, sure, but it isn’t my preference. I prefer camaraderie and teamwork.
Example Answer: Overall, I prefer to work with a team. I think that feeding off the energy and ideas of others makes me a better and more motivated worker. Also, I really don't like working alone. It's as simple as that. I can do it, sure, but it isn't my preference. I prefer camaraderie and teamwork.
3. What would you do to fit in with a new team?
This one is simple. How would they approach building relationships with their coworkers? Would they even attempt? Are they the type that fuels off of being in a group? Do they need everyone to like and know them?
Ultimately, you want a worker that is willing to fit in with a team and work to do so but isn’t so worried about it that it’ll make or break their job. At the end of the day, teams are amalgamations of people. Not everyone will get along. But will the worker at least try?
The answer should involve something about introducing themselves and trying to learn everyone’s names and positions. It should not go into full detail about how they will win everyone over. That’s a bit much.
Example Answer: First thing I would do is introduce myself to each member directly. I would try to get to know a little bit about them off the bat. Just making myself known is a great way to start.
4. Tell me about a time when you had to work closely with someone whose personality differed from yours.
As we noted, teams involve a bunch of different workers. It isn’t a chosen friend group, but a collection of professionals that have to work together through circumstances. Not everyone is going to be matching personality types.
How does the worker deal with this? Are they willing to use empathy to understand the other worker or are they deadset on getting their point across? Are they willing to back down and let the other person win in order to avoid confrontation, or are they too confrontational?
The ideal answer should be somewhere in the middle.
Example Answer: Overall, it's important to try and come to a compromise and understanding. We may disagree, but that's not getting us anywhere as a team and not getting us closer to production. So, it's important to speak clearly and figure out both sides. If there's a compromise that can benefit and teach us both, that's the right way to go. Overall, it's all about being clear and understanding. No need for insults or heated conversation.
5. Have you ever led a team or had to take charge of a team? Were you successful?
Leadership questions are a monster in their own right (see the next section), but if the role doesn’t involve a leadership position, it’s still important to see if those qualities exist. Whether to test communication skills or potential for managerial roles in the future, you should ask every candidate if they have leadership skills. You should also see if they have a story to match.
Are they willing to take charge when they need to, despite not being the designated leader?
As we noted before, an ideal example should include a lot of ‘we’. The best candidates and leaders don’t take credit for everything. They also shouldn’t seem like they forced leadership. No one likes a bossy, out-of-place worker.
Example Answer: Once, our manager had to leave a project due to health issues. We began working as a unit but started to get off track without supervision. I stepped in with the permission of everyone else. I didn't want to force control, but we lacked direction. We were able to get ourselves back on track and complete a successful project.
6. Give an example of when you needed information from a coworker who wasn’t responsive or was overall difficult.
Just like question 4, this inquiry gives the worker a chance to explain how they handle team conflict. Sometimes teammates can be in bad moods, leading to a slowdown in team production. Can the candidate overcome that?
Just like question 4, the answer should involve empathy and clear communication.
7. Describe a time when you and your team members were forced to compromise. Explain the results.
This is an accumulation of all the previous answers in this section.
Firstly, the idea of compromise should show how the worker is able to communicate and demonstrate empathy. In explaining how the team came to a compromise, they should show the ability to… Well. Come to a compromise.
On top of that, this is the perfect time for the candidate to show selflessness. They are asked to talk about the team, not just themselves. How they go about that shows a lot about their character. Are they willing to give the entire team their dues or just discuss their own personal accomplishment?
Example Answer: During a project, a few of us on the development team disagreed with the next step. Through a pause and a lot of communication, we were able to come up with a (specific example) compromise that met all our needs. Then, we were able to finish production and create one of our most successful products.
8. What role do you usually end up with on a team?
Here’s another chance for the worker to demonstrate both honesty and accomplishment. There is no wrong answer, but the candidate is given the opportunity to boast about themselves.
Honesty is key and should be able to pinpoint. You can tell if a person seems like a type to take over leadership or sit back. Furthermore, they should not take this opportunity to throw former workers under the bus.
“Well, in my last team I had to do everything,” is an eyebrow-raising answer.
Example Answer: Usually I end up being the leader of the team. Though I never intend on taking control, I think it's a natural position for me. I am outspoken and empathetic, a natural leader, so I usually fall into the role without trying.
9. What’s your proudest achievement as a team?
As a team. Not as yourself. Not as a professional. As a team.
Remember that when asking the question. This is the ultimate teamwork question. It can come across as an opportunity for the candidate to boast, but it’s truly a test to see if they are a great team member. If they mention a personal achievement, they either didn’t listen or don’t care about teamwork. That’s no good.
Ultimately, there isn’t a right answer. As long as it involves a team achievement and a bunch of ‘we’, they are in the clear.
10. Could you work with a team every day?
And finally, we have another simple one.
As we noted before, some workers may not be cut out for teamwork. If they are, they may not be cut out for communication every single work day. The interviewee may honestly note that it gets overwhelming if they have to work with people every day. Depending on the role, that may be okay.
What you are looking for here depends on the role at hand, but any honesty is appreciated.
If the available role involves leading a team or will eventually lead to a promotion, you need to make sure the professional is a fantastic leader.
Being a great leader is not as easy as having a vision or assertiveness. Not everyone is born to be a natural leader. Fortunately, this is okay. Leadership skills are attributes that can always be brushed upon. All it takes is some open-mindedness and a calibrated moral compass.
But, where the candidate is in their leadership-building path is crucial for specific roles. Therefore, you should ask a few of these leadership behavioral interview questions. Even if it’s not a leadership position, it can still tell you a lot about the worker.
1. Have you ever been a leader or in a leadership position?
Just like the teamwork question in the last section, this is straightforward. Have you been a leader? What’s your experience?
Obviously, the candidate’s resume will tell you this, but you may want to ask them more questions about their specific leadership role. They may also have a leadership example outside of their resume. Maybe they were a leader of a local group or community.
2. Did you enjoy it? Why?
Well, I mean, why would you hire a leader that doesn’t want to be a leader?
If the candidate is applying for a leadership role, they should have some type of affinity toward the position. What’s important to note is the reason behind it, though. Do they seem like they like it because of the power trip? Or do they like it because they enjoy scheduling and coaching a team?
It’s the time to tell between selfishness and selflessness. Good leaders aren’t in it for themselves.
Example Answer: While I didn't plan on being a leader, I found myself in love with the position. I enjoyed taking charge and making sure production got done on time. I enjoyed learning about all my teammates and helping them become the best workers they could be. Coaching and getting the best product was a satisfying feat.
3. What’s more important: empathy or ruling?
In some ways, this is a trick question. In others, it’s a way to tell if the leader loves power or coaching.
At the end of the day, ruling and empathy are both important to leading. A leader with only an iron fist won’t succeed and will lose their team. A leader that’s too much of a pushover won’t see any success. The middle ground is the best.
Does the candidate understand this fulcrum or are they only worried about one side?
Example Answer: Overall, you always want to have empathy for your team. You always want to listen and try to compromise with them. But, when you need to be harsh, you need to be harsh. You can't be too sympathetic and let your team push over you. That will get you all nowhere.
4. How do you make your subordinates like you? Does it matter?
Another test of moral grounding, this question sees if the candidate believes ruling involves being liked.
Once again, the answer is a middle ground. Your subordinates should like you and want to work for you, but they should also have respect for your ruling and leadership.
The answer should show the candidate’s understanding of the hardships behind ruling and being friendly.
Example Answer: Of course, you want your team to like you. You want workers to want to work for you and you want them to feel able to come to you with issues. But, you can't let being liked outweigh getting production. If you have to be stern, you have to put your personal friendship out of the way. If you do it respectfully, they should understand.
5. Describe a time when an employee approached you with concerns. Explain how you handled the situation.
Like the last question, how does the leader balance leading and bowing to the needs of their employees? Are they willing to change their trajectory in order to adhere to everyone’s concerns, or are they the type to stay strong?
Once again, you want someone both soft and strong. Are they willing to listen and try to compromise the best they can while remaining a solid leader?
Example Answer: Once, an employee came to me with concerns about how we were operating things. It's always important to listen to everyone involved. He actually ended up having some great ideas to help make things more efficient. Obviously, we weren't able to implement all the ideas, but we worked to take his great ones into account.
6. Talk about a time you presented a great idea to management but they didn’t agree. Did you try to convince them?
And now we have the inverse of the last question.
What does a forward-thinker do when their idea is turned down? Are they willing to push for it, or do they crumble? Which answer is correct?
Really, there’s no right answer. You never want a worker to spend their entire day trying to convince management of something they already denied, but you also want workers passionate enough to fight for their ideas. It’s another tricky middle-ground situation.
Furthermore, you don’t want a worker that thinks they are always right. If the candidate uses this opportunity to trash their last employer, take that into serious consideration.
Example Answer: I once had a (specific example) idea that was turned down by management. I knew it wasn't the best idea to act behind their back or spend all day trying to convince them. I didn't let the idea go, though. In my spare time, I created a presentation to detail the idea and sent it to them. Eventually, they took parts of my idea and implemented them.
7. Describe a time when you were able to motivate unmotivated team members.
Great leaders need to be able to inspire their teams. As a coach, they need to be able to light the fire under their players. With this question, you get to see if the interviewee has done just that.
Bonus: they should give a lot of credit to the team member, too. They inspired them to go do a great thing. A selfless leader will mention that.
Example Answer: One time, there was an employee that was going through a hard time. It was crushing his productivity. To help, he and I had a discussion and talked about the importance of the project and how he could help. We ended up shifting his role a bit, but he went on to become one of our best performers.
8. Give me an example of when you delegated work across an entire team.
Another crucial ability for leaders is delegation. Great managers should be able to tell who needs to do what and pick tasks according to team strengths. Furthermore, they should not micromanage and do everything themselves.
This question gives them the opportunity to explain how they determine priority and delegation.
Example Answer: With one project, I had to decide which engineers worked on each part. Partly, I tried to pick the perfect role for the strengths of each member, and I believe I did. Also, I had to make sure I wasn't focusing too much and being the only one working. Sometimes you can't do it all.
9. Have you ever had to reprimand a team member? How’d you do it?
As noted, soft leaders don’t get much out of their team. You have to have some level of assertiveness to be able to motivate and push a team. Even the best workers may need criticism or reprimand eventually. How does the candidate handle it?
Like the other answers, this one should involve both sternness and empathy. You don’t want to be outright mean, but you also can’t be too soft.
Example Answer: I believe the best way to reprimand is to find out why they are causing trouble in the first place. It's important to have direct communication and find out what's going on. Then, you can let them know the consequences of their actions. Just yelling orders will not work and will make things worse.
10. Can you talk about a time when you discovered new information that affected a decision you had made already?
Like adaptability, you need to test if the leader can pivot. Are they stubborn or are they willing to admit defeat?
In our leadership skills article, we note how important it is for managers to be able to admit mistakes and learn from them. Is the candidate willing to do that at the moment? Are they willing to learn and change on the fly?
They should be.
Example Answer: during the final stages of our project, one of my team members noted a way we could make things better. It was already far along in the production process, but they had a great point. We implemented it in the last few steps and then ended up using it entirely in the next project.
Ethics are the real behavioral interview questions by definition. Yes, the way a worker acts in leadership and team roles is considered behavior, but the way a worker acts when gray questions arise is the real inquiry at hand.
With the upcoming questions, you can see how the candidate views both the world and the job. Are they confrontational or timid? Are they willing to pinpoint what’s wrong and right, passing judgment like an official? Are they willing to bend the rules to improve their status?
These are the real-deal, psychological behavioral interview questions. These are the ones that make the interviewee think, answering with information that not only reflects their professionalism but their views on life.
It’s important to remember that a lot of these questions don’t have right or wrong answers. They’re morally gray, after all. What you are looking for in a worker’s personality may be different than in another company. Therefore, the answers here may vary on acceptance. So, we aren’t going to note which side of each coin is morally correct. That’s not our job.
Let’s get deep.
1. Would you lie if it was for the betterment of the project or team?
On paper, you never want an employee that lies. The pinnacle of success is honesty and integrity, right?
Theoretically, this question is used to see if a candidate is willing to break the rules, and there are very few situations where saying yes to this question is seen as a green flag. But, there are times when it makes sense.
For example, a manager may be willing to gloss over or hide budget cuts until after a project is done so as to not crush employee morale or raise stress. In a way, this is a little white lie that’s acceptable. And, you have to give some sort of credit to the interviewee who is willing to discuss a morally gray example.
Most of the time, you want the employee to answer a hard no, though. You never want an employee that’s morally unjust and willing to lie to anyone for their own success.
2. Has there ever been a time when you saw a teammate doing something wrong? How did you handle it?
Here’s another one with no blatant answer.
In one corner, you want an employee willing to speak up for something wrong. On the other, you don’t want one that’s quick to report teammates or is constantly sniffing for things to get others in trouble. That, my friend, is a toxic worker. You never want a toxic worker.
The answer goes one of three ways: one, they report it to a supervisor. Two, they confront the worker themselves. Three, they don’t do anything.
The latter is obviously incorrect. The other two are up for debate.
Example Answer: One time I saw an employee harrasing our coworker. First, I let them know that it wasn't appropriate. Then, when it didn't stop, I reported him to the manager.
3. Have you ever been dishonest at work? Why?
Most of the time, an interviewee isn’t going to speak badly of themselves. The interview process is their chance to sell themselves to you. But, you have to credit the ones willing to admit fault. How much fault is the question.
There’s a place where an employee admitting they lied at work is respectable, but it’s the situation in which they lied that’s to be questioned. Let’s say, for example, the candidate notes that they lied once to help improve another employee’s performance or attitude. They were asked if they heard the negative gossip about the coworker. They lied and said no, despite hearing the rumors. This was used to not break the employee’s spirit.
That’s still lying, which is never good, but it’s more understandable than lying for personal gain.
Most of the time, the candidate will say they’ve never lied. That’s to be expected. If they do say yes, it’s the situation that matters, not the lying itself (though some stricter companies will take a yes as an absolute death sentence).
4. If you thought an employee was being treated unfairly, would you speak up?
This should always be a yes. The situation, like the question before, is how it’s handled.
Is the candidate willing to point out what’s wrong? Hopefully. Are they willing to do so in a way that’s inflammatory or problematic? Hopefully not.
You never want a candidate that oversteps their boundaries or goes looking for confrontation, even if the situation is unjust. Like question 2, the answer should involve letting the employee know they’re being unfair and then reporting to a supervisor if things continue.
Jumping in and playing Super Man is usually not a good sign.
5. How important is team culture to you?
To try and make things simple. Culture is the beliefs both owners and employees operate by. It is their moral orientation, the idea of business practices, and work ethics. The easiest way to put it is “It’s the way they do things.”
Upholding this camaraderie and team feeling is critical for workplace success. Therefore, the candidate should care about workplace culture. They should care about building working relationships and acting as a unit. Like the teamwork question regarding acclimating oneself to the team, the candidate should mention something regarding trying to become part of the established culture.
This doesn’t mean they should be willing to rock the boat, though. Some work cultures are problematic and need changing.
Example Answer: Workplace culture is super important. It's what makes us all want to work and show up every day. Therefore, it's important to help build that culture and keep it positive so we are all fulfilled.
6. If a coworker is not working, how do you address it?
Just like the other questions here, you are testing to see if the candidate is willing to step in for what’s right. It’s how they handle it that’s important.
Are they going to step in and start trouble or report to a supervisor when things get too far?
7. What do you do if you hear workplace gossip?
Workplace gossip can be detrimental to a workforce. Though some gossip may be seen as harmless, it still creates an aura of secrecy, classism, and distrust. It’s never a good act, regardless of how harmless the gossip is.
We broke down the entire process of handling workplace gossip here, but the idea is simple: gossip should be confronted and stopped before it gets too bad. So, just like the answers above, the candidate should say something about stepping in, not stepping too far, and reporting to a manager once it gets out of hand.
So far, all of the behavioral interview questions have involved communication. Whether through moral constraints, teammates, or leadership, each question has involved the behavior in social intangibles. That’s the behavior that matters in employment, anyway.
But, there are always basic behavioral communication interview questions to be asked. These are the ones that deal with customer service, clients, or shareholders. And, it makes sense in that way. The three groups a worker communicates with are coworkers, customers, and higher-ups.
1. Tell me how you communicated with your previous managers. Did you speak directly?
This question is just used to get a feel of former situations the worker worked in. If they have only worked remotely (like we mentioned earlier), then they may have never spoken directly to a manager. If they worked in a field where they didn’t have a direct supervisor, the concept of leaders watching over them may be entirely new.
This question just gives you a feel of the candidate’s supervision history.
2. What’s the best way to speak to an irate customer?
If the role deals with customer service, this may be the most important question in the entire interview.
Those that work with customers need to know how to deal with upset customers. It’s as simple as that. Unfortunately, answering this question isn’t as easy as 1, 2, 3. There are always defining factors when dealing with customer situations.
Overall, the answer should involve empathy and trying to provide a great customer experience. Empathy is the most important part of customer service, after all.
Example Answer: The most important part of speaking to an upset customer is to show you understand their frustration. Nothing makes a customer more angry than to feel like you don't care or understand. Furthermore, it's important to remain calm, unjudging, and direct.
3. Have you ever given a big presentation? How’d it go?
If the role involves presenting, you want to make sure the candidate is great at public speaking.
Some of the best workers get crushed under the pressure of presentations. In fact, 72-75% of all people fear public speaking. This is just a way to see if they have any experience with it.
4. Have you ever dealt with shareholders?
Same with the question above. If the role involves representing the company to shareholders, you want to make sure they’ve done it before.
5. If you have an issue with a worker, what’s the best way to bring it up?
This question is extremely similar to the one in the last section, sure, but there is a difference. This question surrounds how to bring up an issue, not whether the employee should. This inquiry already involves the idea that the candidate is bringing up the issue. The question is how to do so.
Overall, the answer should involve understanding and willingness to change. Like leadership, you don’t want a worker afraid of confrontation, but you also don’t want one that’s too harsh.
Once again, it’s the beautiful middle ground.
Example Answer: The important thing is to be communicative. No one wants a passive-aggressive workspace. I would talk to the person privately and let them know what I thought and ask their opinion. If the problem continued, then I would have to bring it up to the manager.
6. How do you let a manager know about an issue? Do you do it immediately or try and solve it yourself first?
Some companies want a worker that immediately brings a problem to a supervisor’s attention. Some don’t want to bring about wasted time, only bringing issues to the managers when it gets out of hand. Which one you prefer is entirely up to you. There really is no right or wrong answer.
The thing you should look for is the willingness to stand up to an issue and the ability to communicate it to the manager. Which order they do it in is up to you, but the candidate should be willing and able to do both sides. They should be ready to step in and/or consult a supervisor.
Example Answer: If the situation is an emergency, I will attempt to step in immediately and help resolve the issue. If it's not or goes beyond my power, I will report it to a manager.
7. Have you ever had to deliver bad news at work? How’d it go?
Out of all the behavioral interview questions, this one may be the most superfluous. Ultimately, it’s used to see how the candidate handles sympathy more so than empathy. How can they talk to customers or subordinates about things they would rather not have to?
Most workers, especially if they haven’t been in managerial roles, will not have experience here. Some will, and it’s interesting to see how they go about it.
Example Answer: Once, I had to let a worker know that their hours had been cut. It's best to go about it with empathy. You don't want to just yank the bandaid off, but you also don't want to beat around the bush. I told them and asked them if they had any questions.
8. Do you enjoy speaking with customers? Are you good or bad at it?
This is a simple one. Like teamwork before, some workers just do not like customer service. That’s entirely okay (if the position doesn’t involve customer service). Some jobs simply don’t require communicating with customers.
If the job is customer-related, you want to make sure that the worker is at least efficient in it. Oftentimes, the worker’s experience will tell you, but sometimes you need to ask. This question should give you some insight into their abilities.
Some workers actually love customer interaction. That’s always a bonus.
Example Answer: I enjoy speaking to customers. I enjoy attempting to solve their problems and make their day. I believe that I am good at it.
9. How do you implement empathy when speaking to upset customers?
As we noted before, the ability to implement empathy and understand customers is the most important part of customer service. Without it, customers may find themselves isolated and angrier than they were before. The representative, regardless of their role, needs to be great at understanding client issues.
Asking this question allows you to get a good grasp of how the candidate handles customers. It also shows you if they are aware of the importance of empathy as a customer service tool. It’s more than just one of the behavioral interview questions. It’s a requirement for all customer workers.
Example Answer: I believe that empathy is critical in both understanding the customer's issue and addressing it by lowering their irritability. I try to understand their side and use empathy terms to show that I care and am listening.
10. Tell me about a time when you made sure a customer was pleased with your service.
The final of the customer behavioral interview questions is the one that allows the candidate to boast. It allows them to show off how well they are at customer service and what they consider a customer-based win. Overall, their answer to this question shows how much they care about making the customers happy and what they consider to be a great achievement in the field.
At the end of the day, the interview process should be a time when the employee gets to be confident and speak of themselves highly. They need to sell themselves to you as workers. This is the time to do so.
Henceforth, this example should tell you how they handle issues and how they handle speaking highly of themselves.
Example Answer: Once, a customer was extremely upset with our service and thought we were neglecting her. I don't ever want a customer to feel that way, so I took the time to understand the issue. Once we came to an understanding of both sides, I let the staff know that she was a regular and needed to be treated better. Everyone learned her name and greeted her when she came in after. She was extremely happy.
Growth Potential and Learning Questions
There’s no reason to hire an employee that you don’t believe can exceed in the position. If you are filling a role just to fill a role, you will find yourself wasting your time and company resources. You always want to hire an employee that you think can become greater than they are, regardless if they ever end up doing so.
Therefore, behavioral interview questions should pinpoint to give you a hint of the candidate’s growth potential. Do they learn from mistakes or are they too bullish to grow? Are they stuck in their ways, or do they embrace criticism with an eager ear? Do they have dreams and aspirations within your industry, or are they just looking for a job to pay the bills?
Sure, some great workers are complacent where they are, but those aren’t usually ones you want to adopt into your company and team culture. It’s entirely up to you, obviously, but it’s not something we would recommend as a staffing agency.
Henceforth, here are behavioral interview questions that involve a candidate’s willingness and ability to grow:
1. Describe a situation when your superior was not around and a problem developed. How did you handle it?
How does the candidate handle high-stress situations? Do they step in and attempt to fulfill the boss’s duties? Do they let other workers handle it?
Asking this question helps determine the employee’s ability to think on the fly, take command, and their capabilities of growth into leadership roles. It also shows if they are willing to cross the line and try to play supervisor when they are not (often seen as a bad thing).
Example Answer: Once, two of my teammates began arguing when the supervisor wasn't around. I knew it wasn't a great idea to try to act as a superior to my peers, but I knew someone had to do something. I stepped in and let them know that they needed to separate for some time and take a breather. Then, they could handle the situation with the supervisor present as a mediator.
2. In past performance reviews, what are some areas your manager felt you could improve on?
In other words: how does the candidate handle criticism? Are they willing to admit they were bad at something?
It’s pivotal to show a willingness to grow and accept mistakes. As an employer, you shouldn’t want to hire someone that won’t admit that they’re wrong and doesn’t want to improve. Therefore, the candidate should show that they do these things well. They shouldn’t be too hard on themselves, but shouldn’t claim they’re perfect. There had to be something negative in their last performance review.
Example Answer: My last manager told me that I needed to improve on my overall time management. I have the tendency to hyper focus on a task. Since then, I've worked on figuring out how I can multitask better.
3. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
With this question, you are seeing if the candidate’s future aligns with your company. You are seeing if they have goals (they should) and if your company would be able to assist with them. For example, if the candidate says they want to be an engineer in 5 years and your company doesn’t employ engineers, you immediately know that they will eventually try to leave to pursue their goal. Whether this is a negative or positive is up to you.
Ultimately, workers should never say they are complacent with where they are. The best employees always want to get better and find new steps in their careers. The question is whether it can be done in your company.
Example Answer: In the next five years, I want to be continuously improving in my industry. I know there's room for growth and am striving to become the best. In 5 years I see myself taking on a senior or leading role within my department. Ultimately, I want to always be improving.
4. What are your weaknesses overall?
Like question 2, is the person able to admit their weaknesses? Are they too hard on themselves or unwilling to admit any fault? This question should help answer those subsequent inquiries.
The question is not to find out the employee’s negatives and see how they will affect your company. The question is asked to see if the candidate is willing to admit they have negatives and are dedicated to improving them in the future. This is the true sign of a humble and ever-improving employee.
Be wary if the candidate goes into a self-deprecating rant. You want them to admit fault, but not sell themselves short. The answer should involve something not completely alarming like time management or communication. Saying they have issues with showing up or work ethic is not a good sign.
Example Answer: Honestly, my biggest weakness is multitasking. I have had times over my last few jobs where I have had trouble handling a multitude of projects. Luckily, I think this can be improved upon, and I have been taking steps to do so. I have read and researched the subject and am always trying new techniques to improve my ability.
5. How do you feel about criticism from someone that isn’t above you?
You never know where tips and criticism are going to come from. Sometimes employees have ideas for you to improve. Sometimes customers will shoot constructive criticism your way. How do you handle that?
Ultimately, it’s important to see if a candidate is willing to take advice from outside sources. If they are, this shows their willingness to listen and improve. Some workers will only take advice from superiors, acting as if anyone below them doesn’t have valuable advice. Inadvertently, that points to more issues than just advice.
Example Answer: Good advice comes from anywhere. Obviously, there's a difference between criticism and someone trying to act like they have power over me. But, if the advice is good and can help me grow, I'm all for it.
6. Is there something that would motivate you to move from your current position?
This a bold question but one that gets to the point. The candidate will either show their commitment to the company or reveal they don’t plan on staying long. If honest, the candidate will also let you know that they are vying for a higher or different position in the future.
There are good and bad to this answer. Firstly, it shows you where the worker’s heart and future lie (just let question 3). Secondly, it shows you that the candidate isn’t deadset on staying in this role. Whether that’s positive is up to you and the position overall. They may note money, which shows a red sign for further negotiation processes.
At the end of the day, the correct answer is completely subjective. Most companies don’t want an employee that says they’d be tempted by more money, but it’s understandable to do so.
Example Answer: I love what I do and what this position is. I would like to stay in the role for a while. But, I am always looking to improve and move up the ladder. So, yes, I would be tempted by a promotional position, but I would hope it would be within this company.
7. What are you most proud of?
At this point, you are looking for specific examples of a candidate’s past. On top of that, you are attempting to figure out what is important to the worker. What are their values? What makes them satisfied as an employee?
There are a lot of subtle things a good interviewer can pick up from the answer. A green flag is if the interviewee gives an example that involves teamwork, giving credit to their former coworkers. They then look like a team player and a leader (contradicting, but possible).
Once again, this is their time to brag. And, in this case, bragging is a good thing (to a degree, obviously).
Example Answer: I am extremely proud of the work my coworkers and I did on (specific project). The odds were against us and we were on a time crunch, but we worked together and crunched it out. I learned I could handle stressful situations and organize teamwork efficiently.
8. What is your biggest regret at work?
Behavioral interview questions should work to pinpoint how employees react in certain situations, Oftentimes, employees do not act well when faced with failure. Great workers take from those moments, reflect, and improve on them. This question helps you pinpoint if that’s within the candidate’s wheelhouse.
Firstly, is the candidate willing to give an honest and humble answer? Secondly, do they note how they are working to fix it? Those are the big things you are looking for here.
You can tell if the interviewee is being genuine. If they are giving some generic response, it may reflect on their ability to admit fault. Food for thought.
Example Answer: Once, I handled a customer situation incorrectly. Instead of being empathetic, I let the stress the staff was going through interfere, and I was a bit too harsh. Once I cooled down, I knew it was a mistake. Luckily, I was able to make amends with the customer. It's something I learned from and have worked to keep hot emotions out of customer service.
9. Tell me about a time when you tried something risky and failed. Do you regret it?
Back in the adaptability section (eons ago), we discussed the idea of instilling creativity into problem-solving. There is a place, wherever it may be, where taking risks and thinking outside of the box is great for employees. Sometimes a simple solution isn’t possible. Sometimes the worker needs to be able to stand on their laurels and try something they believe in. Other times, they need to follow protocol.
Depending on the specific job, the mileage of this answer may vary. If it’s a troubleshooting-based job, you may want to see more risk-taking than, say, customer service.
Regardless, the answer should be humble, show the willingness to learn, and show creativity. It should show both initiative and poise.
Example Answer: One time I had an idea that I thought would help boost productivity. I pitched it to the managers but they disagreed. I took the risk of trying it on my own. It didn't work, and I ended up getting in trouble for going behind the manager's back. I don't regret it because I saw it as a great learning experience. I learned that communication needs to be had before any major decisions.
10. Have you ever requested direct feedback from a manager? How’d it go?
And for the last of our behavioral interview questions (finally), we have a simple one.
With this question, you are able to see that the candidate not only thrives off of criticism and feedback but looks for it. They want to find out what they can improve. They are not just waiting for someone to tell them they need to fix something but are actively seeking help.
All in all, this is a great quality to have, regardless of position.
Example Answer: Yes. In my last role, I felt like I was not as effective as I should be, despite never getting told otherwise. I reached out to the manager and learned I needed to pick up the pace (specific answer). It certainly helped me get better at the role.
And those are our top behavioral interview questions!
Need more interviewing advice for both employers and employees? Check out our other articles here!
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