No interview process is complete without a couple of tough behavioral interview questions.
Getting candidates to explain their thought process, talk about a time they failed a project, or share their approach to prioritizing tasks is eye-opening – and every interviewer wants in on this well-known hack.
While we don’t think interviews are the most important stage in the hiring workflow (we’re big on skills-based hiring), asking behavioral interview questions is a surefire way to understand candidates’ strengths, weaknesses, and quirks.
So here are some sample behavioral interview questions to ask candidates!
What Exactly Are Behavioral Interview Questions?
Behavioral-based interview questions aim to understand how potential candidates think, solve problems, and gauge whether or not they are a good fit for the team and company.
A behavioral interview allows for rich insight into the candidate’s thinking process, problem-solving abilities, and even work ethic.
You can easily recognize a behavioral interview question from the way it’s phrased:
- Give me an example of…
- Tell me about a time when…
- Talk about a time when…
- Describe a time when…
- Can you share an example of a situation when…
- What did you do when…
Are Situational and Behavioral Interview Questions the Same?
When researching interview questions for your next hire, you might come across situational and behavioral questions – what’s the difference between them?
Situational questions for assessing fundamental beliefs and acquired skills
Situational questions are framed around hypothetical future events and how the candidates might handle them. For example, “Tell us about how you would deal with a team member who is good at their job but difficult to deal with.”
These questions help you, as the hiring manager, to understand how the candidate will fit into the team, handle conflict and management, as well as their ability to adapt to situations on the fly. They are also an excellent method of testing communication skills.
Behavioral questions for teasing out specific examples from past work
As for behavioral questions, they are a look into how a candidate handled situations in their past career and sometimes their personal life.
For example, “Give me an example of when you saw a project would only be completed after the deadline and how you managed it” is an ideal glimpse into the thought process of the candidate.
Additional types of interview questions
There are also two additional types of interview questions, which are more common in most interview situations:
- The close-ended questions are generally short and to the point, such as “why did you leave your previous company?” or “where did you study?”. This line of questioning will lead to basic answers, which can help the interviewer better understand the applicant’s past decisions.
- The open-ended questions will help you gauge the candidate’s communication style and skill set. For example, “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?”. An applicant can tell the interviewer a story about themselves and own their career narrative.
How to assess answers to situational and behavioral interview questions?
Behavioral interview questions are hard to answer by design. They’re an opportunity to give your interviewee time to reflect during the job interview.
Due to their difficulty, some candidates may struggle with answering the first question. Be sure to keep asking follow-up questions until they are comfortable with their answers. You may need to think of an alternative line of questioning to help them.
Hiring managers must always pay attention to every answer and example that is given. Though a behavioral interview question cannot accurately predict the future performance of a candidate, it will, at least, give the hiring manager an overview of the applicant’s preferred approach to problem-solving, teamwork, conflict management, and other important workplace skills.
Look out for the STAR method
You will find that many candidates will answer questions in a similar fashion. They will use the STAR method, which stands for situation, task, action, and result. It’s a framework for answering behavioral questions in an easy-to-understand way. The STAR method is a handy tool for anyone on a job search.
Candidates who use the STAR method to handle behavioral interview questions have done their homework – and that’s exactly what you want!
4 red flags to look out for when conducting a behavioral interview
#1 – Hypothetical responses only
A candidate’s answers to job interview questions should always relate to real-life experiences, professional or personal. If they only supply you with hypothetical responses, then they might not have enough experience for the job.
#2 – Can’t think of an answer
Candidates who can’t think of answers to your questions might not have paid attention to the requirements for the role. As an example, a manager who cannot give you an answer about past teams may not be a good fit for the role.
#3 – Canned responses
A good candidate will practice their interview answers beforehand. However, those that can’t base their arguments on personal examples may just be trying to give you the “right” answers. These canned responses can quickly help to eliminate underqualified applicants.
#4 – Emotional reaction
Always look at the results of interview questions and how the candidate reacted to them. For example, hiring someone for HR may require an outgoing individual as opposed to someone who’s overly shy or an introvert.
17 Top Behavioral Interview Questions to Assess Candidates
These are the top 17 common behavioral interview questions to ask your candidates:
- Talk about a time when you made a mistake and how you overcame it.
- What is your thought process when tackling a new task or project?
- Tell me about a time when you didn’t meet a deadline and how you presented it to your team and supervisor.
- How do you deal with difficult co-workers, and what steps did you take during one of those instances?
- How do you prioritize and organize your workload when there are multiple projects?
- Describe a time when you were assigned a task you weren’t familiar with.
- What is your approach to learning new skills?
- Describe a time when you negotiated a win-win situation for a previous client and company.
- What is the most challenging situation you have been in?
- Give an example of a time when you had to pitch an idea to someone in a more senior position.
- Tell me about a time you were under a lot of pressure. What was going on, and how did you get through it?
- How do you handle roadblocks or obstacles?
- Talk about a time when you raised the bar.
- Tell me about a decision you made based on your instincts.
- Tell me about a time you handled a difficult stakeholder.
- Tell me about a tough decision you made during a project.
- Talk about a time when you had to convince your manager or team members about something you proposed.
Of course, there are other job interview questions that you can ask, and you don’t need to stick to the above, but they are excellent guidelines.
Common Behavioral Interview Questions to Ask
There are other, more general behavioral interview questions that you can ask candidates to further gauge who they are.
Motivation and Values Behavioral Interview Questions
- Tell me about a time when you created a solution to a complex problem.
- Describe a situation at your past workplace where you wish you’d handled it differently.
- Describe a time when you set a goal for yourself and achieved it.
- Tell me about a time when you were dissatisfied with the status quo.
- Tell me about a skill you recently learned.
Teamwork Behavioral Interview Questions
- How do you motivate team members?
- How do you handle a co-worker that has a gripe against a manager or the company?
- Describe your conflict resolution process when it comes to team members.
- Tell me about a time when you fired someone.
- As a manager, how do you handle tradeoffs?
Communication Behavioral interview questions
- How do you overcome conflict in the workplace?
- Give me an example of how you handle stress as well as failure.
- Give me an example of a time when your behavior was out of line, and had to rectify your behavior.
- Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with your manager.
- Describe a challenging project you worked on and why it was challenging.
- Give me an example of a time when you successfully persuaded someone to see things your way at work.
How Toggl Hire Can Help you Assess Candidates Faster and at Scale
Conducting interviews is a great way to get to know your candidates, assess cultural alignment and core soft skills. Still, it is mentally taxing and time-consuming for hiring managers and HR departments. And too many bad interviews may sour the entire process.
In our experience, the best interviews are preceded by skills screening tests. Instead of jumping right into live interviews to assess technical fit, hiring teams can use test scores to identify the most qualified candidates and shortlist them for a call.
A product engineering studio, Producement, has flipped its hiring process on its head by introducing pre-screening technical tests. After adding Toggl Hire to their recruitment stack, Producement has put the first few steps of the hiring process on autopilot.
Once the skills test is set up, candidates start rolling in and are automatically sorted into tiers based on their test scores. Candidates that don’t pass the threshold get instant feedback, while top performers are zipped through the screening process to maintain high interest.
“Toggl Hire has improved the speed of our pre-screening process and the initial interview scheduling. We can now provide candidates with the opportunity to learn more about our engineering culture right from the start”, said Fatima Zhakupzhanova, Recruiter at Producement.
By using our pre-built test library as part of your screening process, you can efficiently qualify applicants for the interview and focus only on the best-fit candidates.
How Video Intros can help you screen candidates at scale
Interviewing after a technical fit can radically improve the quality of the interviews.
A popular screening approach combines a basic skills assessment with a video screening test. Introducing pre-recorded video interviews allows the hiring team to evaluate more elusive match factors like work ethic, motivation drivers, and cultural fit – but at scale.
This approach is particularly relevant to customer-facing roles, such as Customer Success Managers or Account Executives, but can work just as well for more technical roles.
To assist with setting up a pre-recorded interview workflow, we have built a pool of behavioral interview questions and soft-skills-focused questions into the platform. Simply pick your question set, invite the candidates, and evaluate answers at your convenience with asynchronous videos.
Whichever works better for you, we hope you found a couple of behavioral interview questions to improve your candidate qualification flow!
Juste loves investigating through writing. A copywriter by trade, she spent the last ten years in startups, telling stories and building marketing teams. She works at Toggl Hire and writes about how businesses can recruit really great people.