Behavioral interview questions are questions that deal with past work experience and situations. Instead of hypothetical situations, these questions require you to provide concrete examples of previous situations that you have dealt with.
1. Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.
What They Want to Know: If you’re being considered for a high-stress job, the interviewer will want to know how well you can work under pressure. Give a real example of how you’ve dealt with pressure when you respond.
Sample Answer: I try to react to situations rather than to stress. That way, I can handle the situation without becoming overly stressed. For example, when I deal with an unsatisfied customer, rather than focusing on feeling stressed, I focus on the task at hand. I believe my ability to communicate effectively with customers during these moments helps reduce my own stress. I think it also reduces any stress the customer may feel.
2. How do you handle a challenge? Give an example.
What They Want to Know: Regardless of your job, things may go wrong and it won’t always be business as usual. With this type of question, the hiring manager wants to know how you will react in a difficult situation. Focus on how you resolved a challenging situation when you respond.
Sample Answer: One time, my supervisor needed to leave town unexpectedly, and we were in the middle of complicated negotiations with a new sponsor. I was tasked with putting together a PowerPoint presentation just from the notes he had left, and some briefing from his manager. My presentation turned out successfully. We got the sponsorship, and the management team even recommended me for an award.
3. Have you ever made a mistake? How did you handle it?
What They Want to Know: Nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes. The interviewer is more interested in how you handled it when you made an error, rather than in the fact that it happened. The best way to answer this question is to talk about a specific example of a time you made a mistake. Briefly explain what the mistake was, but don’t dwell on it. Quickly switch over to what you learned, or how you improved, after making that mistake. You might also explain the steps you took to make sure that mistake never happened again.
It’s a good idea not to mention a mistake that would be critical for success in the new position. For instance, give an example from your last position that isn’t specifically related to the job requirements for the new position. It’s also a good idea to mention something that is relatively minor. Avoid mentioning any mistakes that demonstrate a flaw in your character (for example, a time you got in trouble for fighting at work).
Sometimes a good mistake to mention is a team mistake. You don’t want to place all the blame on your teammates, but you can say that you collectively made an error.
Sample Answer: When I first became an assistant manager of a sales branch, I tried to take on everything myself, from the day-to-day operations of the branch to making all of the big sales calls. I quickly learned that the best managers know how to delegate effectively so that work is done efficiently. Since then, I have won numerous awards for my management skills, and I believe a lot of this has to do with my ability to delegate effectively.
4. Give an example of how you set goals.
What They Want to Know: With this question, the interviewer wants to know how well you plan and set goals for what you want to accomplish. The easiest way to respond is to share examples of successful goal setting.
Sample Answer: Within a few weeks of beginning my first job as a sales associate in a department store, I knew that I wanted to be in the fashion industry. I decided that I would work my way up to department manager, and at that point, I would have enough money saved to be able to attend design school full-time. I did just that, and I even landed my first job through an internship I completed the summer before graduation.
5. Give an example of a goal you reached and tell how you achieved it.
What They Want to Know: The hiring manager is interested in learning what you do to achieve your goals and the steps you take to accomplish them. What separates a good answer from an exceptional one is a description of the active strategy and steps you’re taking to achieve those goals, which also speaks to your motivation and call to action.
Sample Answer: When I started working for XYZ Company, I wanted to achieve the Employee of the Month title. It was a motivational challenge, and not all the employees took it that seriously, but I really wanted that parking spot and my picture on the wall. I went out of my way to be helpful to my colleagues, supervisors, and customers – which I would have done anyway. I liked the job and the people I worked with. The third month I was there, I got the honor. It was good to achieve my goal, and I actually ended up moving into a managerial position there pretty quickly, I think because of my positive attitude and perseverance.
6. Describe a decision you made that wasn’t popular, and explain how you handled implementing it.
What They Want to Know: Sometimes management has to make difficult decisions, and not all employees are happy when a new policy is put in place. If you’re interviewing for a decision-making role, the interviewer will want to know your process for implementing change. Explain the situation and what decisions you had to make to remedy the situation.
Sample Answer: Once, I inherited a group of employees when their supervisor relocated to another city. They had been allowed to cover each other’s shifts without management approval. Certain people were being given more opportunities than others. I introduced a policy where I had my assistant approve all staffing changes, to make sure that everyone who wanted extra hours and was available at certain times could be utilized.
7. Share an example of how you were able to motivate employees.
What They Want to Know: Do you have strong motivational skills? What strategies do you use to motivate your team? The hiring manager is looking for a concrete example of your ability to motivate others. This is a situational interview question with no wrong or right answer. One strategy for your response is to share an anecdote to demonstrate the motivational techniques you have used in the past.
Sample Answer: I was in a situation once where the management of our department was taken over by employees with experience in a totally different industry, in an effort to maximize profits over service. Many of my co-workers were resistant to the sweeping changes that were being made, but I immediately recognized some of the benefits and was able to motivate my colleagues to give the new process a chance to succeed.
8. Give an example of how you worked on a team.
What They Want to Know: Many jobs require working as part of a team. In interviews for those roles, the hiring manager will want to know how well you work with others and cooperate with other team members. These questions provide you with the opportunity to discuss some of the characteristics that enable you to work well with your co-workers, supervisors, and clients
Sample Answer: I have years of experience in team projects at my previous marketing job and that has helped me develop into a strong listener who can resolve conflict and ensure timely completion of projects. About a year ago, I was working on a team project with a tight deadline. One team member felt that his voice was not being heard, and as a result, he wasn’t working quickly enough on his element of the project. I sat down with him and listened to his concerns, and together we came up with a way for him to feel he had more input in the project. By making him feel listened to, I helped our team complete the project successfully and on time.
9. Have you handled a difficult situation? How?
What They Want to Know: Can you handle difficult situations at work or do you not deal with them well? The employer will want to know what you do when there’s a problem.
Sample Answer: On Project XYZ at Company 123, I was unexpectedly thrust into a team lead role and had two team members who hated working with each other. So, I designed a project planning meeting that would get the three of us talking about the best ways to approach the project and leverage each of their strengths. The results were excellent as we delivered the project on time and on budget.
10. What do you do if you disagree with someone at work?
What They Want to Know: With this question, the interviewer is seeking insight into how you handle issues at work. Focus on how you’ve solved a problem or compromised when there was a workplace disagreement. Be prepared. This type of answer always has two parts, and sometimes three. You need to describe a problem. And you need to show how you actively, not passively, resolved the situation. You don’t necessarily have to be the one who solved the entire problem, though if you did, good job for showing initiative. Many times, however, calling in the right people is the best and most appropriate form of action. Either way, don’t be shy about telling this to your interviewer.
A third part of answering this type of question involves sharing your personal philosophy. Your philosophy can be about your work ethic in general or certain industry-specific issues.
Don’t stress about coming up with a major problem. Not everyone can rescue a company from financial ruin. A problem can be as simple as helping two colleagues who disagree about how to address a task resolve their differences. What you perceive as a problem and how you choose to resolve it tells a whole lot about who you are as a person.
Sample Answer – A few years ago, I had a supervisor who wanted me to find ways to outsource most of the work we were doing in my department. I felt that my department was one where having the staff on premises had a huge impact on our effectiveness and ability to relate to our clients. I presented a strong case to her, and she came up with a compromise plan.
11. What have been your most positive and negative management experiences?
What They Want to KnowI: Employers might ask you this question to understand what you like and dislike in certain management styles. This might help them decide whether or not you would be a good fit under a certain manager. You should answer this question honestly and as tactfully as possible.
Sample Answer: One of my past managers, while very talented, tended to manage our team’s work closely with little flexibility on how things were to be done. It made me feel like I wasn’t trusted and there wasn’t much room for process improvement. My most recent manager was terrific at listening to my needs and helping me get the resources I needed to achieve my goals. I thrive under managers who create a collaborative, trusting team environment.
12. Tell me about a time you had to complete a task within a tight deadline. Describe the situation, and explain how you handled it.
What They Want to Know: Employers ask this type of question to see how you handle time pressure.
Sample Answer: While I typically like to plan out my work in stages and complete it piece by piece, I can also achieve high-quality work results under tight deadlines. Once, at a former company, an employee left days before the imminent deadline of one of his projects. I was asked to assume responsibility for it, with only a few days to learn about and complete the project. I created a task force and delegated work, and we all completed the assignment with a day to spare. In fact, I believe I thrive when working under tight deadlines.
13. What do you do when a team member refuses to complete his or her quota of the work?
What They Want to Know: Employers ask this type of question to see how you handle conflicts with coworkers.
Sample Answer: When there are team conflicts or issues, I always try my best to step up as team leader if needed. I think my communication skills make me an effective leader and moderator. For example, one time, when I was working on a team project, two of the team members got embroiled in an argument, both refusing to complete their assignments. They were both dissatisfied with their workloads, so I arranged a team meeting where we reallocated all the assignments among the team members. This made everyone happier and more productive, and our project was a success.
14. Tell me about a time you showed initiative on the job.
What They Want to Know: Employers ask this type of question to see how whether you just do the minimum to complete your job or whether you have the drive and vision to improve the process.
Sample Answer: Last winter, I was acting as an account coordinator, supporting the account executive for a major client at an ad agency. The account executive had an accident and was sidelined three weeks before a major campaign pitch. I volunteered to fill in and orchestrate the presentation by coordinating the input of the creative and media teams. I called an emergency meeting and facilitated a discussion about ad scenarios, media plans, and the roles of various team members in relation to the presentation. I was able to achieve a consensus on two priority ad concepts that we had to pitch, along with related media strategies. The client loved our plan and adopted the campaign.
Bizarre Behavioral Interview Questions
Why – The interviewer is more interested in your thought process to arrive at an answer as opposed to the actual answer itself.
Sample Questions and Answers:
1. How would you solve a problem if you were from Mars?
What They Want to Know: Helps interviewer see if the candidate can think outside what’s traditional or normal.
Sample Answer: If I were on Mars, they’d likely have their own problems separate from those on Earth. First, I’d conduct research to determine cause and effect, and then I’d offer potential solutions.
2. What is the color of money?
What They Want to Know: This question shows an interviewer whether you take the big picture into consideration when looking for answers. If you answer green, that shows that you have a narrow focus (i.e. just considering the US when answering this question).
Sample Answer: It depends on the country.
3. If you had to be shipwrecked on a deserted island, but all your human needs—such as food and water—were taken care of, what two items would you want to have with you?
What They Want to Know: This answer you give to this question shows your creativeness, ingenuity, values, and priorities.
Sample Answer: I’d like to bring a wifi-enabled laptop with a wind generator to charge the batteries and a lighter. I can do my work and keep in contact with friends on my laptop, and I can use the lighter to start fires and keep warm at night.
4. How many pennies would fit in a room?
What They Want to Know: The hiring manager is looking to see how you use logic to solve seemingly impossible challenges. Remember that sometimes a question is the best answer.
Sample Answer: Well, will this room still have furniture in it, or would we remove it? Also, what’s the volume of the room? Once I have that information, I could do the math based on the volume of a penny.
5. If you came into work one day and found your entire chair, your desk and everything on it wrapped in bubble wrap, what would you do?
What They Want to Know: They want to see if you have a sense of humor. This question can also give them a glimpse into how you handle conflict in the office.
Sample Answer: First off, I would take the time to pop some of the bubble wrap as that is so much fun. Then I would unwrap everything but would keep some of the bubble wrap on hand for times when I just needed a smile.
6. If you were a piece of furniture, which piece would you be?
What They Want to Know: Your answer to this question gives the interviewer a glimpse into how you see yourself.
Sample Answer: I would be at a kitchen table because that is where everyone usually gathers in our family and I enjoy being around other people.
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