This article is part of a larger series on Hiring.
A behavioral interview is a meeting between a job candidate and an employer that focuses on job-specific situations. Companies do behavioral interviews or ask behavioral interview questions to gauge how the applicant will respond to a certain scenario at the place of employment. This article explains specific topics to discuss when doing a behavioral interview, sample behavioral questions to ask, and what to look for in an applicant’s answers.
To help keep track of your applicants’ responses, download our free behavioral interview template.
Teamwork questions are asked to gauge how well the applicant works with others and will fit into the existing team and company’s culture. Depending on the role, the importance of teamwork to a specific job can vary.
Poor answers show that the applicant does not try to work with others or resolve conflict in a diplomatic fashion. Good answers show that the applicant has experience working in a group setting and would work well with your existing team members. They also indicate that the candidate can work through conflict constructively and know when to escalate issues to management or human resources.
The very best answers exhibit a candidate’s willingness to work with a multitude of different personalities, demonstrated success in working with a group, and a keen understanding of their strengths and weaknesses in a group setting.
Sample Teamwork Questions
- Can you tell me about a time where you had to work with someone whose personality was different from yours?
- Tell me about a situation where you faced conflict working with others. How did you handle it?
- Can you tell me about a time when you wish you would have handled a situation differently with a co-worker?
- Tell me about a recent success when working with a group. Why was the group successful?
- Have you had to deal with a non-responsive co-worker? What did you do?
Client or customer-facing skills questions help you understand how the applicant will communicate with individuals who are expecting a service from them. For a salesperson, it would be the company’s client. For an operations staff member, it would be the company’s employees.
You are looking for responses that show the applicant is aware of how their work affects others and the company as a whole. Good answers show that an applicant takes pride in their responses and communication, whereas poor answers indicate a disregard to how work is accomplished. Poor answers also reveal that an applicant only looks at how they are personally affected by what happens with a customer or client.
Sample Client/Customer-Facing Questions
- Tell me about a time when a customer or client was pleased with your service. How did you know they were pleased?
- Tell me about a time when you worked with a disgruntled client or customer. How did you attempt to remedy the situation?
- How do you prepare to make a good impression on a client?
- How do you prioritize working with a large number of customers or clients?
- Tell me about a time where you had to deal with a difficult client. Why were they difficult, and how did you handle the situation?
The importance of adaptability questions depends on the variability of your company. If your company is in constant change, how applicants have adapted to change will be vital to their success. Positive answers show they are able and willing to step up in a variety of different situations. Poor answers show they may be reluctant to learn new skills and techniques or voluntarily help others. However, they may also reflect an inability to establish necessary boundaries with co-workers and seek help if their workload is unsustainable.
Sample Adaptability Questions
- Tell me about a time you experienced a lot of stress at work. What was the situation and how did you get through it?
- Tell me about a time when there was change at your company that impacted you or your team. How did you deal with the situation?
- Tell me about a time when you were unsuccessful at accomplishing a goal or objective. What did you learn about yourself through the process?
- Tell me about a time where you had to learn a new process or skill. What steps did you take?
- Can you tell me about a time where you had to quickly shift job activities due to a sudden change in priorities?
Time management skill questions allow you to learn how an applicant prioritizes their work. You are looking to see if the applicant has a strategy that works for them and if that strategy can be replicated in this new position.
Good answers show that the applicant is strategic about how they spend their time and able to avoid distractions. Even better answers will show that they are able to identify distractions and prioritize tasks due to their understanding of the department or company’s goals. On the other hand, poor answers show that they struggle to meet deadlines and are dependent on their manager to keep them on task.
Sample Time Management Questions
- Tell me about a time where you led or managed a medium- or long-term project. How did you work to make sure all objectives of the project were completed?
- Tell me about a time when you had to handle multiple projects simultaneously. How did you work to make sure the projects were completed?
- Describe a time when you had to delegate work to others.
- Was there a time when you were unable to complete a task or had to ask for an extension? What did you do?
- How do you limit distractions at work?
Questions about communication skills are designed to determine how an applicant interacts with others and provides information to them. Good answers show that an applicant is aware of their communication preferences and how their communication is perceived by others and is willing to adapt if necessary. Poor answers reflect an inability or unwillingness to communicate effectively with others.
Sample Communication Questions
- Tell me about a time when you were the subject matter expert. How did you make sure everybody was able to understand you, especially those who do not work in your department?
- Tell me about a time when you had to rely on written communication to explain your ideas.
- Was there a time when you had to present on a topic? What did you do to prepare and how did you think it went?
- Tell me about a time you had to persuade someone on your idea or recommendation.
- Tell me about a time you had to provide negative feedback to a coworker. How did you deliver it?
Motivation & Values
Motivation and values questions seek to give interviewers an understanding of what inspires the applicant to be the best version of themselves. This group of questions is especially important for jobs that have a robust career trajectory within the company.
Great answers show that the applicant’s motivation and values mirror or complement the company’s mission, vision, and core values. Poor answers show an apathy for success and failure questions, which could show a lack of motivation for professional growth.
Sample Motivation & Values Questions
- How did you define success at a previous job?
- Tell me about your best or proudest professional accomplishment.
- Can you share a time when you assisted someone in need?
- Tell me about a time when you had to step out of your comfort zone. What was difficult about it? What was exciting about it?
- Tell me about a professional disappointment. How did you handle it? What do you wish you would have done differently, if anything?
For more information on interviews in general, please visit our article on how to interview someone.
Behavioral interviews can be a very important tool in evaluating an applicant’s future success on a job. Being intentional on what questions you ask and knowing what to look for in the applicant’s answers will go a long way toward ensuring positive hiring outcomes. For more help on sample interview questions, please see our guide on the best interview questions for employers.
Hiring employees starts well before the interview process and extends after. For step-by-step instructions, check out our article on how to hire an employee.