In a behavioural job interview, the interviewer asks behavioural interview questions about your past work experience. Behavioural questions (also known as STAR interview questions or behaviour-based interview questions) focus on how well you handle various work situations. They reveal your skills, abilities, and personality, as well as how suited you are to the role.
This interview technique helps hiring managers to ask questions that can tease out who you are, your skills, and how you approach difficult situations. The idea is past behaviour can often predict future behaviour.
Remember, hiring managers aren't looking for "yes" or "no" answers, but rather specific examples of how you handled a situation in a previous role or project.
The STAR method is a way of answering behavioural questions that works well. It provides a framework to structure your answers into a brief anecdote that illustrates your strengthens, skills, and how you get along with managers and teammates.
What is the STAR method?
The STAR technique is a useful strategy for responding to job interview questions. It provides a four-step process for organising your answers into a coherent structure that interviewers want:
- Situation: Describe the position you were in or the project you needed to accomplish. Use a specific event or situation, not a generalised description of what you have done in the past. Your response should provide the interviewer with enough details to understand the situation clearly. The situation can be from a previous job, volunteer role, or any relevant work experience.
- Task: What goals were you working toward?
- Action: Describe the actions you took to address the situation with an appropriate amount of detail and keep the focus on your work. Hiring managers want to know what specific steps you took and what your contribution was. Be careful you don't describe what team members or the company did, instead focus on your role. Use "I", rather than "we" when describing actions.
- Result: Describe the outcome of your actions and don't be shy to take credit for your achievements. What happened? What metrics were improved? How did your customers react to the new feature? What did you learn? Make sure your story contains positive results.
By answering behavioural questions with the STAR method, you can help hiring managers understand how your past work fits into the current role you are applying to.
Tips for answering behavioural interview questions
- Prepare ahead of time: This one seems obvious, but coming up with a story on the spot will generally lead to rambling. Have a few go-to stories that demonstrate a wide range of common behaviours hiring managers look for.
- Use storytelling: Preparing detailed anecdotes means you have time to develop a story before the interview (using the STAR method, for example) that you can draw upon.
- Answer the question: If the interviewer asks you a question and you can't think of a situation that applies, tell them. Being honest allows you to change the subject and answer with "but if I had encountered a situation like that, this is what I'd do."
- Rehearsed, not robotic: While you should prepare, don't read from a script. Remember, a job interview is a conversation, not an interrogation.
- Focus on successes: Avoid telling stories where you failed and learned nothing if you do need to tell a story that didn't have a positive outcome, anchor on what you learned and how that made you a better operator.
- Take your time: It's okay to take a moment before answering the question. Hiring managers want to give you the best shot at the job.
- Be positive: While behavioural interview questions often focus on times of stress or failure, don't focus too much on the negatives on the situation. Focus on what you did to solve the problem and the positive results.
- Know yourself: Remember, behavioural questions highlight your strengthens and weaknesses. Create responses that show you how you lean on your strengths and where necessary, fixed mistakes.
- Focus on results: Results is the last part of the STAR acronym and is one of the most overlooked. Remember to emphasise the positive outcomes of your actions and use numbers where you can.
What are the most common behavioural interview questions?
Here are six of the most common behavioural interview questions you will likely encounter:
- Describe a time when you disagreed with a teammate. How did you resolve the disagreement?
- Can you tell me about a time when you failed to meet a goal?
- What is a situation where you assumed the leadership of your team?
- What was the most challenging situation you have had at a previous workplace?
- Can you describe a time when you disagreed with your manager's strategy?
- How do you approach problem-solving? What's your process?
One of the most important things to know is that behavioural questions generally fall into one of the following groups:
- Client facing skills
- Time management
- Motivation and values
17 teamwork-focused behavioural interview questions
What hiring managers want to know: When an interviewer asks about teamwork, they usually want to know how well you work with others because good teamwork and collaboration skills are essential to doing the job you're applying for. You want to illustrate your ability to work with others under stressful or challenging situations. Be prepared to demonstrate how you have successfully been a leader and a team player.
- Tell me about a time when you had to work closely with someone who had a different personality to yours.
- Can you give me an example of a time when you had an inter-team conflict? How did you handle it?
- Describe a time when you struggled to build a relationship with your manager. How did you overcome that?
- Tell me about a time when you said something to a colleague that you shouldn't have.
- Have you ever dealt with a company policy you didn't agree with?
- When have you gone above and beyond your job role?
- Tell me about how you convince a team member to work on a project they didn't agree with.
- Have you ever had to get information from someone who wasn't very responsive?
- Describe how you handled a difficult situation with a coworker.
- Give me an example of how you've worked well with people on other teams.
- What do you do when you disagree with management's decision?
- Are you better at working on a team or alone?
- What role do you assume when you work within a team?
- Describe the differences between teams you worked on. What was your favourite, and why?
- What do you do when you disagree with a team member?
- Tell me about a time when you failed to lead your team.
- Describe a situation when your team failed to deliver a project on time.
10 client facing-focused behavioural interview questions
What hiring managers want to know: Examples of a time when you successfully represented your company or team or when you were able to turn a bad customer interaction into a good one. If the role you're interviewing for works with clients, is in sales, marketing or customer service, you need to prepare for these.
- Describe a time when it was essential to make a good impression on a prospective client. How did you do it?
- Give me an example of when you didn't meet a customer's expectations. What happened, and were you able to turn the bad situation into something useful?
- Describe a time when you went above and beyond to make a customer happy.
- How do you deal with demanding customers?
- Have you ever had to decide which customers to respond to first? If so, how did you prioritise them?
- Tell me about the last time a customer was upset with you.
- Describe a stressful interaction with a customer and how you handled it.
- Tell me about a time when you worked effectively under client pressure.
- How did you handle a tight customer deadline?
- Describe a situation where you didn't agree with the customer's idea but implemented it anyway.
20 problem solving-focused behavioural interview questions
What hiring managers want to know: These questions are designed to discover how you think through problems and how you can adapt. Focus on explaining, in detail, the situation and steps you took to resolve an issue or challenge in the past.
- Tell me about a time when you were under a lot of pressure at work.
- How do you handle things you don't know how to solve right away?
- How do you weigh up the risk vs. reward of a particular strategy?
- Give me an example of a goal you thought was unreachable, but you were able to achieve.
- Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem.
- Give me an example of a goal you didn't reach and what you learned from it.
- Provide two examples of good and bad KPIs.
- Describe how you think about structuring OKRs.
- How do you use logic to solve a problem?
- When have you taken the initiative on a project?
- Describe how your problem-solving skills were able to benefit your team or company.
- Are you able to tell me about a time when you used creativity to overcome a business or ethical dilemma?
- What was the best idea you had at a previous company?
- How do you approach deciding which problems to focus on?
- Tell me about when someone in senior leadership asked you for help.
- Name three things you improved at your previous company.
- Give me an example of a time when you had to think on your feet to fix a problematic and timely issue.
- Tell me about a time when you failed. How did you deal with it?
- Describe a time when your team or company was undergoing some change. How did that impact you, and how did you adapt?
- Tell me about your first job, what did you do to get up to speed?
15 time management-focused behavioural interview questions
What hiring managers want to know: The interviewer wants to see how you think about time management, deal with stress, and allocate resources. Get ready to talk about a time when you had to juggle responsibilities, work under a deadline, organise a project, and keep multiple stakeholders happy.
- Tell me about a time when you were under a lot of time pressure. What was going on, and how did you get through it?
- Tell me about a time when you had to be very strategic to meet a deadline.
- Describe a long-term project you managed. How did you overcome Parkinson's law?
- Share a situation where you saw a team member was struggling and stepped in to help.
- Describe a time when you had to motivate your team to meet a tight deadline.
- Give me an example of when you decided it was best to postpone making a business-critical decision and how you explained it to your boss.
- When have your time management skills failed you?
- Tell me about a time when you had too much to do and not enough resources. What was your solution, and why?
- Give me an example of a time when you were partway through a project and realised that it was the wrong thing to work on.
- Share an example of when you sacrificed short-term productivity for a longer-term goal.
- Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
- Sometimes you can't get to everything on your to-do list. Tell me about how you decide what to prioritise in these situations.
- Tell me about a time when you set a goal for yourself. How did you ensure you would meet your objective in time?
- Give me an example of how you managed numerous projects at once.
- Have you ever had to handle numerous responsibilities at once?
10 communication-focused behavioural interview questions
What hiring managers want to know: While you probably won't have any problem thinking about a story for communication questions, remember interviewers also care about your thought process, preparation, and how you deliver bad news.
- Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully persuade senior management that your strategy was the right approach.
- Do you prefer written or verbal communication?
- Describe a time when you were the resident expert. What did you do to make sure everyone was able to get up to speed on the topic?
- Tell me when you had to rely on documentation to get your ideas across to a team.
- Give me an example when you had to explain something complicated to a new employee.
- Tell me about a successful presentation you gave to a customer.
- Have you ever had to deliver negative feedback to a colleague?
- Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to convince someone to see things your way.
- Was there ever a time that you verbally disagreed with your boss or another authority figure? What was the situation, and how did it turn out?
- Tell me about a time when someone brought up an opposing point of view that never occurred to you.
15 motivation and values-focused behavioural interview questions
What hiring managers want to know: A lot of these questions seem random but are designed to help hiring managers understand what motivates you. Where possible, address this directly even if the question isn't explicit about it.
- Tell me about your proudest achievement.
- Describe a time when you saw a problem and decide to fix it rather than waiting for someone else to do it.
- Do you prefer to manage carefully or given loose supervision?
- Give me an example of a time when you needed to be creative at work. Did you enjoy it?
- Tell me about a time when you were dissatisfied at work. What could your previous company have done to make it better?
- What do you look for in colleagues?
- What does your ideal day look like?
- Why do you want to work at this company?
- Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
- Have you ever been in a situation where you didn't have enough work to do?
- What is your biggest regret at work?
- Do you prefer delegating tasks or doing them yourself?
- How do you handle unexpected changes or challenges?
- Describe a time when you set your sights too high (or too low).
- Have you ever made a mistake? How did you handle it?