Interview Tips

The Dos and Don’ts of Behavioral Interview Questions

Daniel Robertshaw
By: Daniel Robertshaw
Mar 1, 2021 • 6 min read

The Dos and Don’ts of Behavioral Interview Questions

If you’ve ever participated in an interview, then you’ve likely had to answer behavioral questions. They’re not for everyone, you either love them or you hate them! These questions are meant to judge your skills and qualifications based on your previous experiences. Whereas traditional questions judge your technical knowledge or qualifications, behavioral questions judge your ability to handle certain situations. For these questions, you’ll be asked about a specific workplace situation. You’ll want to reply with a relatable story that describes how you handled the situation and what you achieved from it. The interviewer is trying to see how you would fit within the company. They also want to see how you would react to situations that might occur within the position you’re applying for.

 If you’re nervous, think of it like this: You’re just talking about yourself! You know yourself better than anybody else. So, just talk about your own professional experiences. Before your interview, be sure to prepare responses to various behavioral questions so you are completely ready to answer them. Practice makes perfect!

This guide will give you tips on answering these behavioral questions so that you can land your dream job. Let’s jump right into it! 

three rectangular quotes on white painted wall

Prepare For The Unexpected

Your interviewer wants to hear stories on how you worked to solve a problem. You’ll want to keep your answers precise, don’t go off on a tangent and rant about the irrelevant parts of the story. Stay on-track and relate your experiences to the company and the role you’re applying for. To best answer behavioral questions, it’s best to follow a specific format. So, we’ve created an outline to guide you:

  1.       Present a relevant situation you were involved in.
  2.       Describe how you worked to solve the problem.
  3.       Explain what the result was and what you achieved.

Some behavioral questions may ask you to talk about your weaknesses. (Ex: Tell me about a time you made a mistake.) You want to be upfront, honest, and genuine! The interviewer is looking for your ability to effectively handle these situations. So, highlight your problem-solving skills and ability to diffuse stressful situations. 

Tell Me About Yourself

The ultimate behavioral question. This will most likely be the first question you are asked during an interview. Strangely enough, it can also be one of the hardest to answer because of how open-ended it is. How much do you say? Do you only talk about your professional life? This question is typically asked as an icebreaker to get to know you better. Think of it as your personal elevator pitch.

You’ll want to briefly explain your education, previous jobs, your current role, and what you’re looking for in your career. Since this question is asked at almost every interview, it’s good to practice and perfect it. Don’t just read off your resume – your interviewer will likely be holding a copy of it.

Do: Give a brief overview of your professional career and what you’re looking for.

Don’t: Recite your resume or ramble on.

interview behavioral questions

What Are Your Strengths/Weaknesses?

For strengths, choose characteristics/skills that are relatable for the position you are applying for. You’ll want to showcase your relevant abilities. This is a good time to show off what you’re good at, so just talk about your strongest skills. If you’re applying for a Marketing job, be sure to talk about how you excel in sales and creativity. Absolutely do not lie about what you are good at. You want to find a position that is well-suited for your skillset. 

Do: Choose skills that are relatable for the job.

Don’t: Lie (They will find out!)

For weaknesses, the worst response you can give is, “I don’t have any weaknesses.” Almost equally as bad as, “I work too hard.” These are far too generic, and every interviewer has heard these answers at least once. They don’t really provide any insight into who you are! Instead, give the interviewer an honest weakness you have. Then, go into detail on the steps you’re taking to overcome this challenge.

Do: Be honest but show that you’re taking steps to improve your weakness.

Don’t: Say you don’t have any weaknesses or that you work too hard.

Tell Me About a Time You Worked Well Under Pressure

Your interviewer is going to ask you behavioral questions that relate to the position you’re applying for. So, if you’re applying for a fast-paced position that may induce stress, expect some questions about working under pressure. Everyone faces stressful situations from time to time! They want to know that you can handle working while stressed out.

Give them an example of a time when you were under a lot of pressure and how you handled it. You’ll want to describe how you specifically dealt with the pressure and the steps you went through the overcome it. Another important thing to add is what the outcome was. What did you achieve because you overcame this stressful situation?

Do: Tell a story about a time you came under pressure, what you did, you overcome it, and what you achieved.

Don’t: Say you never face stressful situations. 

interview behavioral questions

Tell Me About Your Teamwork Experience

Being able to work effectively with others may be the best overall skill for someone to have. No matter what job you’re applying for, being able to work collaboratively will always be important. Employers are looking for people that can work with others to achieve their goals.

While now is a good time to demonstrate that you have leadership ability, you don’t have to be the story’s sole hero. Tell them how you worked together and why collaboration was important for that situation.

Do: Tell a story about how you and a team worked together to reach a goal and what you achieved as a team.

Don’t: Be the sole hero of the story.

Tell Me About a Time You Had a Disagreement With a Coworker

We all know what this feels like. Arguments with coworkers are never pretty. While you may think stories like these are only bad, you can also show good qualities and lessons learned from them. What the interviewer is looking for here is your ability to compromise and solve problems.

Now is not the time to talk bad about your coworker or solely put the blame on them. Talk about a time you and a coworker disagreed about something and how you both worked together to come to a solution that benefited both of you. Be sure to show off your ability to compromise and talk your way through things, even when you may disagree with someone.

Do: Show your ability to compromise with others and stay calm during conflicts.

Don’t: Talk bad about your coworker or solely place the blame on them.

interview behavioral questions

How Do You Handle Mistakes?

We’re all human, so we all make mistakes! It’s in our nature to mess up sometimes, nobody is perfect. The interviewer knows that we aren’t perfect and wants to know how you respond to these situations. Tell them a time you made an honest mistake. This question isn’t meant to judge you based on what you did wrong. Instead, you’re judged on how you responded.

Be sure to highlight the steps you took to correct your mistake and the lessons you learned. You’ll really stand out if you can talk about a similar situation you had after and what you did differently because of the lessons you learned.

Do: Be honest. Talk about a mistake you made and how you responded.

Don’t: Say you never make mistakes.

Describe a Time When You Had to Interact With a Difficult Client

If you’re applying for a job in a field where you’ll be interacting with clients, then be sure to expect questions about clients. For these types of positions, client satisfaction is the absolute number one priority, so take these questions seriously. If you’ve worked with clients before, chances are that you’ve dealt with some difficult ones.

Employers ask this question to see the steps you took to compromise and still satisfy a client. In most jobs, the client is always right, so don’t make the client seem evil. This is not the time to vent about the annoying clients you’ve had to deal with.

Do: Describe how you worked through the difficulties and made the client happy.

Don’t: Make the client seem evil. This shouldn’t be a one-sided story.

interview behavioral questions

Preparing For Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavioral questions can be tricky, but they don’t have to be! There’s no telling what specific questions will be asked before the interview, but this doesn’t mean you can’t practice beforehand! You’ll want to prepare for all the generalized questions and then focus on specifics about the job you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a Consultant role, you can expect to get questions about client interactions.

When preparing, try handwriting down your story for each question. This study was published in Sage Journals. Writing stuff down on paper helps with better memory retention. After you’ve written down your stories, read over them and practice presenting in front of someone, or even just the mirror. Reading them out loud will help you remember them easier. It’s also good to hear what you sound like when going through them. You don’t want to sound like a robot just reciting lines. Make it a conversation!

At the end of the day, you’re just talking about yourself and the experiences you’ve had, so don’t feel pressured by the thought of these questions. If you’re well prepared and follow the steps in this guide, you’ll stand out and breeze through your interview. Happy job hunting, and best of luck in your interview!

More to Read:

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How to Describe Yourself in 3 Words

50+ Most Common Interview Questions and Answers 

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