In this guide, MockQuestions walks you through the most challenging behavioral-based interview questions you may face as a job seeker. We also teach you how to use the Past, Present, Future framework for answering these notoriously tough questions.
WHAT ARE BEHAVIORAL BASED QUESTIONS?
Behavioral-based interview questions require you, the interviewee, to deliver a compelling response by giving a story example from real-life experience.
When an interviewer asks a behavioral-based interview question, they are expecting a highly detailed example, with concrete results, that prove your ability to perform in that particular scenario.
Typically, behavioral-based interview questions are open-ended. This open-ended nature is why the average person struggles with these types of questions.
Behavioral-based interview questions often begin with:
Tell me about a time when...
Have you ever...
Talk about a time when...
When have you...
Nearly every hiring manager will mix behavioral-based questions in their interview. For this reason, you should know how to answer these questions successfully. The STAR method comes to the rescue!
STAR - THE ACRONYM
Most behavioral-based interview questions are best answered using the STAR method. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Organizing your response using this framework will ensure that you provide the interviewer with the right amount of information and detail to form a compelling answer.
STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result.
Situation: The background information an interviewer needs to make sense of your story. You are setting the stage, like a comedian, about to give the punch line.
Task: Continuing to set the stage, you then give the interviewer an idea of your role and responsibilities in this specific story.
Action: Next, you offer a detailed description of the steps you took to tackle the situation.
Result: Last, you talk about the specific achievements and outcomes that resulted from your actions.
When you frame a behavioral-based response using the STAR method, it helps you to keep your thoughts on track while allowing your interviewer to follow along easily.
ANSWER EXAMPLES USING THE STAR METHOD
Thanks to the STAR method, you can answer behavioral-based, open-ended questions with confidence. Here are some practical examples:
QUESTION #1: Tell me about a time when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with.
TIPS TO PREPARE: The interviewer wants to know how well you work with others despite personality or work style differences. Keep your answer simple and avoid overdramatizing any event. Avoid extreme responses that include speaking negatively of others, telling the interviewer that you get along with everyone, or naming people in your story example. Focus on a time when your work style was different than another person, but you still had to work together. Discuss, in a positive tone, how you made it work!
(Situation) Last year, I had an administrative team member who was always late for meetings and missed deadlines.
(Task) This person was new to their career, and, as the Administrative Department Lead, it was important to me that they succeeded.
(Action) I approached this person privately to understand what was going on, and what was preventing them from working well with the team. When they shared their struggles with me, I offered the proper support and resources.
(Result) By taking the time to nurture the situation, rather than simply terminate the person, I was able to mentor and grow one of the best administrative assistants I have ever had.
QUESTION #2: Tell me about a time when you were in danger of missing a deadline. What did you do?
TIPS TO PREPARE: The interviewer wants to see how well you work under pressure. Choose a situation that is simple to explain. Focus your response on the actions that you took to turn the situation around. Be sure to highlight the positive result that you were able to deliver in the end.
(Situation) I was once part of a marketing project that had a major set back based on the crash of our project management software.
(Task) As the Marketing Manager, it was up to me to find the solution so that our team did not lose traction on our deadline.
(Action) I went to the project backup database, quickly reviewed everyone's open tasks, rearranged the deliverables schedule, and called an emergency team meeting to set us back on course.
(Result) We barely made the deadline in time, but we did, and I was very proud of my teams' dedication.
QUESTION #3: When have you had to make a split-second decision? How do you react under unexpected pressure?
TIPS TO PREPARE: The interviewer wants to know how you handle pressure when an unexpected stressor arises. Making quick decisions and thinking fast on your feet sets you out from the crowd. We all make a lot of choices every day, so be sure to tell the interviewer that you can handle this pressure. Be prepared to provide a specific example, sure to impress.
(Situation) Last month, my manager quit her job with no notice.
(Task) As the Assistant Manager, all responsibility immediately transferred to me.
(Action) At first, it was an uncomfortable situation. However, I quickly got my head in the game, took charge of the team, and reassured everyone that tasks would go on as usual. I delegated jobs and utilized additional training and leadership resources.
(Result) I learned many lessons, and I am still learning. However, the team and my superiors greatly appreciate the way I have stepped up and performed.
QUESTION #4: Have you ever worked in a situation where the rules and guidelines were not clear? How did you cope?
TIPS TO PREPARE: The interviewer wants to know how you go about achieving goals when you lack explicit instruction from your manager or company. This question is used to find out where your moral compass lands when company rules are not clear. This question is also designed to gain a look at your problem-solving skills.
(Situation) In my previous role, I quickly learned that within startups, hard set rules are difficult to find.
(Task) As the new Business Development Director of a startup, I was to sell and hit my metrics, but it was a 99% 'figure-it-out-yourself' situation.
(Action) I decided that the situation could present an excellent opportunity to pilot my business development ideas and sales tactics. I was confident in my work and comfortable with taking some creative license. I took the opportunity to create a set of approaches and processes for new client development.
(Result) In the first 12 months, I secured 154% of my original sales goal, which allowed the startup to flourish.
QUESTION #5: Tell me about a time when you worked on a team-based project when a member was not doing their share of the work.
TIPS TO PREPARE: Show the interviewer that you have excellent leadership abilities by discussing how you react and redistribute the workload when a team member is not pulling their weight. Avoid speaking negatively about anyone and keep your answer focused on the solution you created, and the positive outcome of your actions.
(Situation) I once had a team member who never came to meetings.
(Task) As his Manager, I knew that I had to have a firm conversation, reminding him of his responsibilities to the team.
(Action) I approached the conversation casually, and it turned out that he did not want to be on our particular team. I spoke with the Regional Director, and we agreed to transfer this person to a different team on a 90-day probationary period.
(Result) After the 90 days, the Regional Director and I discussed this persons' performance. We saw no improvement and decided to terminate his employment. It was an unfortunate situation, but better to have this happen than have to continue employing someone who didn't want to be there.
It's normal to feel overwhelmed with behavioral-based questions at first. Since they are open-ended questions, they are naturally more challenging to answer.
The more you prepare and practice your behavioral-based interview questions, the better you will perform in your interview.