Top 5 Most Popular Behavioral Interview Questions

Top 5 Most Popular Behavioral Interview Questions
Karrie Day on April 6th, 2023

Top 5 Most Popular Behavioral Interview Questions

Most of the clients I assist in developing professional branding materials (resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, etc.) are unaware of one major trend when we first meet. At the beginning of our consultation, they are unsure why their resumes aren’t landing them interviews. In the end, they are clear that they need to make a change.

What is this critical change that helps my clients go from abysmal job application response rates to getting the attention they deserve? It isn’t reformatting for ATS (applicant tracking system) optimization. It isn’t keyword usage. Each of those strategies is important, and I absolutely include them in every resume I author. However, the most important strategy to take full advantage of is crafting an achievement-focused resume that clearly demonstrates the behavior patterns hiring managers at top companies are looking for.

My clients are shocked to learn that my plan for their new resume is to devote less than 10% of the available space to their job responsibilities. It makes sense to them to include some of their achievements, but they have difficulty letting go of the bullets that discuss all the work they do on a regular basis. They typically frown when I tell them the plan and deliver the bitter truth that while they have many important duties, nobody cares about the XYZ reports that they generate monthly. Nobody cares about the project plans they authored.

If you are struggling with this truth the same way my clients have, don’t worry. I’m about to get to the good part. Instead of asking about all of their responsibilities, I tell my clients I am about to ask them a series of behavioral questions to understand how they approach their work. I tell them I want to hear their best stories. I tell them I want to know about all of the value they created while performing their duties. I ask them about their approach to things like leadership, teamwork, and customer service. Then, I weave the very best stories they share with me into their new resume.

What’s so great about this approach, and what does this have to do with behavioral questions in an interview? The value of this approach is that writing your resume this way sets the stage for a discussion about your best attributes. It identifies your professional ‘superpowers’. It helps your interview move away from typical questions like ‘Tell me about yourself’ and toward questions like ‘Tell me about the time you reduced the monthly budget reporting time by over 40%.’. It demonstrates your behavioral patterns before you are even interviewed.

All of this is critical because behavioral questions have become the most important aspect of an interview for many interviewers. Your behavioral patterns speak to your ability to actually perform and add value in the workplace. Behavioral patterns speak to your technical expertise and your soft skills. Behavioral patterns demonstrate growth, learning, leadership, teamwork, collaboration, excellence in customer service, creative thinking, risk-taking, etcetera. All of these behaviors are desirable for a wide range of professional roles and interviewers love to ask questions to identify candidates who excel in these areas.

You’re here at MockQuestions to prepare for your upcoming interviews. Great. Here’s how everything I just covered comes together. Every month our users search for great answers to behavioral questions. They know the secret that I just shared, and they want to make sure they prepare for these types of questions well in advance of an interview. MockQuestions has over 4,000 example answers to behavioral questions written by our experts because we know how important they are. This guide shares five questions our users search for the most and will provide you with helpful links to all of the examples you need to shine in an interview.

Question 1 - Describe a time you made a process improvement.

Improving the way things work is a valuable skill to demonstrate in an interview. Many companies want to hire candidates with the ability to observe processes, identify inefficiencies, and implement creative ways to do things better. They are interested to know how you have saved money, saved time, eliminated redundancies, automated manual workflows, etcetera.

Depending on the role, a hiring manager may also be interested to learn how you were able to make improvements that resulted in less tangible (but potentially more important) results like improved customer satisfaction, reduced team conflict, collaboration between departments, and the development of a more inclusive environment.

There are several ways to answer this question including the popular STAR (situation, task, action, result) method. If you have an achievement-focused resume, your interviewer likely already knows the results of several improvements you have made throughout your career. Now’s the time to select the one that is most applicable to the role you are interviewing for and tell a great story that proves you have excellent observational skills and the ability to drive change.

Here are some examples of how our experts tackled questions like this:

Describe the impact of an operational efficiency you were responsible for.

Describe a time when you showed initiative at work.

Describe to me any payroll process that you have developed or revised.

Describe a process improvement that increased donations to your organization.

Tell me about a time your actions resulted in greater efficiency on your team.

Question 2 - Describe a time when you were forced to make a decision quickly at work.

Some professionals are required to make decisions quickly on a regular basis. For example, an ER doctor must possess the ability to assess information and determine the best possible course of action under extreme pressure. Their ability to perform these duties can save a life.

However, given factors like changing technology and market-driven pressure, many of us working in less mission-critical roles are also forced to regularly make decisions quickly at work. We rely on a mix of limited information, limited expertise, and whatever our intuition can provide. Hiring managers accept this truth and want to hire candidates that can prove they have successfully navigated situations like these in the past.

Our experts have covered this topic in a number of formats. Here are some examples to help you prepare for a question about your ability to work quickly under pressure.

How quickly do you make decisions? Give me an example.

Give me an example of a time when you had to come to a decision quickly.

Describe a time when you had to come to a decision quickly regarding a patient.

When have you had to work in an environment in which you had to make split-second decisions in a pressure packed environment?

Question 3 - Tell me about a time you failed at work.

Most people fail at work at some point in their careers. I would personally struggle to support hiring someone unable to claim a failure unless it was an entry-level role and the candidate had no prior work experience. Many interviewers agree and include some form of this behavioral inquiry when seeking to fill an open role.

MockQuestions users also agree this is an important question and search for examples and advice to help them craft a masterful answer when preparing for their upcoming interviews.

I feel that a well-crafted response to any question about professional failure includes three things:

  1. It proves you have the ability to observe your own work and recognize when you have failed.
  2. It describes the actions you took and inspires confidence that you are willing to do the work to ensure that you will avoid the same mistake in the future.
  3. It shows you are authentic, humble, and willing to address failures in a positive manner.

We have over 300 failure-related questions here at MockQuestions. Here are just a few examples:

Tell me about a time you experienced failure in a professional setting.

Tell me about a time when you failed on the job. How did you overcome the situation, and what did you learn?

Tell me about a time that you failed. How did you get back up again?

What is the biggest mistake you have made? What did you learn from it?

What mistakes have you made when hiring new employees?

Question 4 - How do you manage your time?/How do you prioritize?

Companies value employees who know how to juggle tasks and maximize their time. Most roles require you to understand your schedule as a whole, plan accordingly, and then deal with last-minute requests when they come up.

I recently worked with a client that improved client satisfaction scores and reduced the average time spent on service requests managed by his team over 23% through the implementation of basic prioritization and time management techniques. He told me a compelling story about how he scheduled team lunch and learn meetings to discuss scenarios and improve decision-making for routing and addressing support tickets. Over a period of six months, the team collaborated more effectively, prioritized work correctly, and routed tickets that required specialization to the right place at the right time.

Great story, right? This one story turned into a bullet point on a resume that demonstrated leadership, team culture development, collaboration, and operational efficiency. As a bonus, this manager found a way to use what would normally be team downtime to learn in a relaxed and effective way. He was asked about this scenario several times during interviews and ultimately secured the senior role he was targeting in his search.

While the scale and impact of your time management and prioritization skills may not look exactly like the above example, everyone should be able to able to demonstrate their application of these two important concepts in a way that applies to their target role. It is an added bonus if you can weave other valuable skills such as collaboration or leadership within your response.

Getting time management and prioritization behavioral answers right in an interview may take some practice. Take a look at the following examples that address the key aspects of this important professional skill set:

Time Management:

Multiple Clients at One Time

Multiple Deadlines

Multiple Tasks

Busiest Days

Prioritization Process:

Product Manager

Project Manager


Question 5 - Describe a time when you were forced to sacrifice quality.

The last of our top five most commonly searched behavioral topics deals with sacrificing quality. This concept is applicable to many roles, and I am very familiar with it. I worked in IT before transitioning to career coaching. As a technology strategist, I worked hard to ensure that my clients received the best quality products as fast as possible within a limited budget. While it would have been nice to hear, ‘Karrie, you’ve been assigned to lead a project with unlimited funds, access to the best resources possible, and there is no deadline’, that never happened and it isn’t realistic to expect those conditions in most cases.

Project managers, program managers, product managers, engineers, designers, technicians, mechanics, artists, and anyone who has ever created anything on behalf of their company or a client has likely faced a similar dilemma more than once. Interviewers know sacrificing quality is a common scenario and they want to know how you have handled it in the past. They understand that these situations are likely to be difficult and they want to know if you have the creative thinking skills to deliver the best possible solution under less-than-ideal circumstances.

For me, the best strategy to use when faced with a choice between quality and time or money is to find a creative way to deliver quality in an unexpected package. I step back from the original plan and spend time thinking about the holistic values of my team, my company, and my clients. I then focus the majority of my effort on the pieces of the project in alignment with those values. I also work to offer options to address any gaps in the future. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I am honest about the situation and remain positive. Approaching tricky situations with authenticity and a good attitude helps to ensure the successful delivery of the news your stakeholder will receive something other than what they originally envisioned.

We have addressed this question in a number of ways here at MockQuestions. Here are three helpful examples to get you started:

Describe a time when you had to sacrifice quality to complete a job. These examples show dedication to getting a job done right. Answers like these are excellent for roles in which the scale of the projects and tasks you will be working on are small enough to ensure the delivery of quality through extra effort.

Describe a time when you had to sacrifice quality due to budgetary, resource, or time constraints. This example describes the decision-making process of a program manager forced to deliver a solution that is only partially complete. Note the creative solution they offered to the client to help support their operational gaps until the final solution could be delivered.

Describe a time when you had to balance quality management with a challenging project schedule. This is a solid example of taking a proactive approach to avoid quality issues in the future. This savvy property manager used their industry experience skills to ensure their project was a success. Additionally, they demonstrated their ability to bring strong relationships that could potentially add value to their new company if hired for the open role.


While behavioral questions can feel intimidating in an interview, I hope you agree they are also an opportunity to highlight several of your best skills at once. Each question in this article can be answered in a way that focuses on your achievements, proves you have the knowledge and expertise required for the role you want, and demonstrates your ability to use the soft skills in your professional toolkit.

The questions in this article represent five of the most commonly searched behavioral topics, but we have many more for you to explore. Join our user community and access over 60,000 professional interview answer examples.

If you enjoyed this Top 5 Most Popular Behavioral article, check out: MockQuestions Top 5 Most Popular Interview Questions.

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