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Behavior Based Questions

behavioral interviewing

The behavioral based interview is founded on the premise that the best predictor of future performance is past performance. Rather than asking you directly if you have a particular skill or trait (to which you would probably answer "yes!"), the interviewer asks you to provide an example of a time when you demonstrated the skill or trait that they are seeking. These questions will often begin with phrases such as: "Tell me about a time when..." or "Describe a situation in which...".

Below are a few behavioral questions and possible answers:

♦ Describe a Situation Where You Did Not Agree with Your Supervisor

Correct Answer: Don't focus on an argument you had.  What you should do is talk about a situation where you were able to explain why you felt the way you did in a calm and respectful manner.  Give the reasons of your argument in a logical manner.  In addition express the notion that you did calmly and carefully listened to your manager’s position. The particular outcome isn't as important as the process you took to arrive at the outcome. If applicable, discuss how the disagreement ended up strengthening your relationship with your supervisor.

They are looking for interpersonal skill, communication skills, teamwork skills, ability to formulate an argument, can you see different viewpoints, and can and will you be able to take the lead from a supervisor.

♦ Tell Me About a Time You had to Solve a Difficult Problem

Correct Answer: You must be able to select an example that shows how you addressed a difficult problem and the steps you took to address that problem.  The interviewer is interested in your thought process as well as the problem.  The critical point is to explain how you overcame the problem.

They are looking for analytical skills, initiative, creativity, persistence, and problem solving skills.

♦ Tell Me About a Time When You Worked Well Under Pressure

Correct Answer: This question is one in which you have to have an example that shows at least a level that would be required of the job.  You also have to have an example of how you addressed the situation in a calm, effective manner. Try to give an example that was quite stressful and you handled well.  The interviewer is looking for your leadership skills.  

What they are looking for is how calm is your demeanor and are you calm under pressure and do you make rationale decisions.

♦ Tell Me About a Time When You Motivated Others

Correct Answer: The most important criteria to remember when answering this question is focusing on how you figured out what would motivate each person in the example. It is not so important what you did but how you did it.  Make sure you emphasize the process.  It is also important to explain how adaptable you were in this process and did you focus on each individual?

They are looking for creativity, leadership, empathy, and flexibility.

♦ Tell Me About a Time When You Were Not Able to Solve a Problem 

Correct Answer: Discuss a situation where you had an identifiable excuse for missing an obvious solution. Don't discuss your answer as an excuse but discuss how you found out about your mistake and how you corrected it.  Most importantly tell how you took ownership of your mistake.

They are looking for analytical and critical thinking skills, ability to admit an error, humility, learning from mistakes.

♦ Give an Example of a Project or Idea that was Implemented Because of Your Efforts

Correct Answer: Select a project that your worked on from start to finish. Let them know you worked with others to get it done and this will show them you are also a team player.  Explain how your idea helped the organization.

What they are looking for is creativity, initiative, accountability, and resourcefulness.

The following are examples of behavioral based interview questions listed under the area that the interviewer is trying to probe:

Professional or technical knowledge

  • Describe a situation where your professional/technical expertise made a significant difference.

Decision making

  • Tell me about a time when you took a public stance on an issue and then had to change your position?
  • Describe a situation where you handled decisions under pressure or when time limits were imposed?


  • Relate a scenario where you were responsible for motivating others.
  • Describe a really tough or long day and how you dealt with the situation?

Personal attributes or qualities

  • Tell me about a time when you set and accomplished short term, medium range and long term goals?
  • What were the differences in your approach to each?

Unpleasant situations

  • Relate a personal story in which you persuaded someone to do something that initially did not appeal to them.

Team Work

  • Tell me about a time when, if it hadn’t been for teamwork, your goal might not have been achieved.


  • Describe a scenario in which you have gone above and beyond what was expected of you.
  • Describe a time in which you took initiative rather than waiting to be told what to do.


  • Narrate a situation during college in which you experienced a particularly high level of stress.
  • Describe a project or goal that has caused you frustration.


  • Tell me about a time when you did your best to resolve a customer or client concern and the individual still was not satisfied. What did you do next?
  • Describe an opportunity in which you’ve had to make a presentation to a large group. Describe an opportunity in which you’ve had to make a presentation to a small group. What did you do differently to prepare for each?

Behavioral Questions

  • Tell me about a situation where you had to make a decision without all the information you required.
  • Tell me about a situation where you had to work with a difficult co-worker.
  • Tell me about the most stressful situation that you have been involved with.
  • Did you ever take charge of a project from start to finish? What happened?
  • How do you deal with pressure? Give me an example.
  • What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?
  • Have you ever failed at something important. How did you handle that?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision without all the information you required.
  • Tell me about a situation where you didn't get along with your supervisor.
  • Tell me about a time when you were highly motivated.

Situational Questions

  • You are faced with a situation where you have been approached by a partner and asked to assist her with a special project that is due that next morning. You also have a major client's project due the next morning, and this project can not be delayed. Your problem is you don't have enough time to complete both projects. What would you do?

Sample behavior-based interview questions:

  • Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  • Describe an instance when you had to think on your feet to extricate yourself from a problem.
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
  • By providing examples, convince me that you can adapt to a wide variety of people, situations and environments.
  • Describe a time on any job that you held in which you were faced with problems or stresses that tested your coping skills.
  • Give an example of a time in which you had to be relatively quick in coming to a decision.
  • Tell me about a time in which you had to use your written communication skills in order to get an important point across.
  • Give me a specific occasion in which you conformed to a policy with which you did not agree.
  • Give me an example of an important goal which you had set in the past and tell me about your success in reaching it.
  • Describe the most significant or creative presentation which you have had to complete.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  • Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully communicate with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice

Tell me about the time when you...

  • achieved a great deal in a short amount of time.
  • were disappointed in your performance.
  • made a major sacrifice to achieve an important goal.
  • were unwilling or unable to make the necessary sacrifice to achieve a goal.
  • worked effectively under a great deal of pressure.
  • did not handle a stressful situation.
  • were really bothered by the actions of another coworker.
  • were especially creative in solving a problem.
  • organized or planned an event that was very successful.
  • were unable to complete a project on schedule despite your best efforts.
  • really had to remain flexible.
  • had to deal with a personality conflict with a boss or coworker.
  • felt really good about the decision you made and the process you went through.
  • were very effective in your problem-solving ability.
  • used facts and reason to persuade someone to accept your recommendation.
  • utilized your leadership ability to gain support for what initially had strong opposition.
  • were able to build team spirit in a time of low morale.
  • were able to gain commitment from others to really work as a team.
  • were particularly perceptive regarding a person's or group's feelings and needs.
  • built rapport quickly with someone under difficult conditions.
  • wrote a report that was well received by others.
  • were particularly effective on prioritizing tasks and completing a project on schedule.
  • identified potential problems and resolved the situation before it became serious.
  • were highly motivated and your example inspired others.
  • found it necessary to tactfully but forcefully say things that others did not want to hear.
  • were particularly effective in a talk you gave or a seminar you taught.
  • had to make an important decision quickly even though you did not
  • have all the information you wanted.
  • had to make a decision you knew would be unpopular.
  • made a mistake and learned from it.
  • made an intentional effort to get to know someone from another culture.
  • were able to sell your idea to a key person.
  • were unable to sell your idea to a key person.
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