Career Services

Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavioral interview questions ask you to tell the interviewer a story about a time when you handled a specific type of situation. The theory behind these questions is that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Employers who ask these questions are trying to assess how well you would handle situations that may come up on the job.

Behavioral interview questions can be effectively answered using the STAR interview technique. This technique provides you with a framework to tell a story that highlights your ability to manage specific, challenging, work-related problems. STAR stands for:

  • Situation, or
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

In general, to use the technique, you would:

  • Describe a challenging, work related situation or task
  • Describe the actions you took to resolve the situation or complete the task
  • Describe the positive results of your actions

Situation or Task

Describe a specific, challenging, work-related situation that you resolved or task that you accomplished. Sometimes behavioral questions are neutral, such as, "Tell me about a time when you worked as a part of a team." Other times, employers ask about a negative or challenging situation, such as, "Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult customer." You have to be extra careful with these negative behavior-based interview questions.

  • Choose a situation that is as similar as possible to the type of work situations you would likely encounter at the job you are seeking.
  • State the problem or situation as briefly as you can while still ensuring that the employer understands the circumstances.
  • Be as specific as possible. Avoid generalities like, "I have always worked as a part of a team." 
  • Do not discuss a situation that angered you. No matter how careful you are, the negativity will make a poor impression.
  • Also, do not discuss a problem that arose due to your mistake.

Action

Describe, in detail, the positive and appropriate action you took to resolve the issue or get the task completed.

Here, it's good to focus on showing, rather than telling. For example, rather than just saying that you increased office communication, detail what that looked like. Did you get everyone on your team on an email thread? Put two departments in contact for the first time? Set up a brainstorming session?

Result

Describe the positive result of your actions (and if there was no positive result, don't tell that story.)

Do your best to quantify the results. Telling an employer that your actions resulted in "increased productivity," or something similarly vague, won't leave much of an impression. However, if you can say that the steps you took increased sales by x amount, or resulted in increased employee satisfaction on internal surveys, the interviewer is left with something tangible.

Below is a list of several common behavioral interview questions that you can use to practice. Tell me about a time when you:

  • Used effective communication skills to solve a problem
  • Had to work with a difficult supervisor
  • Had to work with a difficult coworker
  • Dealt with a challenging customer or client
  • Demonstrated effective leadership qualities
  • Worked as a part of a team
  • Failed to meet a goal