The Best Behavioral Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

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When it comes to finding the best candidate for your job, the interview is the most valuable piece of the hiring process. It’s a chance to learn about a candidate’s qualifications for the hard skills the role requires, assess their soft skills, and get a feel for their personality.

To get the most out of your limited time with a candidate during their interview, asking the right questions is key. Read on to learn more about the type of questions that will shed light on a candidate’s thought process and behavior patterns: behavioral interview questions. We’ll share the best behavioral interview questions to ask candidates to assess a potential new hire’s problem-solving skills, leadership capabilities, and more.

What are Behavioral Interview Questions?

Behavioral interview questions probe into a candidate’s past behavior. In these types of questions, the interviewer asks the job seeker to describe certain situations they’ve previously encountered and how they reacted in those situations. This question style commonly begins with the phrase, “Tell me about a time when…”

Behavioral interview questions may ask a candidate about solving problems, thinking critically, handling stressful situations, planning and strategizing, managing subordinates, collaborating with peers, and more. On the candidate’s side, it’s a great opportunity to make a case to showcase strengths via a first-person narrative. On the interviewer’s side, it’s an illuminating look into how the candidate thinks and views themselves in their career.

Behavioral vs. Situational Interview Questions

Interview questions traditionally fall into one of two categories: behavioral and situational. Behavioral questions, as we discussed above, ask the candidate to describe past experiences. Situational questions, on the other hand, ask the candidate to hypothetically describe what they would do if confronted with a particular situation.

Behavioral questions cover past behavior, while situational questions address future behavior. Together, they can help you compile a complete picture of a candidate to assess their suitability for your role.

The Benefits of Asking Behavioral Interview Questions

There’s a lot to be learned from behavioral interview questions, which goes beyond the content a candidate shares in their answer.

When you ask a behavioral question, you’ll almost immediately be able to tell how well a candidate prepared for the interview. If they seem flustered, ramble on, or struggle to come up with examples that fit your question, it may indicate they didn’t spend time to think through the strengths they wanted to highlight.

Behavioral questions can tell us a lot about a candidate’s thoughts, which is useful in predicting whether they’ll succeed in a role. Their answers can tell you, for example, how they work with colleagues, what success looks like in their eyes, and what they consider a mistake. Are they aligned with you on these things, or do their perceptions seem askew? If it’s the latter, it may indicate they’re not the strongest fit for your organization.

Speaking of perception, behavioral questions are useful for gauging a candidate’s self-awareness. If they spend a lot of time discussing what a great leader they are but their resume shows only one year of experience in a leadership role, it may point to a lack of understanding about the true depth of their abilities.

Finally, though behavioral questions ask about the past, they’re a great way to determine how a candidate might act if employed by your company. After all, past behavior is the strongest indicator of future behavior.

Note that past failures aren’t necessarily a predictor of future failure—in these cases, the content of the candidate’s answer matters a lot. Do they understand why the failure happened, and have they learned from their mistake? You want to uncover This type of insight with behavioral interview questions.

Related: Best & Worst Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

The Best Behavioral Interview Questions to Ask During an Interview

If you’re looking for the best behavioral questions to ask during your next interview, the six below are a great place to start. To make your questions even more effective, try to map them to the core skills you’re looking for in the role for which you’re hiring.

For example, if customer service is a major part of the job, you’d want to gear your questions toward situations that deal with people, communication, and problem-solving. If the job is highly technical, you might ask about situations involving attention to detail, catching mistakes, and conveying complex information.

Behavioral interview questions about teamwork

The ability to work on a team is a critical skill in almost any profession. Asking about a candidate’s past teamwork experience will help you learn what role they prefer to take in a group setting, whether their work style aligns with your culture, and how they deal with competing perspectives, which are all important qualities for functioning effectively on a team. 

Questions to ask:

  • Describe a time when you had to complete a project as a team. 
  • What does it mean to you to be a team player?
  • How do you respond when a teammate isn’t doing their fair share of the work? 
  • How do you deal with perspectives that are different from your own?
  • Are you more of a leader or a follower?
  • Have you ever struggled to get along with a coworker?
  • Have you ever worked on a team assignment that was a failure?
  • How do you help onboard new team members?

Behavioral interview questions about customer service

Customer service jobs are very situational; the best course of action in a given scenario often depends on the person you’re dealing with and the context of the conversation. Behavior questions are great for understanding these situations’ details and learning how a candidate’s prior experiences have prepared them to succeed in this role. 

Questions to ask:

  • How do you provide great customer service?
    Share an experience when you had to deal with a difficult person. 
  • Tell me about a time you had to deliver an answer someone didn’t want to hear.
  • Have you ever bent the rules when dealing with a customer?
  • What do you do when a customer gives you negative feedback?
  • What’s the best way to respond to an angry customer?
  • Tell me about a time when you didn’t know the answer to a customer’s question. How did you respond?
  • Describe a time when you had to make a judgment call during a customer interaction. 
  • How do you convince a customer of something?

Behavioral interview questions about leadership

Leadership qualities can significantly impact a candidate’s success in a role where they’re required to oversee people, not to mention their success in achieving the company’s objectives. Thus, it’s important to ask questions to analyze how they’d behave in a leadership capacity and whether their decisions align with the organization’s thinking. 

Questions to ask:

  • Describe a time when you had to motivate a team.
  • How do you handle conflict among team members?
  • Have you ever had to discipline one of your reports?
  • Tell me about a time you made a positive impact on your company. 
  • What’s your approach to building relationships with your employees?
  • There are many different leadership styles. Which ones work best for you?
  • How do goals influence your work?
  • Tell me about how you delegate tasks on an important project.
  • How have you encouraged employee development?

Behavioral interview questions about adaptability

Adaptability is necessary in many companies, particularly in fast-paced organizations and fields that revolve around innovation. Asking behavioral questions about adaptability can help you determine whether a candidate will thrive in a dynamic work environment.

Questions to ask:

  • Describe a time when you had to respond to a significant change in a project’s direction.
  • How do you respond if asked to take on responsibilities outside your typical scope of work?
  • How do you stay up to date with the latest technology?
  • Have you ever had to adopt a new piece of software or use a new tool quickly? 
  • Tell me about a project that required knowledge or skills you didn’t have. How did you respond?
  • Describe a time when you received new information in the middle of a project. How did it affect your approach?
  • Have you ever faced resistance from your colleagues about a decision? What did you do?
  • How do you use adaptability to your advantage?

Behavioral interview questions about communication

Strong communication is an essential part of pretty much any job. Ask questions to better understand how a candidate communicates with higher-ups, peers, customers, vendors, and others who will fall within their professional realm on the job. When listening to their answers, you should be paying attention to whether the candidate has skills for communicating positively rather than allowing miscommunications or lack of communication to cause damage to important relationships.

Questions to ask:

  • How do you prefer to communicate at work?
  • Have you ever had to communicate information that the recipient didn’t want to hear?
  • Tell me about a time you dealt with a miscommunication. How did you respond?
  • How do you deal with negative feedback?
  • Tell me about a time you faced conflict at work. How did you handle it?
  • What do you do when you disagree with a coworker?
  • How would you describe your job to someone who knows nothing about the industry?
  • How would you explain [complex topic] to a client?
  • How comfortable do you feel voicing your opinion?
  • Describe a time when you used your communication skills to achieve a goal. 

Behavioral interview questions about ethics and integrity

Behavioral questions about ethics and integrity can tell you so much about a candidate: how they view right and wrong, how they respond when faced with a difficult decision, and how they handle sensitive situations, to name a few. The “right” answer will vary depending on your company culture and the type of individual you seek in the role. This is a good aspect of work to ensure you and the candidate are aligned before hiring.

Questions to ask:

  • Have you ever disagreed with your boss? How did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a time you made a mistake at work. What did you learn? 
  • Describe a time when you “broke the rules.”
  • Have you ever seen a coworker do something they shouldn’t be doing? How did you respond?
  • When faced with an ethical dilemma, how do you decide what’s right and what’s wrong?
  • How do you feel about admitting your mistakes?
  • Tell me about a time when your integrity was tested. 

Behavioral interview questions about time management

Everyone manages time differently, and our approach to time management isn’t always easy to articulate. Asking the candidate about their approach can show how they prioritize tasks and what kind of oversight, if any, they might require to ensure things get done on time.

Questions to ask:

  • When you’re faced with a heavy workload, how do you decide what to work on?
  • What’s your approach when you’re working on multiple projects at once?
  • How do you handle competing deadlines?
  • Have you ever missed a deadline? What happened?
  • What do you do if you realize you’ll be late on an assignment?
  • How do you limit distractions?
  • What does your ideal schedule look like?

Behavioral interview questions about problem-solving

Asking about a candidate’s past decisions can give you insight into their analytical thinking skills. Can they gather the available data, even if limited, and then assess it quickly to resolve it? Can they do it while remaining cool under pressure? Problem-solving behavioral interview questions allow the candidate to illustrate that they handle stressful situations with poise—not only in the context of the scenario they describe in their answer but in how confidently they deliver the answer itself.

Questions to ask:

  • Tell me about a time you had to decide under pressure.
  • How do you make a decision when you only have limited information?
  • Tell me about a time you set and achieved a goal. What did you do to achieve it?
  • What do you do when your original plan isn’t working?
  • Has a coworker’s mistake ever affected your work?
  • Have you ever anticipated a problem in advance? What steps did you take?
  • How do you respond when facing a challenge you’ve never dealt with?

Tips for Conducting a Behavioral Interview

Map job requirements to interview questions

Behavioral interview questions prompt candidates to tell a story so that they can take up a lot of time. Because of this, it’s important to keep the interview on track. Make sure each question serves a specific purpose by mapping the list of job requirements to the questions you plan to ask. Select questions that address multiple skills where possible and eliminate any topics that aren’t directly relevant to the role. 

Ask follow-up questions

Behavioral questions are all about detail. If a candidate’s answer is too generic, probe for more information by asking a follow-up question like ‘Can you tell me more about that?’ or ‘Could you clarify what you meant when you said X?’

Stick to a script

To get to every topic you must cover, adhere to a predetermined list of questions and use the same ones for each candidate. This also makes it easier to judge candidate’s answers against one another. 

Use an interview scorecard

Behavioral questions are largely subjective, meaning there’s no single right answer to each question. This can make it challenging to analyze an interviewee’s performance. Using a structured scoring system will help you identify whether a candidate’s answer demonstrates proficiency in a given area while minimizing personal bias. Each interviewer should use the same scorecard, which will aid in comparing assessments.

Let 4 Corner Resources Deliver Top Talent to You

The interview is what separates great candidates from the perfect candidate, but getting to that stage can be a headache. Let 4 Corner Resources take the work of sourcing and screening applicants off your plate so you can spend more time building relationships with your top prospects.

Our proprietary recruiting methodology analyzes candidates’ skills, qualifications, and cultural fit to determine their aptitude for success in your role and the likelihood of being a good fit for your organization. In addition to our broad network of personal relationships, we leverage the most advanced software and technology available to create thoroughness and efficiency in every hiring process step.

Contact us now to speak with one of our staffing specialists and start getting matched with candidates today.

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Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn