Demonstrate These Top Skills When Answering Behavioral Interview Questions

John Krautzel
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Interviewers ask behavioral questions as a way to determine your work ethic, personality and how you handled certain situations in the past. These queries have little to do with your hard skills, qualifications and job knowledge. Instead, behavioral questions and answers give an interviewer an idea of the types of soft skills you bring to the table. Make sure to demonstrate these top skills when you answer behavioral questions. By expertly handling the behavioral portion of your interview, you can gain an edge over other candidates.

What Are Behavioral Questions?

Behavioral questions usually involve hypothetical situations that have no right or wrong solutions. Answers to behavioral questions typically delve into your past and ask you to tell a story about overcoming a challenge. Sometimes these questions are not even questions; an interviewer might tell you to describe some situation that demonstrates a skill. Employers look for a few specific qualities when they ask about your past experiences.

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Communication skills, both verbal and written, are vital to everyday situations that require you to interact with your supervisor, co-workers, customers and clients. When preparing for an interview, you want to have success stories from your past work experiences from which you can draw examples of how you communicated well with others.

Sample behavioral questions about communication often involve making sure others understood ideas you tried to convey. "Tell us an example of when you were able to persuade someone to see your point of view." "Give us a sample of how you gave a presentation to others at the office that you knocked out of the park." "How did you ease the concerns of a customer by communicating effectively?" All three of these questions ask about different scenarios when clear communication can make or break a certain situation.


Working with others is crucial to achieving goals in an office environment. If a team falls apart, the office does not produce as much as it should. People can become stressed, anxious and even angry when co-workers do not work well together. You must impress your interviewers by showing that you work well with others.

Consider these sample behavioral questions for teamwork: "How did you handle conflict within your team during a challenging situation?" "Tell us about a time when you had to work with someone who has a very different personality from yours." "Describe one time when you disagreed with your supervisor." These queries can shed light on how you handle difficult situations with your co-workers.


Management and supervisory positions generally have more complicated responsibilities than those of entry-level team members. As such, these jobs usually require applicants to have leadership qualities. When an interviewer wants to know about your leadership abilities, she may ask you questions about taking the lead, taking initiative or showing how you self-started a project.

Try these sample questions and prompts: "Tell us about when you took the reins on a complex project." "Relate a story about how you took the initiative to correct a dilemma without waiting for someone else to handle it." "Have you ever had trouble getting others to go along with your ideas?" Convincing others to agree with you to complete a task or project is the mark of an effective leader.


How you deal with challenging problems can demonstrate your work experience, judgment and leadership abilities at once. Problem-solving also shows how you handle a crisis situation on your own and how you contribute to a difficult task. A hardship at work may not have a happy ending, but you can find something good out of negative situation because of your response to a particular scenario.

How you answer these questions details your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. "Give us a story of when you failed to see an obvious solution to a problem." "How did you anticipate a problem on a project and then take steps to avoid the problem?" "Tells us one time you used logic and deductive reasoning to solve a problem." The idea here is that good employees should solve problems as soon as possible.

Time Management

Once you are on the clock, you should work as efficiently as possible. Time management involves setting priorities during your workday, getting work done effectively and juggling responsibilities. Meeting deadlines is vital, so this concept includes how well you get work done on time.

Time management questions relate to working smarter and not harder. "How do you deal with tasks when you do not have a lot of supervision?" "Tell us a time when you developed a strategy to meet your goals on a project." "What tools do you use to manage your responsibilities on any given day?" Working efficiently at the office helps everyone stay on task, reduces pressure on all employees and impresses your supervisor.

Interviewers take behavioral questions seriously. They use them to find out about your past behavior and gauge how you succeeded under less-than-ideal circumstances. Your success stories can land you the perfect job if you prepare for the behavioral interview questions. Be ready to recall any notable experiences that show off these particular skill sets.

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  • Nayla T.
    Nayla T.

    Thank you for your comment. My team work was volunteering at the Red Cross. This requires teamwork and following orders from your superiors. It was hard work but very rewarding.

  • Erica  T.
    Erica T.

    Recently, my brother went to an interview without thoroughly preparing for it. He thought because of his 10 year of office management experience, he would nail the interview and receive a phone the next day. He had supplied the hiring manager with a solid resume and references. Unfortunately, the manager briefly looked at the resume and then started asking a few of the behavioral questions mentioned in the your article. Instead of 'talking shop' as my brother had assumed would happen, he had to recall long ago events to prove his expertise while trying to form complete sentences and appear unnerved. In a nutshell, always prepare for a variety of interview questions. Keep a list of professional events and scenarios in your notebook (always bring a notebook or legal pad to an interview) that you can quickly glance at to jog your memory during an interview.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Kellen you could be right in that we are always at our best during an interview so the way we respond then may not be indicative of the way we will perform on a daily basis. The interviewer would need to take that into account. @Jay although you may not work on teams in your professional life, what about in your personal life. Do you play any type of sport where you are part of a team? What about school? Did you ever do a team presentation in a college class? Team work doesn't have to actually mean on the job. They just want to know how you perform in a group environment.

  • Jay Bowyer
    Jay Bowyer

    Does anyone have any advice about how to answer a teamwork-related question if you've never really worked in a team before? Some vocations involve a lot of solo work, so it's possible that there are jobseekers out there with little to no teamwork experience. Should they recount appropriate personal stories, or just admit they've never really been a part of a team to date?

  • Kellen P.
    Kellen P.

    In my experience hiring people, I never used a script. I tried to ask questions directly related to the task they would be doing if hired. Maybe it was the industry I was in, but some of the behavioral questions seem a little cheesy. I believe that some interviewers take them seriously, but I think they are a better test of how an applicant "performs" during a job interview, and not necessarily a good test of how they would perform in the job.

  • Lydia K.
    Lydia K.

    @Abbey, I've had the same experience on interviews. I've had interviewers read to me from a script and admit that they were skipping some of the questions. There are websites and even books these days that help you prepare for interviews at well-known companies. I think managers have to know about this. On the plus side, having information that helps you prepare for a behavioral interview is a plus. So you don't necessarily have to feel disadvantaged for example, if you're short on experience.


    In past interviews I've been asked to describe work situations where I was in conflict or disagreement with another individual and was able to resolve the conflict in some way. The key to this question is demonstrating your understanding of effective and respectful communication. This is another great example of a behavioral interview question. I think using of these questions in this article and preparing your responses would be a very beneficial way to prepare for interviews.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Shannon it's great that you used behavioral questions during the interview. So how would @Cory convey that he's a great leader during one of these types of interviews? Certainly he shouldn't be meek but he shouldn't be jumping up and down, either. What would a good compromise be for him?

  • Cory L.
    Cory L.

    I've always had an issue with making sure I don't look like I'm trying too hard to behave well. Is there any advice you can give on how to best physically embody the qualities I'm looking to present in an interview? It doesn't work as well if I'm meekly saying that I'm a great leader!

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    As a former hiring manager, I used behavioral interview questions to detect more about the applicants' willingness to work as a team. Teamwork was crucial to our operations and we couldn't risk disrupting morale or the dynamic of the team by incorporating a team member who preferred to work alone.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. Behavioral interviews can be tough no matter if you are interviewing for the first time or have been on hundreds of interviews. It never seems to get easier. The interviewer knows if you are a newby to the workforce or if you have years of experience and they normally will tailor their questions to suit the applicant. @Katharine so agree! Have you ever been in an interview where your brain just went dead and you couldn't think of anything at all to say? When not even paraphrasing their question helps to bring anything to the forefront? That's when you just have to say - at this time I can not think of a time but I would like to come back to this question later. Gives you a chance to stop the brain from churning on that one question and move on to the others. If you still don't have an example at the end of the interview - then respond to it in your thank you card. Come on - these interviewers know that you are nervous. Who knows this might be their very first interview from that side of the desk. Could be that they were snagged first thing in the morning and told that they were going to do interviews. Has happened to me and it can be just as terrifying behind the desk as in front of it.

  • Leigh Morgan
    Leigh Morgan

    Erin, I used to do interviews as part of my job. If I had an inexperienced applicant for an entry-level position, I'd ask similar questions, but I'd expect the candidate to focus on examples from school, volunteer work, participation in extracurricular activities and so on. For example, a student athlete should be able to explain a time when he or she had to overcome an obstacle or work with a team member to achieve a common goal.

  • Katharine M.
    Katharine M.

    These practice questions are great. It can be hard to prepare for these types of questions, and it's important to have an answer ready- there's nothing worse than sitting there, trying to come up with something, listening to the clock tick.

  • Andrew  S.
    Andrew S.

    I agree with Nancy here. An experienced interviewer will know how to tailor her questions to the candidate in front of her. Yes, a younger worker may not have a lot of actual work experience, but he certainly has some experience from other situations he encountered throughout his life, and when the right behavioral question is asked, the interviewer will be able to gauge how prepared the candidate is for the duties of the job based on how well he handles the question. It all comes down to being prepared and having the right attitude.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Erin if it's an entry level position then it probably would not be structured as a behavioral interview. These are for the more seasoned worker. @Abbey I am sure that the interviewer is aware that many job seekers do research on behavioral interviews and do write down some answers so that they will be prepared. However, an interviewer can tell if you are just babbling or making it up as you go. Body language is a wonderful tool for figuring out what is really going on. If you watch the interviewer you will not go wrong.

  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    The article states that interviewers take behavioral questions very seriously. I wonder how true that really is. I have actually been in interviews where the interviewer has stated that they only ask the questions because they are required to. Don't you think that many hiring managers know that people come to the interview prepared, and that many interviewees are not completely honest in their answers? I think a person's body language and communication style is more important than the actual answers to the behavioral questions.

  • Erin H.
    Erin H.

    I like the concept of using behavioral interview questions to find the best match for a company. How does this process work when hiring younger employees who may have little to no prior experience? Everyone has to start somewhere, and I believe that these questions are designed to evaluate character and experience. What if a young applicant simply doesn't have a lot of experience?

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