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September 19, 2019

Your List of Behavioral Interview Questions, Part 1

To turn job interviews into offers, you need to be ready to ace the behavioral questions, the ones that require you to tell a story. That takes preparation, practice, and a good, complete list of behavioral interview questions to work with.

Your list isn’t complete unless it includes two types of questions…

Two Types of Behavioral Interview Questions to Be Ready For

Occupation-specific behavioral questions are specialized and even technical. For example, a customer success specialist needs to be ready to answer questions like “Tell me about a time you identified a valuable upselling opportunity that others might have missed.” Obviously I can’t provide a list for every occupation, but watch for next week’s post, in which I explain how you can find these questions for yourself. (Yes, it starts with Google but that may not be enough.)

General behavioral questions usually focus on soft skills common to many jobs, such as communication (persuasion, tact, explaining, coaching, etc.), analytical skills, initiative, self management or time management. For example, the question “Tell me about a time you anticipated and prevented a problem” is about analytical skills and initiative. Every job seeker needs to be ready with stories to answer this type of question.

General Behavioral Interview Questions

Here are some of the most common behavioral questions about soft skills.

For Individual Contributors and Leaders

  1. Tell me about an accomplishment you are especially proud of.
  2. Tell me about a time you made a mistake (or the biggest mistake you ever made).
  3. Tell me how you handled a difficult situation.
  4. Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get a job done.
  5. Tell me about a time when you had too much to do and you had to be very strategic in your time management.
  6. Describe a situation in which you persuaded someone to see things your way.
  7. What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.
  8. Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  9. Give me an example of a time when it was a challenge to build an important relationship. How did you overcome the difficulties?
  10. Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone’s opinion.
  11. Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
  12. Please discuss an important written document you were required to complete.
  13. Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with a difficult person.
  14. Tell me about an interpersonal situation that you wish you had handled differently.
  15. Tell me about a time when you showed initiative.
  16. Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker.
  17. Give me an example of a time when you put your team’s needs ahead of your own.
  18. Give me an example of a time when you used your research skills to solve a problem.
  19. Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
  20. Were you ever asked to do something you felt was impossible? What did you do?

Mostly for Leaders

  1. Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
  2. Tell me about a difficult decision you’ve made in the last year.
  3. What was the worst decision you ever made? And the best one?
  4. Tell me about a time when you had an underperforming employee. How did you handle the situation?
  5. Tell me about time when you turned around an underperforming team or operation.
  6. How do you handle complainers? Give me an example from your experience.
  7. Tell me about a time when you had a reporting employee whose performance was exceptional. How did you handle this?
  8. Tell me about a time you led an important meeting. How did you prepare for it?
  9. How do you handle conflict between team members? Give an example.
  10. Tell me about a time when you reorganized or downsized a department. How did you approach the task? How did the affected employees respond to your actions?
  11. Tell me about one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make.
  12. How have you created shared purpose among people who initially had different goals? Give an example.
  13. Give me an example of how you sell an idea to upper management.
  14. What is the most innovative idea you ever had? What did you do with it?
  15. How do you empower your people to bring their ideas forward? Tell me about one such idea and how you worked with it.
  16. Tell me about something you’ve done to create a diverse and inclusive working environment.
  17. Tell me about a recent experience you’ve had with coaching someone.
  18. Tell me about something you’ve done to improve your communication skills.
  19. Tell me about a time you set a goal too high or too low.
  20. What’s the most important thing you’ve done to increase revenues at your current/most recent company, and how did it turn out?

How to Answer these Behavioral Interview Questions

Now that you have a good list of questions, read my post Job Search Tool #1: SOAR Stories for tips on how to prepare answers that impress!

If you’re wondering about storytelling methods like SOAR and STAR, read my post SOAR, CAR or STAR Stories–and the Lord of the Rings?

If you feel stuck, read I Can’t Answer Behavioral Interview Questions.

And remember to watch for next week’s post, in which I’ll explain how to make a list to prepare for those crucial behavioral interview questions about your specific occupation–including technical ones. Ace both types of behavioral interview questions and you’ll hugely increase your interview success!

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