Traditional hiring practices that neglect behavioral testing can suffer the costs of mis-hires, low team morale, poor client relationships, and interpersonal conflicts within an existing workforce.
Behavioral interviews can help reveal candidates’ personality traits, interpersonal skills, actions, and motivations. By asking the right questions in these interviews, you can determine whether a new hire will get along with your current team members and align with your company culture. You can also get a sense of the support they may need if hired.
In this article, we explain what behavioral interview questions are and why to ask them. We then cover 30 common behavioral interview questions to ask and the answers to look for.
Behavioral interview questions are asked in a structured interview setting and focus on candidates’ past behavior to help you predict how they might behave in the workplace.
Specifically, behavioral interview questions ask for examples of situations where candidates had to rely on certain soft skills. These questions reveal individuals’ behavioral patterns, like how they navigate stress, solve problems, and think critically.
They aren’t a complete replacement for job-specific and skills-based assessments. Instead, behavioral interviews should be just one part of your hiring process. This ensures you get all the important insights into your candidates’ behavior and skills so you can identify top talent that will excel at your company.
Asking behavioral interview questions is an important part of behavior testing during recruitment, as they reveal how a candidate actually thinks, behaves, and faces challenges. In other words, behavioral questions prompt answers that you can’t find on a resume or in a cover letter.
These questions will help you:
Identify candidates’ soft skills. Behavioral questions enable you to evaluate candidates’ soft skills in real time instead of simply taking their word for it. This is essential since 85% of career success is related to well-developed soft skills.
Eliminate bias. Candidates are asked the same questions in the same order, giving them equal opportunities to show their skills and experience. There are also no questions about race, ethnicity, gender, or age. Effectively, you eliminate your unconscious bias through this objective questioning.
Make data-backed decisions. Asking behavioral interview questions in a structured format gives you concrete data about candidates’ competencies and behavioral patterns. This insight enables you to make data-driven hiring choices instead of relying on gut feelings that may not be accurate.
Predict employee performance. Research shows that the combination of structured interviews – like behavioral interviews – and skills tests is the best way to predict employee performance.
Neglecting behavioral interview questions during a hiring campaign can cause several issues. You risk:
The financial cost of a mis-hire can be huge – often multiple times the amount of the person’s annual salary. A candidate's hard skills and technical abilities tell only part of the story and aren’t enough to prevent mis-hires. Measuring behavioral traits is vital to ensure your hires work well within your team, have strong communication skills, are empathetic, and more.
Resume evaluation is inefficient, prone to bias, and doesn’t predict candidate behavior. Neglecting behavior testing forces hiring managers to rely on potentially inaccurate behavioral information written on candidates’ resumes.
Asking questions that have little to do with a candidate’s behavioral attributes can lead to first-impression bias. This occurs when an interviewer makes an early assumption about a candidate’s personality style based on subjective (often unconscious) factors – like hair color, tone of voice, and aesthetic style, which don’t predict behavior.
When asking teamwork behavior questions, look for answers that show qualities that make an employee a great team worker – like the ability to communicate, empathize with teammates, seek accountability, meet deadlines, and solve problems.
Here are some common behavioral interview questions regarding teamwork:
How do you interact with teammates who approach tasks differently?
How do you motivate fellow team members?
Have you ever worked within a team and found that a coworker didn’t want to collaborate with you?
Asking questions about a candidate's customer service experience can reveal their behavioral attributes like patience, respectful written and verbal communication, empathy, positivity, and problem-solving and decision-making skills.
Consider the following questions to identify candidates with strong customer skills:
How do you respond to combative or “difficult” customers?
Describe the steps you have taken to improve your communication skills.
How do you respond to negative feedback or reviews from customers?
Look for responses that demonstrate a candidate’s ability to stay calm in stressful situations, communicate effectively, and show understanding of customers’ perspectives.
Adaptable candidates should provide answers that show their flexibility, patience, open-mindedness, effective communication, and problem-solving skills. These attributes are indicators that candidates will perform well with shifting responsibilities and evolving strategies.
Ask these questions to identify adaptable candidates:
Tell me about a time when your responsibilities changed rapidly. How did you respond to these changes?
Tell me about a time when you had to learn new skills in a short period of time. How did you accomplish this?
How do you approach tasks and situations that are new to your skills and experience?
Time management behavior questions evaluate candidates’ ability to prioritize, execute, plan, and reflect.
Some common time management behavior questions are:
What strategies do you use to deliver work on time?
How do you approach providing estimates for the time you need to complete a task?
Tell me about a time when you had several competing tasks and limited time. How did you approach completing them all?
During the interview, look for responses demonstrating prospective hires' strategic scheduling skills, prioritizing tasks, delegating responsibilities, setting goals, and managing emotions.
With behavioral communication questions, you can identify candidates who are active listeners and emotionally aware and who value verbal and non-verbal communication.
Assess your candidates’ communication skills with these questions :
How do you introduce new information to teammates?
Tell me about a time when you needed to change your communication style in a professional setting. How did you succeed in adapting?
How do you remain attentive and interested during work-related conversations?
Strong answers will reflect a candidate’s ability to build rapport and engage effectively with teammates, customers, and others. They’ll also demonstrate that a candidate can adapt their communication styles to different situations.
Motivated employees can be the key to driving a business forward. They’re driven to achieve their personal goals and contribute to company success, and they often go above and beyond to deliver exceptional work.
During a behavioral interview, you can ask these questions to gauge candidates’ motivation:
Describe a time when you had a great idea for your team. How did you get management and colleagues on board?
What motivates you to come to work every day?
How do you approach completing repetitive tasks or tasks you don’t find engaging?
Ideal answers will demonstrate times when a candidate has taken initiative, challenged the status quo, inspired and encouraged others, and sought self-improvement.
Asking behavioral questions about a candidate’s ethics and integrity gives them the opportunity to display their moral responsibility, sound judgment, dependability, and loyalty.
Evaluate the ethics and integrity of your candidates with these questions:
How have ethics and integrity proven essential in your previous roles?
Describe a time when you led others by example. How did you approach modeling ethical behavior in that context?
Have you ever had to challenge an unethical business practice?
Listen for responses that highlight the candidate’s commitment to upholding ethical practices and behaviors, even in difficult situations.
When asking behavioral questions about a candidate’s growth potential, look for answers that indicate a candidate values learning and development, has a strong work ethic, and is eager to flex their skills.
Ask these questions to identify your candidates’ growth potential:
Describe the hardest challenge you have faced in a job. How did you meet that challenge?
How do you approach learning new skills?
Tell me about a time you had to juggle multiple different tasks. What did you learn from that experience?
Prioritization behavior questions will determine whether candidates can balance multiple tasks, understand how important each task is, and manage deadlines.
Prioritization also involves understanding how much effort each task requires, how to sequence tasks, and the types of tasks to tackle first. So, look for answers that show your candidate grasps these concepts.
Assess your candidates’ prioritization skills by asking:
When do you complete tasks that are low impact but high effort?
Describe a time when you had to balance multiple deadlines. How did you decide which tasks to complete first?
How do you measure the effort each task requires?
Behavioral questions about leadership can reveal the qualities that make a candidate well-suited to spearhead a team or department. Ideal answers will show that your candidate possesses empathy, patience, decisiveness, effective communication skills, and emotional intelligence.
Here are three common leadership behavior questions:
Have you ever mentored or developed an employee? What was your approach?
What is a successful strategy that you have used to motivate an employee?
Describe a time you had to deal with problematic employee behavior. How did you resolve the issue?
The most important part of conducting a successful behavioral interview is being prepared. Below are some key steps to follow.
TestGorilla has created a guide that teaches you how to conduct a great interview. It explains steps like removing all distractions, properly introducing yourself, asking pre-written questions, using active listening, leaving time for candidate questions, and selling candidates on the job.
Typically, you determine the role’s requirements when conducting your skills-gap analysis, which helps you identify areas where your team’s skills and competencies may be lacking. Ensure you clearly explain role requirements in your job posting to attract the best talent.
Always prepare your interview questions ahead of time. This way, there will be no room for improvisation during the interview – helping you avoid bias or asking irrelevant questions.
To maintain objectivity in your behavioral interview process, approach each candidate interview the same. It may not be as exciting as free-flowing, unstructured interviews, but you will gain more accurate behavioral data.
Optimize your interview process by considering each question’s length and purpose. Ensure you have enough time to cover all your questions and candidates have adequate time to answer.
Research shows that 93% of US employees have experienced anxiety related to job interviews. Giving candidates plenty of information about what to expect in the behavioral interview process can help curb their anxiety so they can give more honest answers.
Before elevating candidates to the behavioral interview stage, evaluate their personality traits, behavioral attributes, motivations, and work preferences using personality tests. TestGorilla has numerous personality tests – each developed by subject matter experts – you can use to do just that.
TestGorilla’s DISC Personality test is based on the DISC model developed by psychologist Wiliam Moulton Marston. He classified human emotional expression into four behavioral styles: Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S), and Conscientiousness (C).
Our DISC test offers insight into the main trait that governs candidates’ behavior (or a combination of two) by asking candidates to rank 48 statements from 1 (very inaccurate) to 5 (very accurate).
Once the test is complete, you’ll receive easy-to-interpret results about each candidate’s behavioral style, strengths, and weaknesses. Reports also include tips on communicating with each DISC type and supporting their development.
TestGorilla’s Enneagram Personality test uses the personality model developed by O. Ichazo and C. Naranjo that maps out nine unique personality types on a nine-pointed diagram called an Enneagram.
Each Enneagram type has its own core beliefs and worldviews. They also have “Wings” – neighboring personality types that can influence individuals’ behaviors.
Identifying your candidates’ Enneagram types helps you understand their behavioral patterns, values, motivations, and approaches to personal and professional relationships.
From there, you can add relevant behavioral interview questions to your hiring process.
TestGorilla’s 16 Personalities test is based on the work of Carl Jung. It provides insight into a candidate’s personality traits, source of energy, information-processing abilities, decision-making skills, and lifestyle preferences. It also measures how they navigate challenges and opportunities.
The 16 Personalities test is a self-evaluation that places candidates into four main categories based on their responses:
Introverted (I) vs. Extroverted (E), based on how the person directs their energy and focus
Sensing (S) vs. Intuitive (N), depending on how an individual processes information
Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F), based on whether the individual makes decisions based on logic or feelings
Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P), depending on how the person takes in new information
Each candidate will have one letter from each category – such as ISTJ for Introverted Sensing Thinking Judging. Combinations of these personality categories reveal 16 potential personality types.
It’s important to use a multi-measure approach in your hiring process. Combining behavioral interviews with personality tests and skills-based tests presents a fuller picture of your candidates.
Multi-measure testing also eliminates bias by assessing candidates’ skills, abilities, and traits – not their appearance or background.
Conduct role-specific skills tests to evaluate candidates’ core competencies related to the job. Then, use a personality test like TestGorilla’s Enneagram Personality or DISC Personality test to evaluate candidates’ personality traits.
Finally, use 5-10 behavioral interview questions to identify applicants’ traits related to communication, motivation, growth potential, adaptability, and leadership.
Behavioral interview questions give hiring managers insight into candidates’ personality traits, behavioral characteristics, and motivations. They also help identify soft skills, mitigate interviewer bias, and predict employee performance better than resume screening.
To gain a holistic understanding of your candidates, pair your behavioral interviews with multi-measure assessments such as personality tests (like the DISC, Enneagram, and 16 Personalities tests) and job-specific skills assessments.
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