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20 situational and behavioral interview questions to ask candidates


When screening applicants, a part of the process might involve reviewing and assessing resumes. 

Resumes, however, will tell you very little about the candidate’s goals, behaviors, and job preferences. Becoming better acquainted with the person behind the resume can help you make a more informed hiring decision. 

One way to do this is to use skill tests, such as our Critical Thinking test, to determine whether candidates are able to come up with innovative solutions to common problems. Then, you can invite the best candidates to an interview and ask situational and behavioral interview questions to get a better understanding of their abilities.

But where should you start when creating your list of interview questions?

We have the ultimate list for you. Explore our list of 20 situational and behavioral interview questions to ask candidates, along with sample answers to help you identify top talent for your team.

Top 20 situational and behavioral interview questions to test candidates’ decision-making skills

A behavioral interview can help you identify active candidates who have enough relevant work experience. Check out these 20 situational and behavioral interview questions to better understand candidates’ behaviors, skills, and prominent personality traits. 

Use the sample answers to evaluate answers. This way, you can be sure you’re able to hire the right candidate from your talent pool. 

1. Describe a time when you resolved a dispute with another team member.

Team members who don’t share the same views may find themselves embroiled in a conflict. Failing to address disagreements early on can cause further tension, lowering employee morale. New research shows that over 36% of employees face unresolved conflicts regularly and experience high stress levels because of it. 

An ideal candidate will talk you through the steps of resolving conflict. They might use active listening skills to understand the problem and enable team members to express their feelings and objections. A private meeting may also help colleagues from the same department find a solution.

Send candidates a Problem-Solving test to determine whether they can efficiently respond to complex situations and settle disputes among team members. 

2. What’s your strategy for making an excellent first impression on a client?

Positive first impressions are essential for building strong relationships with clients. Candidates must be confident when approaching clients, selling products, and convincing them to invest in your company. 

Verbal communication is necessary to convey information, but nonverbal communication is also essential. It involves body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice, which help emphasize the meaning and urgency of the message.

Research supports this, suggesting that 55% of communication stems from body language. Although candidates might sound confident when speaking, their posture could suggest otherwise. Folded arms and a blank expression may ruin the first impression because they don’t appear authoritative. 

To make sure customers are excited to hear about your products or services, your candidate should know that standing tall, exuding confidence, and talking with a smile is crucial. 

A Communication test will help you identify strong communicators who know how to use active listening skills when engaging with clients.

3. Give me an example of a time when you had to persuade your previous manager to consider your ideas.

Mastering the power of persuasion enables candidates to defend their ideas. Being able to negotiate with higher management shows determination and is instrumental to trying out new approaches in upcoming projects. 

One way candidates might persuade a manager is to build a logical argument. For example, your company might not want to spend more on additional resources for a project because the money was destined to go toward a marketing campaign. In that case, candidates should present a case that shows why having more resources is crucial for the project’s success. 

They might explain that spending more now will lead to a better project outcome and improve your relationship with the client. Or they may present another logical argument, explaining that a marketing campaign would be pointless if the project fails due to a lack of resources.

Use a Negotiation test to determine which candidates are able to influence business decisions and lead professional negotiations. 

4. How do you avoid errors in your work?

Feeling overwhelmed, bored, or unmotivated are common factors that increase the risk of human error. An ideal candidate will understand that mistakes happen, but they should also understand how to prevent and fix them in the future. 

This question enables you to focus on the candidate’s attention to detail. Being meticulous is essential because it helps them spot mistakes before submitting work to a client. 

In 2023, dependability and strong attention to detail remain in the top 10 most important skills for workers, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). Therefore, hiring candidates who can produce high-quality work is essential for attracting more clients.

The following are some ways to avoid making errors:

  • Eliminate distractions such as mobile phones and conversations 

  • Use a writing assistant like Grammarly to identify writing mistakes 

  • Review every piece of work and request feedback from team members

  • Take regular breaks to refresh the mind

  • Ask additional questions to gain clarity on confusing tasks 

  • Focus on one task at a time to avoid burnout

  • Start work before deadlines to prevent stress-related mistakes

5. How would you communicate bad news to your team?

Communicating bad news to team members can be challenging. Candidates must have strong communication skills and empathy to relay bad news without causing concerns among the team. Using the right language, tone of voice, and setting can help maintain high employee morale.

One simple way to do this is to meet with team members, share the news, and explain the next steps. For example, candidates may have to share news about a long-standing client terminating their contract. They might then explain that the company would seek to improve employees’ time management, communication, and attention to detail skills to boost client retention in the future. 

6. Tell me about a time you had to work with a team member who was tough to please.

This question can help you make a behavioral assessment that shows how specific candidates work with others. 

Identifying candidates who know how to prevent conflict rather than cause it is essential for building a strong team. This is because they may be better prepared to offer support to their team members by assisting them rather than hindering productivity.

Some team members may be stubborn and tough to please. For example, they might have ideas they want to implement but be unwilling to accept their colleagues’ ideas. An ideal candidate will acknowledge this personality type and find ways to collaborate without disagreements. 

One example includes listening to difficult team members to understand their take on the project. The candidate should then communicate their thoughts before suggesting a compromise, such as combining the ideas or scrapping them altogether to come up with a new plan. 

7. Talk me through the steps of organizing tasks in a long-term project. 

Candidates must know how to stay organized to prevent stress, make a good first impression on clients, and meet important deadlines. It’s also important because producing low-quality work due to poor organization may result in a terminated contract.

Candidates should consider the priority, due date, and category for each task. They might also use timebox methods, record tasks in a calendar, organize tasks with Asana or Trello, and set individual deadlines or delegate tasks. With these methods, they can complete high-priority tasks and avoid falling behind on deadlines or ignoring client expectations. 

The Getting Things Done method (GTD) is another popular way of organizing tasks and improving productivity levels among the team. This method involves writing down projects, data, and tasks into a collection tool and then using this information to create actionable steps. 

For example, if a client requires a comprehensive plan for the project first, ideal candidates would first focus on creating an outline and then delegating crucial tasks to other team members.

Send candidates a Time Management test to determine whether they know how to prioritize work to produce the best results.

8. Explain your biggest work failure. How did you handle it?

Candidates should be honest about their career failures because honesty builds trust and helps you better understand their most prominent personality traits, aspirations, and work ethic. 

Hiring candidates who know how to deal with failure and set goals to overcome personal challenges is essential for building a positive and uplifting company culture.

Motivated employees create a positive work environment. Setting goals can also increase productivity levels and happiness among your team because everyone feels determined to deliver high-quality work. 

An example of a failure is launching an ineffective marketing campaign. Let’s say that the candidate didn’t target the right audiences, meaning that customer interest was low. As a result, the client wasn’t interested in moving forward with the project. 

A strong candidate will turn this disheartening experience into a learning opportunity by improving their attention to detail through training. 

9. Tell me about a time you needed to deal with significant changes at work. How did you adjust?

With new technological advancements, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, candidates must be able to cope with change well and learn new technical skills quickly.

Adjusting to new processes and work arrangements is also important because it ensures candidates can stay productive during periods of transformation.

For instance, the candidate may explain that their previous workplace turned remote to provide a more flexible schedule to employees. 

To work remotely without problems, they chose a dedicated space to work without distractions. Other methods include communicating regularly with team members through digital apps like Slack and creating a daily schedule to prevent burnout. 

10. How do you manage your stress when meeting important deadlines?

Tight deadlines can cause stress among team members, especially if they don’t have enough time to prepare. Look for candidates who know how to protect their mental health while striving to meet important deadlines. 

Over one million employees in the US miss work each day due to stress, whether that’s from challenging projects or tension in the team. This results in lower team productivity levels and can affect professional relationships. 

Stress levels in the workplace pie chart

Hiring a candidate who’s capable of dealing with stress without feeling overwhelmed or paralyzed – and who’s also able to ask for help when needed – is essential for building a supportive company culture. 

Some ways of managing stress when working with tight deadlines include to:

  • Track stressors throughout the week, such as an overwhelming workload or too many meetings 

  • Seek support from higher management 

  • Take regular breaks during the day to avoid burnout 

  • Practice mindfulness techniques like deep breathing and meditation 

  • Establish boundaries with team members 

  • Plan tasks ahead of time to stay organized 

  • Create a balanced schedule at the start of every week 

11. You find out your colleague has been plagiarizing others’ work. What do you do?

Plagiarism is an offense that might result in the decision to terminate a contract, but you might not notice this behavior if you’re working with large teams. 

Employees are more likely to pick up on plagiarized content when collaborating with others. They must follow the correct protocol to ensure your company doesn’t face consequences like lawsuits, damaged reputation, and client dissatisfaction. 

An ideal candidate should gather proof of the plagiarism and take it straight to management for further investigation. They should not start conflicts but simply get enough evidence and escalate the matter. 

It’s also worth making other team members aware of the incident to ensure they aren’t plagiarizing content. This method is important because it can ensure the team is able to:

  • Uphold the best practices in writing content

  • Produce work that ranks highly on search engines

  • Deliver work that presents the facts correctly and is reliable

12. Give me an example of a time when you had to assume a leadership role in a team.

Taking a leadership role is a huge step for some candidates. Being a successful leader requires a positive attitude, open communication, and confidence. Understanding how to guide others and add value to the company’s processes are also essential qualities because they can inspire team members to consistently produce work that provides more value to candidates. 

When asking this question, look for candidates who show confidence in their leadership skills and experience. 

For example, the candidate may discuss a recent project in which they were transparent with team members, offered support, and delegated tasks to achieve high-quality results. They may also have needed to make tough decisions, which is important because it’d help your company overcome obstacles, such as:

  • Resource allocation

  • Client base expansion

  • Training or course development

Use a Leadership and People Management test to determine which candidates can plan and support the personal development of other team members.

13. How would you motivate other team members?

Potential leaders must motivate team members to achieve their goals and succeed. This strategy drives employees and encourages them to meet your company’s expectations. Without a strong sense of purpose, your employees will struggle to make progress during challenging projects. 

Some ways of motivating team members include to:

  • Share positive feedback throughout the week 

  • Arrange social events outside of work to increase employee engagement

  • Offer support through counseling programs 

  • Show more appreciation during difficult projects 

  • Provide rewards such as shopping vouchers or sweet treats 

  • Encourage team members to take time off to relax 

  • Reiterate the company’s long-term mission 

Employee engagement and motivation can lead to an 81% difference in absenteeism between high and low-performing companies. It also leads to an 18% difference in turnover for high-performing companies. 

You can use a Motivation test to gain insight into a candidate’s mindset, aspirations, and job preferences. Learning about their motivation also helps you determine their ability to inspire others.

14. Tell me about a time when you worked well under pressure.

Tight deadlines and difficult clients can put pressure on your team. Candidates should provide an example of when they overcame a challenge without becoming overwhelmed. 

For instance, a candidate for a shop-assistant role may talk about the pressure they faced during peak season. They may have had to deal with poor inventory management and more cases of theft than usual. All of these might have put team members on edge. 

How did the candidate overcome the challenges? Did they make a plan at the start of each day, enabling them to work well under pressure?

Some examples of action plans to deal with difficult periods include to:

  • Write a checklist to gain more control over tasks

  • Plan delegation methods to distribute responsibilities

  • Take regular breaks to decrease stress

15. Describe a time when you had to give a presentation in a group setting.

Presentations can feel daunting, especially to candidates who don’t have much confidence in their public-speaking skills. Although being nervous is normal, candidates should show enough enthusiasm to step outside of their comfort zone. 

A presentation is a great way of communicating goals and ensuring every team member is on the same page. To do this, the ideal candidate will plan their presentation a few days in advance. They should also practice using positive language (such as “will” instead of “can”) to amplify their points. 

Calming their nerves is also essential for effective communication with team members because it can help candidates express their points clearly without stuttering or confusion. Simple things like taking deep breaths, listening to soft music, and asking friends for advice can help an applicant appear more confident at the company’s regular meetings. 

16. Talk me through the steps of receiving and acting upon feedback. 

Feedback is the ultimate gateway to self-improvement, upskilling, and the ability to set new goals. Candidates should be able to accept feedback, especially during the onboarding stage, because this is a crucial time for orientation and training. 

An ideal candidate will note down the feedback and create an action plan for achieving their personal development goals

For example, they might want to improve their productivity levels because the manager is unsatisfied with their overall performance. To make positive changes, the candidate might decide to:

  • Remove outside distractions

  • Focus on task prioritization with a clear plan

  • Clarify expectations

  • If needed, check whether they have correctly implemented the feedback

17. A new employee has joined your team. What do you do on their first day?

Candidates with strong soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and leadership must be able to guide beginners effectively to ensure their onboarding goes smoothly. 

Let’s take the example of a timid new employee who seems confused upon starting to work on their first task. 

The candidate should approach them and offer guidance, whether that’s sending helpful resources or mentoring them to help them complete the task. This support fosters a positive work environment and helps the candidate build stronger professional relationships.

Below are some ways candidates can welcome a new employee:

  • Express enthusiasm and appreciation for their arrival 

  • Arrange a social event to help them integrate and feel more comfortable 

  • Outline clear expectations during the onboarding stage 

  • Introduce them to all team members and managers 

  • Offer support through digital platforms like Slack 

  • Host an office get-together to ease their anxiety 

A Culture Add test will determine whether the candidate’s behaviors match your company’s values. The candidate must also be polite, motivated, and open-minded when welcoming new employees, which can enhance your employer branding

18. What would you do if you had to complete a task you’ve never done before?

Not all candidates have the confidence to complete unfamiliar tasks. Sometimes, candidates must work on tasks they’ve never done before, which can feel daunting. 

For example, you might ask team members to fill in for a few of your customer service reps who are on sick leave. Taking on new tasks requires strong adaptability and determination to produce high-quality work. An ideal candidate will ask you questions to gain more clarity, ask for support from team members, and research ways to enhance the customer experience. 

19. How would you calm down an angry customer?

Angry customers and clients are inevitable. Handling complaints the right way ensures employees maintain a high level of respect, even when they’re under pressure. Therefore, candidates must know how to deal with frustrated customers without damaging your company’s reputation. 

Some steps for calming down an angry customer include to:

  1. Remain calm and listen to the customer’s problems 

  2. Thank the customer for communicating the issue 

  3. Be sincere when talking about the next steps

  4. Apologize for the stress and reiterate that their problem is a top priority 

  5. Offer them discounts or customer rewards to ease the tension 

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics states that customer service skills are crucial for appeasing customers because it enables employees to listen to customers and understand their needs without causing a conflict.

For customer-facing roles in your company, you can use a Customer Service test to evaluate applicants’ skills. You can see how candidates interact with customers and identify the root causes of common problems like long wait times or low-quality products.

20. You’re not happy with your growth in a job. How do you develop your skills?

Upskilling employees is essential for learning and development in your team. 

Although targeted training keeps your company ahead of competitors, candidates should also take it upon themselves to develop new skills. Their cooperation in boosting your company’s growth proves valuable in achieving success in the future, for example improving customer retention rates or launching viral products. 

Candidates who fit the job description may perform their duties effectively, but they must learn new skills as technologies advance. For example, your company might invest in new software to build an automated workflow. Therefore, candidates should use their time to familiarize themselves with the software and develop their technical skills.

Skill development usually relies on training programs, workshops, and mentoring. These are useful for learning new skills, but practice is key to becoming an expert. 

When should you use these situational and behavioral interview questions in your hiring process?

Start with creating a skills assessment that you send to all candidates. Then, based on their performance, you can shortlist the best candidates and invite them to an interview, where you can use the situational and behavioral interview questions from this article. 

A skills-based assessment provides an unbiased, comprehensive evaluation of the candidate’s ability to work in your company. For example, assessing managers may require a Business Operations Management test that evaluates skills such as resource allocation and supply chain management.

You can also compare test results to determine which applicant has the most experience and the strongest skills. This screening process will help you identify talent gaps and hire professionals with in-demand soft skills like communication, leadership, and problem-solving. 

The interview gives you more depth when looking to understand applicants’ traits, personalities, and experience. Here, you can expand on different topics and skills and focus on things you’ve learned about candidates from their skills tests. Ask targeted questions to determine if they are the perfect match for your role.

Use our situational and behavioral interview questions and skill tests to hire professionals

Now that you have a list of questions, you can explore our extensive test library to start building a skills-based assessment for your open position. Test categories include cognitive ability, situational judgment, language, personality, role-specific skills, and more. 

For more guidance, book a free demo to discuss your hiring preferences with one of our experts. Join the thousands of companies that use skills-based hiring to find new employees.


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