Behavioral Interview Questions

A woman holding a splayed hand in front of her with writing on her palm that reads, "Whats your story?".

Tell a Story

Behavioral interview questions are widely used by employers and you must be prepared for them before going in to any interview.  A behavioral interview question is an attempt to learn how you respond or "behave" in certain situations.  They are almost always geared toward "negative" or "challenging" situations you've experienced.  Luckily there is a simple formula for answering these questions:  the ST-A-R technique which involves a three part answer:

  • Situation/Task: Tell your answer as a story. First describe the situation or task involved in the example you're using for your answer.  Don't spend too much time on this portion; just give a basic overview and save time to give more details in the other portions of your answer.
  • Action:  Here's where you can give details about your thinking process, why you decided to respond the way you did, and how you executed your plan.
  • Result: This is the most commonly missed part of answering a behavioral interview question. Give detail here and clearly explain the results.  If the result wasn't perfect,  that's OK, just be sure to talk about what you learned from the experience and what you'd do differently  in the future.

Sample Question

"Tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult team member?"

Sample Answer
  • Siuation/Task: "Sure, I did deal with a difficult situation last semester when I was working on team project for my Marketing Analysis class.  It was a team of six people working on a market research project and I was in a leadership role.  Things started out great, I organized the project, assigned tasks to team members and we were off to a strong start.  After a few weeks, though, it became apparent that  one team member in particular wasn't contributing his share."
  • Action: "After considering how to approach the situation, I decided I needed to do something.  I wanted to discuss the situation with this team member, but I decided it would be better to  have a private conversation rather than confront him in front of the team.   I scheduled a meeting between just the two of us to let him know how the team was reacting.  During our meeting it was obvious he felt really badly about letting the team down and he confessed to me that he was dedicated to the project, but was just overloaded at this point in the semester with projects, homework, and work. After thinking about things, I asked him if we could give him some time to catch up on other things, would he be able to catch up on our project?  He assured me he could.  What I ended up doing was meeting with team and rearranging assignment so his would be due later in the semester."
  • Result: "He was able to get caught up on his other responsibilities and he did eventually perform well for the team and made a strong contribution to our project."

Other Behavioral Interview Questions
  • Tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult supervisor?
  • Tell me about a time you experienced adversity?
  • How would you respond if you were given a project you weren't sure you could complete?
  • Tell me about when you've dealt with a high-pressure situation or deadline?
  • Tell me about a time you made a mistake, how did you handle it?
  • See our Interview Questions handout for more sample questions.


Notice a trend here? Yes, behavioral interview questions almost always start with "Tell me about a time when," or "How would respond to." When you hear these words this should trigger your answer to be in the ST-A-R format.

It's alright to ask for a few moments to gather your thoughts before answering. The best way to prepare prior to an interview is to think about difficult or challenging experiences you've had recently and think through them in the ST-A-R format ahead of time. The best examples will come from classroom or work experience.

Knowing the typical interview format and preparing answers for standard questions beforehand will relieve you from some stress during the interview and allow you to be yourself.

Check out our interviewing tool, Big Interview, which gives you the opportunity to practice and perfect your interviewing skills.