Departmental Interviewing Guide: Behavioral Interview Questions

Some interview questions may be "behaviorally based," implying that the questions you ask should examine past or present behavior. Such questions attempt to measure how a person is likely to behave in certain situations. Behavioral questions should be designed to help evaluate an applicant's ability to perform certain elements or key competencies deemed critical to the performance of the position. The following are some examples of behavior-based questions that reflect situations an applicant could encounter on the job. The competencies they measure precede the questions:

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

With which of your past work groups did you most enjoy working? What factors most influenced your positive feelings? With which of your past work groups did you least enjoy working? What accounted for your lack of enjoyment? What did you do about it? What was the outcome?

Tell me about a time when you had a major conflict with another employee. What was the cause of the conflict? What things did you do to alleviate the problem? What were the results?

Provide me with a specific example of a time when a co-worker or supervisor criticized your work in front of others. How did you respond? How has that event shaped the way you communicate with others?

Tell me about a time when you felt it was important to take it upon yourself to disclose "bad news" to your supervisor. How could you have handled the situation differently? How would you handle the same situation in the future? What kinds of outside influences affected the outcome of your actions? How would your supervisor have evaluated your decision in that situation?


Give me a specific example of a time when you sold your supervisor on an idea or concept. How did you proceed? What was the result?

Job Performance

Describe the system you use for keeping track of multiple projects. How do you track your progress so that you can meet deadlines? How do you stay focused? (commitment to task)

Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a deadline. What things did you fail to do? What were the repercussions? What did you learn? (time management)

Give me some examples of things you have done that go considerably beyond what is required by your job. (drive and motivation)

Tell me about a situation that required you to learn something difficult or unfamiliar. Why was it difficult to learn? What did you have to do to learn it? How long did it take? What was the end result? (ability to learn)

Creativity and Imagination

Tell me about a time when you came up with an innovative solution to a challenge your organization/department was facing. What was the challenge? What role did others play? What was your idea? What were the alternative approaches you considered? Why was this a particularly creative solution?


Describe a specific problem you solved for your employer. How did you approach the problem? What role did others play? What was the outcome?

Willingness to Take Risks

In past positions, when do you most regret not having taken a particular risk? What was the nature of the risk? Why didn't you pursue this risk?

Political Astuteness

What was the most difficult political decision you have had to make? What were the sensitivities? What were the risks? What factors needed to be considered, and why? What tact did you elect to take? What was the result?


Give me an example of a situation that required you to compromise one of your basic principles. What was the situation? What principle did you compromise? Why did you compromise? How did you feel about it?


Give an example of your involvement in a successful team effort. What role did you play? Why was the effort successful? Give an example of your involvement in a team effort that failed. What role did you play? What factors led to the failure?

Describe a time when you encouraged co-workers who disliked each other to work together. How did you accomplish this? What was the outcome?

Customer Service

Describe the behaviors of a difficult customer and what you did. (Look for the applicant's ability to notice and act on specific behaviors.)

Was there ever a time you violated organizational policy in order to better serve a customer? What happened and how did you handle it?

Tell me about a time when you went the extra mile for a customer. What were the circumstances and what did you do?

Operating Style

What are the basic work principles by which you try to operate? How are these basic work principles reflected in your work and job accomplishments? Give me some recent examples of how these work or operating principles benefited your performance. What principles did you employ? How did you behave? What was the result?

Give me an example of where you abandoned one of your basic work principles and it backfired on you. What was the circumstance? What principle did you abandon? Why did you abandon this principle? What was the result? What did you learn from this experience?

Management Style, Philosophy and Effectiveness

Describe your process for monitoring and controlling overall department operations and performance. What are the performance benchmarks? What are your monitoring techniques? What controls do you exercise?

Describe your approach to employee development. How do you determine development needs? How are these communicated? How is accountability assigned? What successes have you had? How could you be more effective in this area?

How do you go about evaluating individual employee performance? What is your basis for evaluation? What standards do you use? How do you measure against these standards?

What are some of the techniques you have used or continue to use to motivate poor performers? Give me some examples of how you have used these techniques. What results did you get? How could these have been improved?

What is the toughest decision you have had to make as a manager? Why was it tough? What did you decide? What were the results?