Behavioral interviewing

Behavioral Interviewing: The Complete Guide with Top Questions + Tips for 2023

Are you tired of the traditional interview methods that fail to assess a candidate’s skills and qualities? It’s time to embrace the power of behavioral interviewing. In this comprehensive guide, we will take you through everything you need about behavioral interviewing in recruitment. From understanding the concept and its distinctiveness from traditional methods to mastering the art of conducting compelling interviews, we’ve got you covered. 

Learn how to craft questions that uncover essential skills, implement the STAR approach, develop a practical rating scale, and utilize follow-up questions. We’ll also provide a comprehensive list of behavioral interview questions categorized by skill set. Plus, we’ll share tips for ensuring the effectiveness of your behavioral interviewing strategy and offer valuable advice for managers conducting these interviews. Get ready to revolutionize your recruitment process!

What is Behavioral Interviewing?

Behavioral interviews are a type of job interview that focuses on assessing how a candidate has behaved in specific situations in the past. Rather than asking hypothetical questions, behavioral interviewers ask candidates to provide examples from their previous experiences to demonstrate their skills, abilities, and personal qualities. The underlying belief is that past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior. 

The interviewer will typically ask questions such as “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult coworker” or “Give me an example of a project you managed from start to finish.” The goal is to understand how the candidate has handled various situations and how they might handle similar situations. This type of interview helps assess a candidate’s fit for a particular role and team and their ability to address specific challenges or tasks.

Read more: The 5 Major Types of Interviews Team Managers Need to Know

behavioral interviewing masterclass

The Distinctiveness of Behavioral Interviewing from Traditional Methods

In contrast to traditional interviewing methods that rely on hypothetical or theoretical questions, behavioral interviewing focuses on past behavior as an indicator of future performance. This approach allows employers to assess a candidate’s skills, competencies, and abilities by asking for specific examples of real-life situations they have encountered. 

By diving into candidates’ past experiences, employers gain insight into problem-solving, decision-making, and interpersonal skills, enabling them to make more informed hiring decisions based on actual evidence. Let’s understand with an example – 

Hiring Manager: It sounds like you have a solid background in software engineering. Could you share an example of a challenging project you’ve worked on recently? What were the main difficulties you faced, and how did you overcome them?

Candidate: Certainly! One of the most challenging projects I worked on recently was developing a real-time chat application for a large-scale e-commerce platform. The main difficulty was ensuring seamless communication between multiple users and maintaining data consistency in a high-traffic environment. To overcome this, I implemented a scalable architecture using message queues and robust error-handling mechanisms. Additionally, I conducted extensive load testing to identify bottlenecks and optimize the system’s performance.

The Importance of Behavioral Interviewing in Modern Recruitment

In modern recruitment, behavioral interviewing plays a crucial role. Behavioral interviews offer unique benefits for both employers and candidates. A behavioral interview focuses on past behavior and experiences rather than hypothetical situations or general questions. This approach allows employers to gain insight into how candidates have handled specific situations, which can indicate how they may perform in the future. By asking targeted questions about real-life scenarios, employers can assess a candidate’s problem-solving skills, communication abilities, and how they handle challenges or conflicts. It can be a great tool for skills based hiring.

For candidates, behavioral interviews provide an opportunity to showcase their skills and experiences in a concrete way. By sharing specific examples of their accomplishments and demonstrating their ability to handle different situations effectively, candidates can make a strong case for why they are the right fit for the position.

Read more about the impact of culture on hiring here: Work On Culture To Make Hiring A Breeze

Mastering the Art of Conducting Behavioral Interviews

Crafting Questions that Uncover Essential Skills and Qualities

Crafting questions for behavioral interviews involves asking candidates to provide specific examples of past experiences or behaviors that demonstrate their skills, abilities, and fit for the job. Here are some tips for crafting effective behavioral interview questions:

  • Start with “tell me about a time when…” or “give me an example of…” to prompt candidates to share specific experiences.
  • Focus on key competencies or qualities required for the job, such as problem-solving, teamwork, or leadership.
  • Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your questions and guide the candidate’s response.
  • Ask probing follow-up questions to gain insight into the candidate’s thought process and actions in a particular situation.
  • Tailor your questions to the specific role and organization to assess how well candidates align with your culture and values.
Remember that behavioral interview questions are designed to evaluate a candidate’s past behavior as an indicator of future performance. By asking candidates to provide concrete examples, you can better understand their skills and suitability for the position.

behavioral interview questions by risely
Read more here: Top 10 Behavioral Competency Based Interview Questions for Managers

Implementing the STAR Approach in Interviews

The STAR approach, which stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result, is a structured method to gather information about a candidate’s past behavior in specific situations. The STAR method is a technique used in interviews to structure and organize responses to behavioral interview questions. Here’s how it works:

  • Situation: Description of the situation or context in which the event or challenge occurred.
  • Task: Explain the task or goal in that situation.
  • Action: Describe the specific actions taken to address the situation or complete the task.
  • Result: The outcome or result of actions, including any positive impact or lessons learned.
star interview method by risely
Interviewers can assess their problem-solving skills, decision-making abilities, and ability to handle challenges by asking candidates to provide specific examples. Through precise details about the situation, task, actions taken, and results achieved, the STAR approach helps evaluate a candidate’s real-world application of skills and experience.

Read more: The Best 5 Steps to Analyze STAR Method of Behavioral Interviewing Responses

Developing an Effective Rating Scale for Assessment

When it comes to judging behavioral interviews accurately, there are a few key strategies you can use. 

Firstly, it’s essential to clearly understand the specific behaviors and skills you are looking for in a candidate. It will allow you to assess how well the candidate’s past experiences align with the role’s requirements. A few resources, such as skill profiles and competencies required for each job role, would be needed for this. 

Secondly, listen carefully to the candidate’s responses and ask follow-up questions to gain deeper insights into their thought process and decision-making skills. Look for evidence of critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and adaptability.

Consider using a structured scoring system or rubric to evaluate candidates consistently and objectively. It can help ensure that all candidates are assessed against the same criteria.

The Role of Follow-up Questions in Behavioral Interviews

Follow-up questions in behavioral interviews are crucial in understanding the candidate’s past experiences and behaviors. These questions are designed to dig deeper into specific situations, actions, and outcomes the candidate faced in their previous roles. Follow-up questions gather more detailed information, probe for specific examples and details, and assess the candidate’s ability to reflect on their experiences.

Interviewers can gain insights into how candidates handle challenges, demonstrate critical skills and competencies, and make decisions by asking follow-up questions. Overall, follow-up questions help interviewers make more informed hiring decisions by providing a comprehensive picture of the candidate’s past behaviors and potential fit for the role.

Comprehensive List of Behavioral Interview Questions

Questions to Gauge Ability to Work Under Pressure

  • Share a time when you faced a deadline or project under pressure.
  • How do you manage stress at work? 
  • Tell me about handling multiple tasks with competing deadlines.
  • Describe a challenging situation where you remained composed under pressure.
  • How do you prioritize and manage time when facing tight deadlines?
  • Give an example of quickly adapting to unexpected changes at work.

Questions to Assess Attention to Detail

  • Share an instance where attention to detail was crucial in completing a task or project.
  • How do you ensure that you avoid overlooking small details?
  • Discuss a situation where your attention to detail helped identify and solve a problem.
  • How do you prioritize tasks and manage multiple projects while maintaining attention to detail?
  • Explain a mistake made due to lack of attention to detail, including how it was handled and lessons learned.

Questions to Evaluate Communication Skills

  • Can you describe a time when you had to communicate complex information to a team or group?
  • Tell me about a situation where you successfully resolved a conflict through effective communication.
  • How did you handle communicating bad news to a coworker or client?
  • Describe a time when you had to adapt your communication style when working with individuals from different backgrounds or cultures.
  • Share an experience where you successfully communicated with someone with a different communication style.
  • How did you provide constructive feedback to a colleague or subordinate?
Find more questions here to conduct effective behavioral interviews:

How can you ensure the effectiveness of your Behavioral Interviewing strategy?

To ensure the effectiveness of your Behavioral Interviewing strategy:

  • Define the desired competencies.
  • Develop a structured interview guide with behavioral questions.
  • Train interviewers on effective interviewing techniques and evaluation.
  • Regularly review and refine your strategy based on feedback.
behavioral interviewing masterclass

Top Tips for Managers Conducting Behavioral Interviews 2023

  • Identify relevant leadership competencies: Determine the critical leadership competencies necessary for success in the managerial role you are hiring for. It could include skills like communication, problem-solving, delegation, conflict resolution, and strategic thinking.
  • Structure your questions effectively: Frame your questions to elicit specific examples of the candidate’s past managerial experiences. Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to guide your questions and encourage candidates to provide detailed responses.
  • Ask about challenging situations: Inquire about the candidate’s specific challenges as a manager and how they handled those situations. Focus on scenarios such as taking team conflicts, driving performance improvement, or implementing change within a team or department.
  • Assess their decision-making skills: Managers often need to make critical decisions. Ask candidates about situations where they had to make tough decisions under pressure. Pay attention to their decision-making process, including gathering information, considering alternatives, and assessing the potential outcomes.
  • Evaluate their team management and development skills: An essential aspect of managerial roles is leading and developing a team. Ask candidates about their experience managing teams, building a positive team culture, providing feedback, and supporting employee growth and development.
  • Seek examples of leadership and motivation: Managers should be able to inspire and motivate their teams. Ask candidates about instances where they demonstrated effective leadership, encouraged their team members, or achieved high employee engagement and satisfaction levels.
  • Probe for self-awareness and learning agility: Effective managers are self-aware and continually strive for self-improvement. Ask candidates about their willingness to learn from mistakes, seek feedback, and adapt their leadership style to different situations.
  • Listen actively and take notes: Pay close attention to the candidate’s responses, focusing on the content and their communication style and body language. Take detailed notes to help you compare candidates later in the evaluation process.
  • Follow-up and clarify: If a candidate’s response lacks clarity or you need more information, don’t hesitate to ask follow-up questions to gain a deeper understanding of their experiences and actions.
Check out the top interviewer skills too: 5 Interviewer Skills That Every Manager Needs For Smart Hiring


Behavioral interviewing is a critical tool in modern recruitment. It helps employers gain insight into candidates’ past behavior, skills, and abilities to predict their future performance. By implementing the STAR approach, crafting effective questions, and developing a rating scale for assessment, you can ensure the effectiveness of your behavioral interviewing strategy. 

Additionally, our comprehensive list of behavioral interview questions will help you assess critical qualities such as the ability to work under pressure, attention to detail, and communication skills. For behavioral interview managers, remember to actively listen, take notes, and ask follow-up questions to dive deeper into a candidate’s responses. 

Conduct effective interviews with strong active listening skills.

Test your active listening skills for free with a self-assessment for managers and team leaders.

Behavioral Interviewing FAQs

What is a behavioral interview with example?

A behavioral interview is a job interview technique that focuses on assessing a candidate’s past behavior and experiences to predict their future performance. For example, instead of asking how someone would handle a difficult situation, the interviewer may ask how they handled a specific difficult situation in the past.

What are top 5 behavioral interview questions?

Top 5 behavioral interview questions include:
a) “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a challenging coworker or team member.”
b) “Describe a situation where you had to meet a tight deadline and how you managed it.”
c) “Can you share an example of a time when you demonstrated strong leadership skills?”
d) “How did you handle a situation where you made a mistake, and how did you learn from it?”
e) “Tell me about a time when you had to adapt to a major change at work.”

What is the STAR method when interviewing?

The STAR method is a structured approach used in behavioral interviews to answer questions effectively:
S – Situation: Describe the context and background of the situation.
T – Task: Explain the specific task or challenge you faced.
A – Action: Detail the actions you took to address the situation.
R – Result: Describe the outcome or results of your actions and what you learned from the experience.

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