Top Behavioral Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Manager asking a job candidate the top behavioral interview questions at a table.

For employers, finding candidates with the best mix of related industry knowledge and experience is a top priority. For most employers, resume-screening tools and pre-employment testing can ensure you find the candidates with the right combination of required skills. But there are other qualities and skills that are just as important, which the top behavioral interview questions can reveal.

Finding an employee with the right soft skills and behavioral qualities is just as important as industry and role-related expertise. In fact, not including these other variables can lead to a bad—and expensive—hire. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a bad hire can cost your business 30 percent of an employee’s first-year earnings.

Many employers have been taking note. As many 22 percent of employers include personality and behavioral assessments as part of their hiring process. When combined with information gathered through resumes and references, data collected from these tests can help you make a more informed hiring decision.

But nothing beats first-hand interactions. That’s why a strong interview that includes both traditional questions and behavioral interview questions is one of the most effective tools for finding the best employees for your business.

The top behavioral interview questions will help you uncover information you won’t find on the average resume or job application. Some of the must-have questions are ones that:

  • Gauge emotional intelligence
  • Assess communication skills
  • Reveal problem-solving skills
  • Determine teamwork skills

Here are some specific questions that will help you integrate behavioral based interviewing into your recruiting and hiring process.

Questions That Gauge Emotional Intelligence

Introduced to the general public in the 1990’s, emotional intelligence is defined as “the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.”. Interacting with co-workers and customers often requires enough emotional intelligence to support effective communication and problem solving.

Use these questions to find out if potential hires possess the emotional intelligence needed to thrive in your business:

  • What career accomplishments are you most proud of, and why?
  • Tell me about a time when you felt you received an unfairly negative performance evaluation. How did you respond?
  • Describe a time that you had to motivate your team to complete a challenging task or project under a tight deadline.
  • How do you react when you sense that a sales call is taking a turn for the worse?
  • Give an example of how you reacted when you thought you did a great job on a task, but your boss thought it was terrible.
  • What are some tactics you’ve used in the past to regain an audience’s attention during a long training session or presentation?

Questions That Assess Communication Skills

Whether in-person, virtually, or in writing, effective communication with customers, co-workers, and leadership is a top soft skill for employees. Strong and effective communication, a cornerstone for successful businesses, helps ensure everyone is on the same page and can prevent problems from spiraling out of control.

Here are a few top behavioral interview questions that focus on uncovering your candidate’s strengths and weaknesses with communication:

  • Give an example of how you communicated with a co-worker who you believed was mishandling a customer interaction.
  • You’re in charge of training a new hire. The new person doesn’t have experience in the process you’re teaching, and she is visibly nervous. How do you approach this task?
  • Describe your most successful in-person sales presentation and what you did that helped you close the deal.
  • Describe the last time you had to persuade a team member or your manager that your way of completing a project was the best option.
  • How do you diffuse a situation with an irate client who raises his voice or becomes verbally combative?
  • Do you prefer to manage tense interactions by email or over the phone?

Questions That Reveal Problem-Solving Skills

Strong problem solvers add tremendous value to just about any team. Employees who consistently exhibit problem solving skills tend to be proactive thinkers who value making internal processes and customer experiences the best they can be. Reducing or avoiding problems with customers and employees means time and money saving for your business.

Get a good read on your candidate by asking these top behavioral interview questions for assessing problem-solving skills:

  • Describe a time when you were able to satisfy a customer when your company was unable to meet an expectation.
  • Give an example of how you’ve used your problem-solving skills in your previous position.
  • Describe a time when you improved a process so that you could perform your job more efficiently or provide a better customer experience.
  • Give an example of a creative solution you found to a problem with clients.
  • How do you manage a vendor who is not fulfilling their obligations to your company?
  • What was the toughest problem you faced in your last position? How did you solve it?

Questions that Determine Teamwork Skills

Basketball great Michael Jordan asserted that “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” That statement also holds true in most every workplace. That’s why including the top behavioral interview questions for uncovering a candidate’s potential to successfully work in a team could be a make-or-break step during the hiring process.

Here are a few examples that will help you determine a candidate’s teamwork skills:

  • Talk about a time when you had to work closely with someone whose personality was very different from yours.
  • When a team member isn’t doing their share of the work on a project, what is your approach to handling the situation?
  • In the past, how have you handled interactions with coworkers whose personalities or values weren’t a good match with yours?
  • Do you prefer to be the leader or a contributor when working with a team?
  • Tell me about a time when you didn’t complete a project on time or missed a deadline that impacted another team member. How do you handle the situation?
  • Do you think you perform best when working individually or on a team? Describe an instance that supports your preference.

Move One Step Closer to the Interview Process and Find Top Talent

Integrating top behavioral interview questions into your recruitment process will move you closer to making the right hiring decisions and avoiding costly employee turnover. Get started by posting your job for free on Monster.