How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions

Use these tips and frameworks to plan your responses to behavioral interview questions.

Kevin Wu
Kevin Wu
Jul 28, 2020
Min Read

This guest post was provided by Pathrise, an online mentorship program that works with students and professionals on every component of their job search. Pathrise has helped 500+ people land great jobs in tech through their workshops and 1-on-1 mentorship.

A lot of effort goes into practicing for technical interviews, including preparing portfolio case studies, working through common product design interview questions, and whiteboarding with peers or mentors. 

People often feel ready for their interviews once they have the technical concepts down, but in fact, they are leaving a very important step out. Preparing for behavioral interviews is just as necessary as technical interviews because these sessions can be the determining factor between a rejection and an offer. 

Candidates typically participate in behavioral interviews in their phone screens and onsite interviews. While companies vary somewhat, there are some common behavioral interview questions that will likely be asked. At Pathrise, we have helped many people prepare for their interviews and land incredible jobs. Here are our tips so that you can do the same.

The first step should be research. You need to learn everything you can about this company so that you can explain to them how you would be a good fit with their culture and mission. We recommend starting this research on the company About page, where you can learn about their mission, history, and values.

Next, try to find more info about their culture on their Careers or Jobs page, which can help you find out what they are looking for in a new employee. Some larger companies, like Facebook, have Culture pages or Life at [Company] pages, which are also great places to get information on their values.

Once you have a sense of the company’s mission and culture, you can start to prepare for common behavioral interview questions. The goal is for you to be able to know what you want to say in response to these questions without sounding memorized or rehearsed.

You also want to add information about the company into your responses, so that they know you did your research and you are a good fit for their organization.

Here are some examples of common behavioral interview questions and how you can plan your responses.

“Tell me about yourself”

This question, or some form of it, will almost always come up at the beginning of your sessions. Think of it as a kickoff to the interview. Since you know it will be asked, there is no reason for you not to knock it out of the park. 

To successfully answer this question, you should plan out an elevator pitch that hits these key points: 

  • Your education
  • Your experience
  • Relevant projects you have done
  • A summary of yourself as it relates to the company and their mission (this is where your research comes in handy)

Here is an example:

Hi, I’m [name]. I graduated from [school] in [year], with a major in [concentration]. I’ve always been interested in working in [field]. [Talk about the reason why.]

While I was at school, I spent summers as a [type of] intern at [company or companies]. While working at [specific company or position], I learned a lot about [connection to company you are interviewing with]. [Discuss the rest of your experience – include up to 1-2 other projects/extracurriculars if there is anything especially impressive in terms of leadership or accomplishments.]

With my experience and studies, I know I would be a valuable addition to the team, helping make an impact doing [company mission.] [Very briefly explain why that mission is important to you – you will have more time to elaborate on this later so just give a preview.]

“What is your greatest weakness?”

A lot of people have trouble responding to this question because they don’t know how to talk about something they are bad at while they are trying to impress the interviewer. Often this leads people down the “humble brag” road, which is not really the best way to answer this question. Instead, we recommend responding by giving an actual answer and then talking about how you are learning to do better on that issue.

For example, you can say, “Sometimes, I find myself getting bogged down in the nitty-gritty instead of stepping back to look at the big picture.” Then, you can explain a situation in which you were too focused on the small details and how you are working to combat that problem. Recruiters will prefer your honest answer and your growth mindset.

“Talk about a time where you went beyond the scope of your role”

This question is often asked at startups because smaller companies often require their employees to wear many different hats. You want to show that you are a flexible and multifaceted teamplayer. In addition, when responding to this (and any) question, make sure you avoid talking negatively about former coworkers and managers.

You can answer this question by using the STAR method. 

  • S = Situation - describe what happened
  • T = Target - determine the premise of the question
  • A = Action - what did you do in the situation to make it successful? Example: “When I realized that my teammate was not going to be able to finish the project because she was sick, I offered to take on her part as well because I knew we needed to hit our deadline. That meant that after I finished wireframing, instead of handing it off to her, I continued with the prototype and full design of the app.”
  • R = Result - conclude your response with your achievements.

With the above tips and guidance, you should have a better understanding of how to prepare and answer behavioral interview questions. Good luck!

If you are looking for even more support, Pathrise is an online program that helps people with every aspect of their job search through workshops, community, and 1-on-1 mentorship. If you are interested in joining the program, apply here.

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Top Designers Use Data.

Gain confidence using product data to design better, justify design decisions, and win stakeholders. 6-week course for experienced UX designers.