If you’re looking for the ultimate list of behavioural interview questions then you’ve come to the right place!
A recent study shows that tech startups contributed to the creation of nearly 1.6 million jobs in Australia between 2003 and 2014. Clearly, the stats highlight the importance of tech startups and small businesses towards contributing to the net economic development of Australia.
Whether you’re looking to land a job with a big player or hoping to make a difference with a newer startup, you’re in demand.
The only thing standing between you and your dream job is the interview process. Tech startups usually split the interview process into different stages, which includes a phone interview as the first step, a behavioural interview as a second step, followed by more technical & group assessments (Refer to our article on How Top Tech Companies Hire Talent). This article will focus entirely on the behavioural interviews, and what you need to do to ace them!
We’ll tackle 40 of the most common behavioural interview questions, but first let’s take a look at why companies ask them.
What’s the Point of Behavioural Interview Questions?
Is it a new form of torture? Are these questions asked to trip you up?
The purpose of behavioural interview questions is to understand who you are, how you think, and how you approach real world dilemmas. Your answers to these behavioural questions can help the interviewer gauge how you may (or may not) complement the current team.
While the goal of the interviewer is to learn more about you, your goal is to position yourself in the best possible light. Each of your answers should highlight one of the following themes:
- A willingness to help another individual
That said, you should also keep your answers as realistic as possible. It’s a delicate balance between pride and humility. It’s a lot easier to keep that balance when you stay focused on one of the above themes.
The most common behavioural interview questions and answers
Let’s take a look at the six most common behavioural questions you may encounter during your interview, along with a plan for how to answer them below.
- Describe a time when you disagreed with a team member. How did you resolve the problem?
- Tell me about a time when you failed.
- Give me an example of when you had to assume leadership for a team.
- What is the most difficult/ challenging situation you’ve ever had to resolved in the workplace?
- Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a supervisor.
- How do you approach problems? What’s your process?
Also, most behavioural interview questions can be separated into groups:
Now, let’s look at 8 of the most common questions from each group and a short description of the answering approach to use. We’ll look at examples of a few questions that may be relevant to tech startup interviews.
1. Give me an example of when you used logic to solve a problem
Answering Tip: Employ a Situation/ Task→ Action→ Result format.
2. Explain a time when you took the initiative on a project.
Answering Tip: Tempting as it may be to focus only on yourself, don’t forget to give credit to your team, too. Try to use examples where you went beyond your day role to take on extra responsibility.
3. Describe how you used your problem-solving skills to benefit a team or company.
Answering Tip: Demonstrate how you look for solutions for the greater good of the company. Not just solutions for your own good and your team’s good.
Bonus Example: According to Bosmat, Engineering Manager at Facebook, the best way to demonstrate your problem solving skills (particularly if you’re applying for a software engineering role) is to think aloud. The interview at Facebook for software engineering roles is part behavioural and part technical, and interviewers love to know how you think, so share your thought process openly, while using the tips the interviewers give you. Facebook also recommend familiarizing yourself with the company’s core values and vision, and joining their online talent community to network with hiring managers and other peers.
4. Tell me about a time when you used creativity to overcome a dilemma.
Answering Tip: Think about a way that you surprised yourself with an unexpected idea. Did you follow a ‘creative process’? Or was your creativity more spontaneous in the situation?
5. What’s the best idea you’ve come up with on a team-based project?
Answering Tip: Brainstorm at least three different ideas and be prepared to discuss one during your interview. Focus on the ones that had the biggest impact.
6. How do you approach problems? What’s your process?
Answering Tip: Focus on the approach you use to solve problems. How do you break them down into steps in order to solve them? What tools and techniques do you use to work through a problem?
7. Tell me about a time when you were consulted for a problem.
Answering Tip: The interviewer wants to know what you are known/remembered for among the people who know you. Do your friends come to you for relationship advice, professional advice or to brainstorm solutions? Do they ask you for places to visit around town? Think about what you know a lot about, and what your friends know & think about you too!
“We look for candidates who have a wider lens in understanding the impact of their own function, and most of all able to operate in a high growth environment with a desire to grow.”
Monica Watt, General Manager, Elmo Talent Learning
8. Name three improvements you made in your most recent position.
Answering Tip: Make a list so that you’re not stumbling over your words during the interview. Focus more on the result you achieved for this question, and have the ‘3 things’ ready to discuss.
Bonus Example: Think of a time when you’ve used an approach like Design Thinking Or Lean Startup methodology to come up with solutions to a problem. This demonstrates that you’re well versed in typical problem solving approaches used by advanced tech folks out there. Kevin Lee, Founder at PMHQ recommends asking clarifying questions and focusing on the end user, especially for Product Management Interviews at companies like Google. Who is it that you made the improvements for and why? What difference did your improvements make to your end users lives?
Working in a Team
9. Have you ever worked with a team before?
Answering Tip: Don’t just answer “yes” or “no,” but also describe your role(s) within any team you’ve worked within. Explain the focus of your team, the objectives you had and give detail on the size and growth during your time in the role.
10. Are you better at working with a team or working on your own?
Answering Tip: To answer that you’re a team player is almost always the right response.
11. Give me an example of when you worked well with a team.
Answering Tip: Make a list of these examples ahead of your interview so that you’re comfortable with these ideas. Focus on the times where you were able to deliver a business result, rather than just hanging out at the pub on a Friday.
12. What role do you assume when you work within a team?
Answering Tip: Although you may have assumed many different roles, focus on the one that showcases your skill set. Give a response that aligns with the current role you’re interviewing for
– for example, if the interview is for a leadership role then talk about your style in that capacity.
13. Have you worked on different types of teams? What was your favorite?
Answering Tip: Describe the benefit of each team you’ve worked within. Focus on the reasons why you enjoyed that team – if it was a personality and culture alignment, or you delivered an awesome project together, both work well.
14. What do you do if you disagree if another team member?
Answering Tip: Choose a time when you disagreed about a work-related issue, not a personal one, and explain how you tackled the case. Focus on your communication and negotiation skills. Try not to let your ego get in the way.
“To play sports at a competitive level you need to have a competitive mindset, be a real team player, have discipline and be open to new ways of getting better. If someone has played top-level sports I often a see them striving for the same success in their role.”
James Bergl, Sales Director at Datto
15. Describe a time when you disagreed with a team member. How did you resolve the problem?
Answering Tip: Explain how you worked through the issue – show off your communication skills, it’s ok if you didn’t come out of the disagreement on top, your interviewer is looking for your ability to handle conflict.
16. Tell me about a time when you failed in a team project, and how you overcame it.
Answering Tip: Be honest and show how you can learn from failures. Don’t blame your team members for your failure, focus on the objective reasons that led to team failure and what you learned.
Bonus Example: Using examples of a time when you’ve participated in a Hackathon usually works well for questions like this, especially if you had a good idea and got some recognition for it. This is a time where you would’ve generated a lot of ideas in collaboration with a team, in a short span of time and solved lots of problems. A great way to demonstrate that you can work well with a team in a ‘tech’ environment while also generating positive outcomes for your team.
17. Tell me about a time when you failed.
Answering Tip: Everybody fails sometimes, and it shows humility to admit it. Always highlight the takeaway and what you learnt from the experience.
18: Have you ever made a mistake?
Answering Tip: Of course you have! Be honest and describe the mistake and what you learned from it. This can be a personal mistake you made and learned from. The interviewer is wanting to know more about your attitude towards how you handle mistakes.
19. Tell me about a big mistake you’ve made on the job and how you handled it.
Answering Tip: Choose a mistake from when you first started working on a job and describe your progression.
20. Tell me of a time when you didn’t meet your goals.
Answering Tip: Choose a story with an acceptable solution. It’s ok to not always meet your goals, as long as you had valid reasons and achieved something at the end.
21. What is your biggest regret at work?
Answering Tip: Keep it goal focused and don’t insert anything personal. The lighter you keep this, the better.
22. Are you someone who learns from failures?
Answering Tip: Describe why you enjoy feedback, even in the form of failures. Present failures as lessons.
23. Tell me about a time when you tried something risky and failed.
Answering Tip: Bring humor into it. This is a great way to also be honest and transparent about your failures!
24. Tell me about a decision that you’ve regretted and how you overcame it.
Answering Tip: Allow the interview to see your vulnerable side and your attitude towards overcoming bad decisions.
Bonus Example: Don’t be afraid to talk about your failures, as long as you can present them in a way that you learned something from them. Go to tech communities like “F**k Up Nights” where people tell stories about failure and get some ideas on how to frame your failures.
25. Give me an example of when you had to assume leadership for a team.
Answering Tip: Describe your initial uncertainty and how you were able to overcome it. What did you do to step up as a leader in the situation? Did you speak up? Did you facilitate?
26. Have you ever had to set goals for a team?
Answering Tip: Discuss how you set goals and which goals are the most important for you. Having an approach to set goals that’s easy to explain is great.
27. Give me an example of when you set a goal and how you achieved it.
Answering Tip: Describe how you go about setting goals. Make it sound as realistic as possible, and describe the specific actions you take to get there.
“We ask a lot of situational type questions to uncover how they have dealt with particular scenarios in the past to gain insight into their approach. Our guiding light always comes back to our values.”
28. Describe a time when you were able to motivate unmotivated team members.
Answering Tip: Focus on your team-building skill set. What do you do to inspire those around you?
29. Tell me of a time when you postponed making a decision.
Answering Tip: Tie it into professional event. Ensure the decision is about something that wasn’t too important.
30. Give me an example of when you delegated work across an entire team.
Answering Tip: Focus on how you’re able to see the unique skills of each team member.
31. How do you juggle multiple projects?
Answering Tip: Describe your process for handling multiple tasks at the same time.
32. Have you ever had to counsel a difficult team member? Tell me about that time.
Answering Tip: Pick a time when you had to deliver uncomfortable counsel to a team member.
Bonus Example: Here, you need relevant examples where you stood out for the right reasons as a leader. You need to demonstrate that you know when to lead, when to follow and how to pick the right reasons to strive for. Talk about a time when you’ve communicated a vision, led a team, fought for the right reasons, done something in service of others, or motivated and developed others.
33. Tell me about a time when you worked well under pressure.
Answering Tip: Make a list of three times and choose the best one. The more important thing is to talk about your mindset when you’re in a pressure situation. Are you mindful about the pressure you’re facing? Or do you just crumble under pressure?
34. What is the most difficult/ challenging situation you’ve ever had to resolved in the workplace?
Answering Tip: Include the takeaway. Ensure it’s a very challenging situation. Grab the interviewer’s interest by building a credible story around your experience.
35. How do you handle unexpected changes or challenges?
Answering Tip: Focus on your personal growth, your attitude towards change, your flexibility of mindset and your willingness to embrace change with an open mind.
36. Have you ever been lied about? How did you handle that situation?
Answering Tip: Describe a work-related situation. Was it a customer who lied to you about something? Or a colleague? How did you handle the situation? Ensure you reveal how you realized that you’d been lied to through the power of intelligent questioning.
37. Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a supervisor.
Answering Tip: Focus on an event with an amicable solution. Present your disagreement as a time for mutual growth.
“Our industry is so dynamic, in such an early state of maturity and is so specialized that to excel the most important trait for us is a genuine thirst for knowledge, a true hunger to learn and an ability to think on one’s feet.”
38. Tell about a conflict at your job.
Answering Tip: Keep it focused on a work-related conflict, and what you learned from it.
39. Tell me a time when you had to work unexpectedly on your own.
Answering Tip: Describe how you were able to use existing skills or learn skills to work by yourself. Demonstrate that you are comfortable in your skin and can work independently when required.
40. Describe a time when you faced a block at work and how you solved it.
Answering Tip: Work through your process of resolving blocks.
Bonus Example: It’s effective to talk about strategies you use to manage stressful situations. What is your internal dialogue when you’re going through a stressful situation? How do you work through a stressful problem?
Here’s Your Take Away
When preparing for an interview, be sure that you come prepared. Use specific examples and be concise with your answers. Always tell the truth.
Another great tip is to really understand the company and have some solutions in mind. Great tech startups are looking for solution-oriented employees who help them increase revenues, decrease costs and save time. If you can prove with your examples and insights that you can do that, you’ll be in high demand!