How to Crush the Behavioral Interview


While we can’t predict every question an interviewer will ask, we can prepare for the most common ones. Among those common interview inquiries are the six most common behavioral interview questions. When crafting an answer, it helps to know the purpose of each question and why it’s being asked. Each question has a goal. The hiring manager wants to know your client-facing skills, your time management, your adaptability, your teamwork method, and communication skills. During your prep, remember to always use the STAR method when answering these. Describe the Situation, Task, Action, and Result.


Tell me how you handle stressful work situations

When asking this question, the interviewer is not trying to stress you out. They want to understand your ability to adapt to less-than-ideal situations in the workplace, which will arise often. An appropriate answer, using the STAR method, would explain a time you experienced stress from a team member or customer (situation) and what (task) needed to be completed, as well as what you did (action) and how you got through it (result). Your answer should sound similar to, “I had a client that frequently wouldn’t email my team to promote an upcoming event until two or three days before the event and needed the ad creative approved and running by the end of the day we were informed. I reached out to the client to discuss materials needed and reasonable deadlines for turnaround to give the client more clarity on the process for event ads. They were grateful for the transparency and their RSVP results increased by allowing the ad to run longer before the event date.”


Tell me about a time you made a mistake and how you handled it

Translation: we want to know your value system. Do you have the maturity to admit you made a mistake and the integrity to resolve it without putting a task onto someone else? These qualities matter for company morale and teamwork. Show them you’re a great fit by answering something like, “A coworker, and member of my team, left the company and I acquired their workload along with mine. I was overwhelmed, but didn’t speak up and tell my supervisor. I kept taking things on and dropped the ball on a report s/he needed for a call with a client. I took responsibility for the mistake, sat in on the call to deliver the necessary information verbally, and met with my supervisor to restructure my time management and workload.”


Tell me about your goals and how you plan to achieve them

This question has no hidden agenda. The purpose behind this question is self-explanatory; they genuinely want to know if you’re a goal-setter and if you have the follow-through to achieve them. If you manage that well currently, you’ll bring that skill-set to your new job. Consider the most recent goal you set and describe it in story format. “My goal was to get Google Ads certified in 60 days. I had a limited turnaround time to pass these tests with a minimum of 80%, so I studied Google’s fundamental material, took several practice tests, and passed in less than 60 days.”


Describe a time you had to make a difficult decision

Strong decision-making is a must-have when searching for a job in any experience level. Due to this, hiring managers ask this to understand both your decision-making skills and how you communicate in the workplace. They need to know you can make informed decisions in a timely manner and communicate them well to the team. A great answer is something like, “While doing the quarterly expense reports, I realized we were overpaying for a vendor service that we had had a great relationship with for years. When I found three other vendors providing the same service at lower rates, I was faced with the decision to terminate the relationship and switch to a new vendor. I called our vendor and asked for a price match in exchange for a customer testimonial and they agreed to match one of the lower prices from a competing vendor.”

Tell me about a time you had to interact with a difficult client

We all have had an experience with a difficult client, so don’t answer with, “All my clients are great, I don’t have any difficult clients.” The interviewers will see right through that. Answering honestly about a time you managed a client account that was less-than friendly is ideal. They’re testing your client-facing skills before you land the job and deal with it in real-time. An example of a strong answer is, “I was given a client who had used our [agency/firm/services] before and was unhappy in the past. We were able to get them back, but the trust needed to be rebuilt to keep them this time around. Due to this, they often jumped on us. I realized this was an overreaction to little transparency with their account and I resolved that by sending regular updates via email. They were pleased and we were able to repair the relationship and retain the client.”


What do you do if you disagree with someone at work (team member or boss)

They may also phrase this as, “Give an example of a conflict you experienced at work and how you resolved it.” They’re curious about your communication skills. You’ll want to give an answer that shows you know how to speak up and share ideas, while also respecting others who may know more than you do. This is a tough line to toe. Try reshaping this answer to suit your experience, “During a project, my supervisor outlined a plan using an outdated platform, as s/he was unfamiliar with the newest options, and I felt the former platform wouldn’t the best tool with which to utilize our limited budget. I recommended a new platform I’d had success with, the benefits of using it with this particular client, as well as a projected timeline that reduced completion by two days. They preferred to stick with their current plan, but appreciated my thorough information and let me manage the next project from the same client.”


While preparing for these questions and practicing your interview, your answers may surprise you. Behavioral interviews can tell us a lot about ourselves. Use this practice for yourself as much as the interviewer. For more information, keep following our blog, and check back at pdxMindShare for career news and current job listings.