Your industry and level of seniority will affect the interview questions you receive. However, you can anticipate a few typical behavioral interview questions being asked at every level. You’ll be more organized and articulate in the present if you anticipate what will happen.
Additionally, the hiring manager may move you on to a working interview or the final round if they are pleased with how well you respond to the behavioral interview questions.
Why do employers ask “tell me about a time” questions?
An employer must confirm that you are qualified for the position at their company or organization before they hire you. Asking you questions about how you’ve handled various issues or problems in the past is one efficient way they can do this. These inquiries can aid the employer in determining your advantages and disadvantages. Reviewing frequent questions can give you confidence throughout your interview because you may need to prepare for these questions in order to respond to them well.
Here are 25 common questions and sample answers for some “Tell me about a time when…” questions:
1. Describe a time when you went above and beyond for your job.
Keep in mind the order of problem, solution, and benefit.
We received a request for an additional 300 concrete vibrators while the boss was away. I rallied the group, and we concentrated on finishing them ahead of schedule. The client agreed to a five-year exclusive contract with us.
2. Tell me about a time when you had two long-term projects going at once, and describe how you managed your time.
At my previous job, the end of the year was the busiest time. I once had to stay organized because I had two client reports that had the same due date. I made a to-do list every day because I was aware that I had other, smaller obligations to fulfill. I made sure to finish the simpler and smaller tasks first thing in the morning. This allowed me to devote my afternoons to work on my two client reports. I time-blocked my schedule to prevent interruptions and notifications, giving each report the same amount of attention until it was completed on time.
3. Describe a time when you had to put something else ahead of doing a good job.
While skiing, I broke my leg, forcing me to miss two weeks of work. I am now gentler with the groomers. I’m happy to say that in the past five years, I haven’t missed a day of work.
Problem/solution/benefit. The response to the scenario question demonstrates a justification, a fix, and a benefit.
4. Tell me about a time when you and a coworker disagreed.
I had to come up with a fresh advertising strategy with one of my coworkers for our client. We were unable to work efficiently because of our extensive disagreements. When we were halfway through the deadline, I took advantage of my problem-solving abilities and sat down with my coworker rather than letting that ruin our work. We expressed our frustrations in a calm manner, and as a result, I felt like I had gained a better understanding of their viewpoint. When we understood one another’s perspectives, compromising was simpler.
5. Describe a time when you attained a significant goal at work. How did you arrive there?
For the summer, the business desired to double its rafting customers. I created a three-part strategy that included a full-color calendar, a social media campaign, and outreach using found media. We received a 50% budget increase for the following year in addition to reaching our objective.
6. Tell me about a time at work when you hit a significant milestone.
This past year, I made it a priority to develop my public speaking abilities and get over my shyness. I frequently stepped outside of my comfort zone by volunteering to speak first and posing questions in meetings, even though it terrified me. One year later, I was not afraid to speak up and recognize the value of offering my viewpoint.
7. Give an example of a time when you recognized a problem and took action to resolve it.
Our forklifts that could be recharged had two different plugs. A $3,500 battery could be damaged if the incorrect one was used. To ensure that you could only reach the right outlet, I added zip ties as cord shorteners. Since then, we haven’t lost a battery.
8. Share a time when you blew a deadline or got behind on your work.
I had just returned from a vacation and wasn’t yet back in the swing of things at work. Despite my work friend’s response, I hadn’t asked anyone to take over my portion of a project before I left. I only found out I was the only one who hadn’t finished my part on my second day back. So that the team wouldn’t have to wait on me, I ultimately put in extra time all week. I was embarrassed by my tardiness and worn out from attempting to make up time. I discovered that I shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask for assistance and that, in order to never miss a deadline, I need to develop a more consistent routine.
9. Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a challenging manager or an important customer.
No matter how hard I tried, the editor I had always complained about my work. Each piece underwent a second round of proofreading. Since then, editors have frequently praised me for my level of “polish.”
10. Describe a time when you had to adjust to a new organizational structure at work.
When my office switched to a new bookkeeping system two years ago, I discovered the importance of flexibility. The new system was extremely complicated, and I was completely baffled. But I took notes on how to use it, asked for clarification when necessary, and spent time learning the new system. Every few weeks, I checked in with someone from the accounting division to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. My confidence eventually increased, and I learned the importance of my teammates as a result. Everyone has information that you don’t.
11. Describe a circumstance in which you needed to impress a client. What was your method?
To prepare for situational-based interview questions like this one, take some time to reflect on your past accomplishments. What are some things you are proud of that you have achieved? What did you do in each situation that helped you succeed? By taking some time to think about your accomplishments, you will be better prepared to answer questions about them in an interview.
Before her daughter’s wedding, one of my clients in the wedding video business pestered me day and night. I inquired about my ability to “fire” her there. They informed me that her band, photographer, and baker had all quit, and I was welcome to follow them. I made the decision to follow her. She was so ecstatic that she decided to hire me to officiate her other daughter’s wedding the following year. I was hired by the venue as their sole vendor.
12. Describe a time when you had to deal with a demanding, stressful situation.
A few hours before a crucial video call with a client, my computer crashed. All of my presentation slides and thorough notes were lost during the crash, which was supposed to be my first solo presentation on the account. My first thought was to inform my boss that I needed to delegate. But I stopped for a moment to gather my strength, practice deep breathing, and formulate a strategy. I quickly created new, straightforward slides and quickly wrote down everything I could. I needed to put my imposter syndrome aside and believe that I knew what I was going to say because I had spent days preparing the presentation. I aced the presentation with just a little self-compassion. My boss adored it because it was much more laid-back and had a less rigid structure.
13. Describe a time when your workload was particularly high.
One of the scenario questions used to assess prioritization abilities is this one. Take a look at the sample answer below.
At the same time, we had two sizable orders. I gave the assistant leader one of them. Despite his difficulties, we were able to ship both orders promptly. We received $200,000 in repeat business, and it turned out that the assistant leader was a capable leader.
14. Tell me about a protracted project you oversaw. To meet your deadlines, how did you organize your time?
My team had to create a SaaS app for a significant client. With daily standups and scrums and two-week sprints, we used the Agile SLDC model. We were able to finish the project 20% earlier by delegating time management.
15. Describe a time when you had a long list of things to do. How did you find a solution?
Due to the departmental reduction, my workload increased by two times. By locating new transcription software and creating a new system for organizing interviews, I was able to complete tasks more quickly. With the same amount of effort, I could accomplish twice as much.
16. Describe an instance in which you used Photoshop to finish a project.
Sample answer as a Designer – We might have been able to attract a lucrative client. A Design Week Award shortlist included my design. We increased our annual revenue by 15% and received their repeat business.
17. Describe your worst professional mistake. How did you respond to it?
I allowed a sizable order of flawed components to reach shipping. This led to a lot of scraps and was bad. I then suggested that we put in error-proofing to prevent it from happening again. To ensure that the parts can only be inserted one way into the machines, we made some dies with pins inside of them. Since then, there hasn’t been a single defect.
18. Tell me about a difficult situation you encountered. What was the solution?
Every seat and table was taken, and there was a line out the door. I requested from the boss that we inform each party of the wait time while also providing free soda and breadsticks. We provided prompt service to everyone, and 95% of the feedback we received was favorable.
19. Describe a time when you delivered an outstanding presentation.
This type of situational interview question requires candidates to understand whether the hiring manager values PowerPoint, Keynote, or straightforward public speaking abilities.
We had to persuade a large client to choose a more expensive option that would ultimately yield higher profits. Based on ten actual applications, I put together a demonstration. They not only followed our advice, but they also continued to be our clients.
20. Tell me about a time when you used your writing abilities.
As a part of my daily shift, I wrote reports. My department head frequently remarked that of all the officers, my reports were the shortest and easiest to comprehend.
- This answer exemplifies a workplace hero.
21. Describe a time when you needed information from a coworker but they were taking their time to get back to you. How did you act?
It took a while for our company’s sound engineer to respond to me with crucial information. To catch up, I began having coffee breaks with him. I received quicker responses and 15% earlier project completion.
22. Tell me about a time when you had to convince someone to see things your way.
The proprietor believed our gift shop was profitable. I looked at our cash flow and discovered a 10% deficit. I created data visualizations that demonstrated how emphasizing more well-liked products could boost store sales by 40%.
23. Tell me about a time when your job underwent significant change. How have you changed?
I transitioned from network administrator to full system administrator as our business grew. To understand my new responsibilities, I read five books on systems administration and enrolled in a class. I then reduced our lost time and material costs by $50,000 annually by automating system monitoring and strategically placing hardware.
24. Describe your most proud professional achievement.
As a consultant, I produced an educational video that generated over $1 million in income.
25. Give an example of a time when your boss was completely wrong. How did you act?
Are you confident enough to approach the boss? Do you have the grace to accept her “no” no matter what?
My boss claimed that we couldn’t afford a more powerful machine, but I was aware that the smaller one was reducing output. I showed her all the flaws and rework brought on by overworking our equipment while on the shop floor during a production run. She instructed. “Price the larger one tomorrow.” When we acquired one, our production costs decreased by 30%.
How to answer the interview question “Tell me about a time…”
These are the types of questions an employer will ask you during an interview to get a sense of how you will behave at work. Since the questions are open-ended, give a response that demonstrates some of your abilities and qualifications for the position. The following are efficient ways to respond to these interview questions.
1. Apply the STAR method
Situation, task, action, and result are abbreviated as STAR. The technique aids you in organizing your response to behavioral interview questions, also known as “tell me about a time…” questions. Use these questions to emphasize the knowledge and abilities you have acquired through prior experiences. The steps for structuring your response are as follows:
- Situation – Set the scene for the tale you’re about to tell. Select a relevant professional, academic, volunteer, or other experience that demonstrates your desired skills and abilities.
- Task – Give specifics about the obstacle you overcame or the issue you had to resolve. Concentrate on your particular responsibility or role in coming up with a solution.
- Action – Describe the steps you took to overcome the obstacle and the particular skill set that made this possible. You can list a variety of soft and hard skills, but it’s best to pick one that is most pertinent to the position for which you’re applying.
- Result – Concentrate on the outcomes you wanted, explain what you learned from the experience, and talk about how it will help you handle similar situations in the future. You should also briefly discuss how it helped you develop your skills, particularly those that are transferable or directly apply to the position.
2. Talk about the learnings you made from the experience.
Making the lessons you learned the focal point of the entire experience is one way to achieve this. Think about the information and experience you acquired. Describe how you intend to use your knowledge and skills to overcome similar problems or obstacles. Additionally, you can provide specific examples of how you’ll apply what you’ve learned in your new role. For instance, if you’re applying for a leadership position, you can explain how prior leadership experience has improved you as a leader.
3. Strong closure
A good ending can be achieved by attempting to relate the story to the field, organization, or position. Describe how you believe that experience will help your potential employers. For your story to have an impact that is positive and long-lasting, the conclusion is a crucial component.
One excellent way to demonstrate your communication skills—which every employer seeks in their employees—is by offering a strong example story. Make sure you have some relevant examples ready in advance and that you have enough practice to deliver polished responses during the interview.
Interview questions like “Tell me about a time when…” have the power to ruin the rest of your interview. However, they don’t have to be terrible. The hiring managers are eager to hear your story, so take advantage of this excellent opportunity. You deserve to take pride in what you’ve learned and how far you’ve come because you’ve worked hard to get where you are. You will have a good opportunity during your interview to tell engaging stories about your prior experiences, both successful and unsuccessful. You can discuss your work ethic, mistakes you’ve made, and strengths. Above all else, though, it’s a chance for you to describe yourself, your core beliefs, and how you plan to work with others.
Always be true to yourself and proudly respond to the hiring manager’s questions because they want to know more about you as a person than just an applicant.