By Mike Kappel

When you want to hire a new employee for your business, you probably spend a lot of time screening candidate resumes. You learn all about their skills, education, and previous experience. During interviews, you likely ask the candidates to elaborate on these things.

While learning a candidate’s background is beneficial, you also need to know how they act as a person. You need to know if they’ll fit in with your other employees and your business’s environment. How can you possibly determine if a candidate will possibly fit in without hiring them and spending a significant amount of time with them?

This is where behavioral interview questions to ask candidates come in. These questions can help you understand a candidate’s character, personality, and how they act in certain situations.

When to use behavioral interview questions

You should use behavioral interview questions if you want to know how a candidate reacts in a specific situation. You will ask the candidate to describe an actual situation they were in and what they did. Behavioral interview questions let you avoid hypothetical situations and help you find out how a candidate acted in real life.

You might phrase behavioral questions as, “Tell me about a time when …” or, “How did you react when …?” or, “Explain how you did …”

Behavioral interview questions do not have correct answers. How a candidate responds will depend on their experience. However, you might have certain traits that you’re looking for. For example, you might want to hire someone who successfully works with difficult customers. The goal is to hire great employees who fit your specific business.

Hiring employees can be a confusing task if your strengths lie in small business operations rather than HR. Help reduce the stress of hiring employee by downloading this free guide.

Behavioral interview questions to ask

Numerous behavioral interview questions exist. If you asked a candidate every behavioral question you could think of, the interview would likely last hours. Narrow down the questions you’ll ask by focusing on the specific traits you want a candidate to have.

Here are common behavioral interview questions to help you get started.


  • Tell me about a time when you weren’t comfortable with a change at work. What did you do?
  • How have you handled the transition between jobs or positions in the past?
  • Talk about a time when you needed to adapt to a co-worker’s work style. What did you do?

Attention to detail

  • Describe a time when you made a mistake at work. Why did you make the mistake? How did you discover the mistake? What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time when a co-worker or boss made a mistake and you discovered it. What did you do?


  • Can you tell me about a time when you had to communicate with someone you didn’t like? How did you handle the situation?
  • Has there ever been a time when your communication failed? What caused the problem? What did you do?
  • Describe a time when you had to work with a remote co-worker. How did you communicate? Were there any issues? Is there anything you could have done better?

Decision making

  • What process do you go through before making a decision?
  • Have you ever made an unpopular decision? What did you do?
  • What’s the most difficult decision you’ve made at work? Why was it difficult? How did you come up with your decision?
  • Talk about a time when you were under pressure when making a decision. How did the pressure affect you? How did you make your decision?

Leadership and management

  • Tell me about a time when you were in charge of a project. How did you handle the situation? What went well? What would you do differently?
  • Has there ever been a time when you were working on a project that didn’t have a leader? What did you do? Why?
  • Talk about a time you had to lead a difficult group. How did you manage them?
  • What is something that challenged you as a leader? How has that challenge changed you?


  • What role do you normally take on a team?
  • Tell me about a time when team members disagreed with you. What did you do?
  • Talk about a time when there was a dispute among your team? What role did you have in the dispute? What did you do?
  • Have you ever been part of a team where you didn’t get along with some of the members? What did you do? What happened?

Time management

  • How do you decide what tasks to do first?
  • Tell me about a time when you worked on multiple projects at once. How did you handle the workload? How did you organize tasks?
  • Tell me about a time when you were behind on a project or forgot about a project. What did you do?

Mike Kappel is a serial entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of Patriot Software Company, and its subsidiaries. Patriot Software, LLC is a developer of online payroll and accounting software for U.S. small-business owners. Connect on Twitter: @PatriotSoftware.