Behavioral interview questions guide

This guide provides questions, based on Factors and Factor Combinations, that you can use to dig deeper into how a candidate reacts in different situations to understand if they would be a good fit for the job. Remember, you can also generate an interview guide in the software, which helps interviewers by suggesting questions automatically generated by comparing the candidate’s behavioral pattern with the job target. 

Use this guide responsibly. People are complex. Patterns are great and support materials are helpful, but they’re no substitute for the deep insights a well-trained PI Practitioner can provide.

In each section ask:
“Depending on the job requirements, how does the candidate manage the following…”

A: Dominance

Examples of Low A Expressing More Dominance 

Self-assertion 

  • Describe a time when you introduced a new service or idea to your client and were met with resistance. How did you handle it? Whom did you involve? What was the outcome? 
  • Describe a time when you were given a project to complete and were not sure how to proceed. What did you do? Whom did you involve? What was the outcome? 
  • Describe a time when you had to make an unpopular decision. How did you handle it with your staff or employees? How comfortable were you? What was the outcome? 

Performance management as a manager 

  • Describe a time when you had an employee who needed behavior or performance feedback. Explain when and how you handled it. What was the outcome? 
  • Describe a time when you had to terminate someone. Why? How did you manage it? How did you feel? 

Managing conflict 

  • You had a conflict with a co-worker, subordinate, your manager, or a prospect, customer or supplier. How did you manage it? 

Examples of High A Expressing Less Dominance 

Teamwork 

  • Describe a time when you put your needs aside to help a co-worker understand a task. How did you assist him/ her? What was the result? 
  • Describe a time when you had to change your behavior to work successfully with others. 

Listening skills 

  • Describe a time when you had to withhold your opinion or idea to better encourage and understand the opinions and ideas of others. 
  • Describe a time when you participated in a breakdown in communication at work (we all have different communication styles). What aspect of your communication style precipitated the breakdown? How did you manage the situation? What did you learn? 
  • Describe a time when you prematurely acted on your own thinking or jumped to a conclusion/solution before hearing all the facts/issues from the other party. What was the outcome? 

Encouragement & support 

  • Describe a time when you conducted or participated in a meeting. How did you encourage involvement from all participants to contribute their ideas and thinking? 
  • Describe a time when you provided recognition, reward or support to your team to stimulate productivity, morale and/or job satisfaction. How did you provide it? What was the outcome? 

B: Extraversion

Examples of Low B Expressing More Extraversion 

Communication 

  • What do you think is more important, what you say or how you say it? 
  • Describe a time when you needed to modify how you said something to better meet the needs of your audience. 
  • Describe a phone call or email exchange you have had with a client, co-worker or prospect. How did you compensate for the lack of nonverbal signs of communication? 

Trust & delegation 

  • Describe a time when you had to delegate your work to an employee and you were not fully confident in his/ her abilities, skills or knowledge. How did you communicate, coach and support that employee? What were the results? 

Influence 

  • When introducing new ideas, some people are more responsive to hearing about the “sizzle,” while others prefer to hear about the facts. Describe a time when you had to sell the “sizzle.” How did you go about it? What was the outcome? 

Examples of High B Expressing Less Extraversion 

Communication 

  • When introducing a technical concept, some people are more responsive to hearing about the “sizzle,” while others prefer to hear about the facts. Describe a time when you had to sell the “sizzle.” How did you go about it? What was the outcome? 
  • Describe a time when you participated in a breakdown in communication at work. What aspect of your communication style precipitated the breakdown? How did you manage the situation? What did you learn? 

Working independently 

  • Tell me about a task-focused job/project or role you have had in the past that required you to work independently for most of the day. How did you manage the work? How did you keep the work interesting? How did it feel? 
  • When are you most productive, working in a team or working independently? Why? Give me an example. 

Personal interaction 

  • Tell me about a working relationship that became strained. What happened to create the strain? What part do you own in it? What did you do to recover the relationship? 

C: Patience

Examples of Low C Expressing More Patience 

  • Depending on the job requirements, how does the candidate manage the following: 

Listening 

  • Describe a time when you participated in a breakdown in communication with a customer or co-worker. What aspect of your communication style precipitated the breakdown? How did you manage the situation? What did you learn? 

Working in a stable environment 

  • Describe an administrative, task-focused or repetitive job or role you have had in the past that required you to work consistently and in one location for most of the day. What did you enjoy about the work? What did you find frustrating? In the areas that you found frustrating, what did you do to keep the work interesting? Or how did you overcome this? 

Examples of High C Expressing Less Patience 

Change management 

  • Describe a time when a change occurred to a process, a system or a job function in your area of expertise. How did you manage that change? 
  • Describe a time when you introduced a new service or idea to your client or team and were met with resistance. How did you handle it? What was the outcome? 
  • Describe a specific time when you had to learn something new. What training resources and tools did you seek out to accelerate your learning? How do you learn best? Describe your learning style. 

Multitasking 

  • Describe a fast-paced job you were in that required you to make frequent changes to your system or priorities. How did you manage the changes? 
  • Describe a job where you encountered a lot of interruptions while you worked. How did you manage the interruptions? 
  • Describe a time when you failed to meet a deadline. What things did you fail to do? What were the repercussions? What did you learn? 

D: Formality

Examples of Low D Expressing More Formality 

Organization 

  • Describe a system you have used to organize your work. How have you tracked tasks, documented details and followed up on your progress? 
  • Describe a time when you failed to meet a deadline or follow up on a customer or detail. What things did you fail to do? What were the repercussions? What did you learn? 

Following the rules 

  • Describe an occasion where you conformed to a policy even though you did not agree with it. 

Attention to detail 

  • Describe a time when you failed to provide, obtain or document all the details or information during a customer service transaction or while working on a project. What were the repercussions? What did you learn? 

Developing expertise 

  • Describe a specific time when you were learning something new. What training resources and tools did you seek out to accelerate your learning? How do you learn best? Describe your learning style. 

Examples of High D Expressing Less Formality 

Decision making 

  • Describe a time when you struggled in making a timely decision or meeting an important deadline. What was the struggle? How did you overcome it? What was the outcome? What did you learn? 
  • Describe a time when you were asked to complete a difficult assignment or make a quick decision outside your area of expertise. What did you do? What was the outcome? What did you learn from that experience? 

Trust & delegation 

  • Describe a time when you had difficulty delegating your work to an employee. How did you overcome this? What were the results? What did you learn? 
  • Think of an employee you were training who continued to make mistakes in his/her work. What did you specifically do to manage the performance issue? What was the outcome? 

Developing expertise 

  • Would you consider yourself a specialist or a generalist? Do you want to be recognized as an expert, who is responsible for one major function? Or a generalist, who handles a variety of different issues but is not necessarily the expert in all the issues? Why? Give specific examples. 

Job: A/B, Candidate: B/A

Job Pattern: A/B
  • Task-oriented 
  • Critical/creative thinker 
  • Technical orientation 
  • Inquiring mind 
  • Problem solver 
  • Limited delegation of authority 
Candidate: B/A
  • People-oriented 
  • Empathetic 
  • Persuasive 
  • Sociable 
  • Service-oriented 
  • Delegates authority 
  • Comfortable on a team 
  • Unselfish 

Possible behavioral gaps: Analytical/problem-solving abilities; ability to say or do the unpopular; task/result orientation vs. social/people orientation; willingness to independently make decisions and act on them. 

Questions based on what the Job Pattern requires: 

Independent decision making 

  • Describe a time when you had to think creatively and independently to solve a problem. 
  • Describe a time when you had to analyze the causes of a problem or analyze multiple options before choosing one of the options to implement. 
  • What was the most out-of-the-box idea you’ve ever implemented? How did you come up with the idea? 

Acting on independent decisions 

  • Describe a decision you’ve made that was the right decision for the team/company, but not a popular decision. Why did you go with that decision? 
  • Describe a time when you made a decision for your team and you had to set aside the desires/opinions/preferences of others. What was the decision? How did it turn out? 

Authority 

  • Describe your management style regarding disciplinary action. What actions did you take the last time someone wasn’t performing to the required level? 
  • What’s the hardest part, for you, of being a supervisor/manager? Give me an example of a time when you had to do that. 

Analysis & problem solving 

  • Describe a time when you worked with a group to solve a problem, but in the end you had to “make the call” about what to do. 

Job: B/A, Candidate: A/B

Job Pattern: B/A
  • People-oriented 
  • Empathetic 
  • Persuasive 
  • Sociable 
  • Service-oriented 
  • Comfortable on a team 
Candidate: A/B
  • Task-oriented 
  • Critical/creative thinker 
  • Technical orientation 
  • Inquiring mind 
  • Problem solver 

Possible behavioral gaps: Ease/comfort in all types of social contact; ability to persuade/motivate others and “sell” in a general sense; ability to recognize and relate to another person’s point of view; team focus; willingness to delegate. 

Questions based on what the Job Pattern requires: 

Delegation 

  • Describe a time when you had to delegate a significant assignment/portion of a project to someone else. What was the assignment/project? How did you decide whom to trust with it? What was the result? In the end, were you glad or sorry that you had delegated? 

Persuasiveness 

  • Describe the last time you had to persuade someone to go along with your idea or decision. How did you go about convincing them? What was the result? 
  • Describe a time when you couldn’t convince another person to “see it your way.” Why do you think that happened? Is there anything you would have done differently? 

Teamwork 

  • Describe your approach to tackling a new project or assignment, using a specific example. How did you involve others? 
  • Describe the last time you were involved in a group project. What was your role? What were your observations about how the group functioned? What was the result? 

Personal interaction 

  • Have you ever mentored or coached someone (formally or informally)? If so, how did that opportunity arise? What were the best and worst parts of that experience for you? How did that turn out? Are you still in touch? 

Sociability 

  • Describe a time when you began working with a group of people who were all new to you. How did you go about getting to know them? 

Job: A/C, Candidate: C/A

Job Pattern: A/C
  • Proactive 
  • Takes initiative 
  • Competitive 
  • Driven to get things done 
  • Fast-paced 
  • Positive response to pressure 
  • Achievement-oriented 
  • Impatient with routine 
Candidate: C/A
  • Responsive 
  • Consistent with repetitive work 
  • Cooperative with others 
  • Tolerant 
  • Patient 
  • Dependable 
  • Steady 
  • Easygoing

Possible behavioral gaps: Initiative/independent decisions and actions; desire to “win” or achieve tangible results; goal orientation; ability to react quickly to changing situations or conditions; responding well to the challenges of difficult or unfamiliar situations. 

Questions based on what the Job Pattern requires: 

Dealing With Change

  • Describe a job that required you to make frequent changes to priorities or objectives. What was your role? How did you cope with those frequent changes? 
  • How do you cope with interruptions in your daily routine? How do you stay on track? 

Autonomy & Initiative 

  • Describe a time when achieving the desired results for your team or company depended solely on your efforts. 
  • Provide an example of a project, idea or process change that you initiated. What was it? What happened? 
  • Describe a time when you had to complete a project with very little direction. 
  • If A>C is above the midpoint: Describe a time when you took on a project with little or no supervision. How did you make decisions? What was the result? 
  • If A>C is below the midpoint: Describe a time when you had to handle multiple, competing priorities. 

Pace & Pressure 

  • Describe a time when you had a deadline that was changed or pushed up with very little notice. How did you handle that? 
  • Describe a situation where you had to handle a crisis in a business setting. What did you do? 

Job: C/A, Candidate: A/C

Job Pattern: C/A
  • Responsive 
  • Consistent with repetitive work 
  • Cooperative with others 
  • Tolerant 
  • Patient 
  • Dependable 
  • Steady 
  • Easygoing
Candidate: A/C
  • Proactive
  • Takes initiative
  • Competitive
  • Driven to get things done
  • Fast-paced
  • Positive response to pressure
  • Achievement-oriented
  • Impatient with routine

Possible behavioral gaps: Analytical and problem-solving abilities; ability to say/do the unpopular; task/results orientation vs. social/people orientation; willingness to independently make decisions and act on them.

Questions based on what the Job Pattern requires: 

Stable work environment 

  • What was your least favorite part of your most recent job? What part of that job would you have delegated if you could? Why was that your least favorite part? How did you handle it? 
  • How do you approach parts of your work that have become repetitious or boring but still require your attention? Provide a specific example. 

Patience 

  • Describe a time when you had either a supervisor or a subordinate who worked at a slower pace than you would have liked, and how you coped with that. 
  • Describe a work experience when listening well was more important than speaking well. Why was listening important in that situation? Have you done anything specific to improve your listening skills? 

Cooperation 

  • Describe a time when your ideas were shot down and you had to take a different approach for the best interest of the team. What was the result? 

Dependability 

  • Describe a time when you were the go-to person on a project because your team knew they could count on you to be there for them. 

Job: A/D, Candidate: D/A

Job Pattern: A/D
  • Comfortable with risk
  • Independent
  • Individualistic
  • Self-confident
  • Firm
  • Decisive
  • Venturesome
  • Resistant to authority
Candidate: D/A
  • Cautious with risk
  • Cooperative
  • Supportive
  • Willing and helpful
  • Need for rules and structure
  • Accurate and careful
  • Concerned about criticism
  • Conservative

Possible behavioral gaps: Ability to make decisions involving risk or unknowns; ability to independently and confidently handle new or unfamiliar situations; willingness to accept accountability for results or express opinions counter to those of management.

Questions based on what the Job Pattern requires: 

Dealing with risk 

  • Provide an example of a decision you made that you would describe as a “risky” decision. What was the outcome? Would you do anything differently if you had to make that decision again? 

Decision making & action 

  • Describe the last time you had to take action or make a decision without having all the information you would have liked. What additional info would you have had if you could? How did the decision turn out? 

Flexibility 

  • Describe a time when bending the rules or thinking outside the box really paid off for you. 

Independence 

  • Describe a time when your opinion on an issue was very different from that of your supervisor/ manager. What did you do? How did that turn out? 

Job: D/A, Candidate: A/D

Job Pattern: D/A
  • Cautious with risk
  • Cooperative
  • Supportive
  • Willing and helpful
  • Need for rules and structure
  • Accurate and careful
  • Concerned about criticism
Candidate: A/D
  • Comfortable with risk
  • Independent
  • Individualistic
  • Self-confident
  • Firm
  • Decisive
  • Venturesome
  • Resistant to authority

Possible behavioral gaps: Ability to take direction and accept the decisions and leadership of others; willingness to do things for others; focus on team over self; conscientiousness or thoroughness; acceptance of rules, regulations and policies.

Questions based on what the Job Pattern requires: 

Adherence to rules 

  • Describe the last time you made a big mistake. How did you handle the aftermath of that mistake? 

Conservativeness 

  • Describe a situation where you took a risk and it backfired. Did that situation cause you to do anything differently the next time you faced a risk decision? 

Cooperation 

  • Describe the most difficult boss you have ever worked for. What made that person difficult? How did you manage that relationship? 
  • How have you handled a business situation when your opinion strongly opposed the team’s direction? What happened? In the end, who was right? 

Attention to detail 

  • Describe your least favorite parts of your last job. How did you handle getting them done? 

A:D Conflict

If there is an A:D Conflict:  

  • Describe a decision you made while under a lot of pressure. What did you do? 
  • Describe a time when you had a difficult time completing an assignment or meeting a deadline because you didn’t have all the information. What did you do? What was the outcome? What did you learn from the experience? 
  • Describe a time when you had a difficult time starting an assignment because you were not certain where/how to approach the project. What did you do? What was the outcome? What did you learn from that approach? 
  • Provide an example of when you missed a deadline or meeting. How did you resolve it? 

Job: B/C, Candidate: C/B

Job Pattern: B/C
  • Quick to connect
  • Fluent
  • Fast-talking
  • Lively
  • Enthusiastic
  • Positive communication
  • Optimistic style of expression
  • Persuasive
  • Motivates others
  • Stimulating
Candidate: C/B
  • Takes time to connect
  • Reserved
  • Quiet
  • Serious with unfamiliar people
  • Comfortable with the familiar
  • Introspective
  • Takes time to think
  • Organizes thinking

Possible behavioral gaps: Ability to communicate persuasively and optimistically; ability to connect with varied individuals quickly; ability to “read” the audience and adapt a message on the fly; ability to motivate others; ability to focus on the human element of the equation.

Questions based on what the Job Pattern requires: 

Networking 

  • Describe an experience you’ve had building or maintaining a network of people outside of formal work groups. Was that network useful to you? In what way? 
  • Have you ever had an assignment in which you had to meet a variety of people and connect with them, at least on a superficial level, quickly? Tell me about the technique(s) you used to do that. 

Quick thinking 

  • Describe a time when you had to make a quick decision and then defend it, verbally, on the spot. 

Persuasiveness 

  • What is your approach to pitching an idea to your boss or another decision maker? 

Dealing with change 

  • Describe the last time you moved into a new work environment and how you went about developing new relationships in that work group. 
  • What’s the hardest part, for you, about changing jobs? Have you learned any ways to make that easier for yourself? 

Job: C/B, Candidate: B/C

Job Pattern: C/B
  • Takes time to connect
  • Reserved
  • Quiet
  • Serious with unfamiliar people
  • Comfortable with the familiar
  • Introspective
  • Takes time to think
  • Organizes thinking before expressing self
Candidate: B/C
  • Quick to connect
  • Fluent
  • Fast-talking
  • Lively
  • Enthusiastic
  • Positive communication
  • Optimistic style of expression
  • Persuasive
  • Motivates others
  • Stimulating

Possible behavioral gaps: Patience; introspection; process orientation; consistency; listening skills; calm, relaxed, deliberate approach to work and others.

Questions based on what the Job Pattern requires: 

Planning 

  • Describe a time when you were assigned a major project without much direction as how to proceed. What did you do first? Describe the steps you took. How did it turn out? 

Thoughtfulness 

  • Describe a time when you had to handle an angry or distraught customer, co-worker or boss. What was your initial reaction? What approach did you take? What technique(s) did you use to interact successfully with them? Did your approach/techniques work? If not, what would you have done differently? 

Patience 

  • Describe the best job you’ve ever had or the job you enjoyed the most. Describe a typical day on that job. 

Listening skills 

  • Describe a time when your listening abilities were critical to your success with a project, a customer, etc. Why was it important to be a good listener in that situation? How did it turn out? 
  • Have you done anything specific to improve your listening skills? If so, what? 

Job: B/D, Candidate: D/B

Job Pattern: B/D
  • Informal
  • Extraverted
  • Outgoing
  • Uninhibited expression of friendliness
  • Poised
  • Informal in social situations
  • Enthusiastic, persuasive talker
  • Engaging conversationalist
Candidate: D/B
  • Formal
  • Serious
  • Disciplined
  • Sincere
  • Reserved, formal and quiet
  • Factual conversationalist
  • Sensitive to criticism
  • Cautious with new people

Possible behavioral gaps: Ability to communicate in a stimulating, open, dynamic fashion; ease with any social situation; ability to be a “fearless communicator”; ability to persuade, convince or motivate; ability to delegate details. 

Questions based on what the Job Pattern requires: 

Communication 

  • Describe your strengths and weaknesses as a communicator. Provide examples. 
  • In terms of communication with others at work, what types of communication are more difficult? Provide examples. 
  • Have you done anything to improve your communication skills? 

Persuasiveness 

  • Describe a time when you had to convince others to make a change or accept a viewpoint. How did you go about convincing them? 
  • Have you ever had to motivate teammates to achieve a goal? How did you go about doing that? 

Delegation 

  • Describe a situation when you had to redirect or delegate something for which you were responsible to someone else. Describe the situation and the outcome. How did you feel about it? 
  • Describe a particular success you have had as a member of a team. What did you contribute to the team? What did the team contribute that helped? 

Flexibility 

  • Describe a time when you felt it was necessary to make an exception to policy. 

Job: D/B, Candidate: B/D

Job Pattern: D/B
  • Formal
  • Serious
  • Disciplined
  • Sincere
  • Reserved, formal and quiet
  • Factual conversationalist
  • Sensitive to criticism
  • Cautious with new people
Candidate: B/D
  • Informal
  • Extraverted
  • Outgoing
  • Uninhibited expression of friendliness
  • Poised
  • Informal in social situations
  • Enthusiastic, persuasive talker
  • Engaging conversationalist

Possible behavioral gaps: Thinking before speaking or acting; sticking to facts when communicating; comfort working without frequent social contact; conscientious attention to quality and accuracy; conservative, careful approach. 

Questions based on what the Job Pattern requires: 

Communication 

  • Describe your strengths and weaknesses as a communicator. Provide examples. 
  • In terms of communication with others at work, what types of communication come easily to you, and what types are more difficult? Provide examples. 

Conscientiousness 

  • Describe your least favorite parts of your last job. How did you handle getting them done? 
  • Describe a time when “thinking out loud” or communicating before you had all the facts caused a problem for you. Did that experience cause you to do anything differently the next time you found yourself in that type of situation? 

Independence 

  • Describe a time when you were a “team of one” (worked remotely in an office with very few or no other people around). What were the best and worst parts of that experience? 

Job: C/D, Candidate: D/C

Job Pattern: C/D
  • Casual with Rules
  • Persistent
  • Casual
  • Stable
  • Limited concern about rules or details
  • Comfortable with ambiguity
  • Easygoing
  • Relaxed
Candidate: D/C
  • Careful with Rules
  • Conscientious
  • Thorough
  • Precise
  • Concerned with rules and accuracy
  • Strong follow-up
  • Strict about punctuality and correctness
  • Comfortable with clarity

Possible behavioral gaps: Persistence; stability; tolerance; ability to work without “the book”; comfort with ambiguity and risk. 

Questions based on what the Job Pattern requires: 

“Big picture” view 

  • Describe a time when you had to “let go” of the details of a project and pursue the larger goal. What was the goal? What did you do about the details? 

Persistence 

  • Provide an example of a time when you had an objective that took much longer to reach than you thought it would, or when a project hit what seemed to be a dead end. What did you do? What happened with the objective/project? 

Dealing with ambiguity if C/D is below the midpoint 

  • Describe a time when you had to “make it up as you went along.” How did you deal with the lack of rules/precedent/etc.? How did that experience turn out? 

Job: D/C, Candidate: C/D

Job Pattern: D/C
  • Careful with Rules
  • Conscientious
  • Thorough
  • Precise
  • Concerned with rules and accuracy
  • Strong follow-up
  • Strict about punctuality and correctness
  • Comfortable with clarity
Candidate: C/D
  • Casual with Rules
  • Persistent
  • Casual
  • Stable
  • Limited concern about rules or details
  • Comfortable with ambiguity
  • Easygoing
  • Relaxed

Possible behavioral gaps: Concern for quality and accuracy of work product; ability to manage details and/ or follow up on delegated tasks and projects; responsiveness to time pressures; sense of urgency; ability to change mind and see others’ viewpoint. 

Questions based on what the Job Pattern requires: 

Quality, accuracy, and follow-up 

  • What do you do to ensure the quality and accuracy of your work? Describe a time when something important “fell through the cracks.” 
  • Describe your process of delegation (from selection of the delegatee through final checkup). 
  • Tell me about a time when you had to create or enforce rules or policies. 
  • Describe an experience in which you pushed the envelope a bit too far. What happened? 

Change management 

  • Describe a time when you had to “change direction” rapidly. Whose idea was the change? How did it turn out? 
  • Describe a time when you had to move quickly to respond to an unexpected difficulty/emergency. What was the problem? What action did you take? What were the results? 

Following others: 

  • Describe a time when your opinion or recommendation was not followed. What were the circumstances? What did you do? What ultimately happened? 

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