Performance-Based Interview Questions & Answers

Performance-based interview questions, PBI in short, focus on your past achievements. Recruiters and hiring managers are interested in your accomplishments as this information are used to help them gauge how successful you as a potential employee will be in the future.

Interview questions about your accomplishments and achievements are often discussed during job interviews. This topic is popular among interviewers for several reasons. Employers use performance-based interview questions to get a more accurate insight into your skills and competencies.

By asking you the right questions, the interviewers try to determine how motivated you are for the position. Furthermore, it’s an efficient way for them to assess whether or not you’re a good fit for the position and company culture. Also, the way you respond to these questions reveals more about your skills, work ethic, character, and personality.

Performance-based questions are used across all fields and levels. By using these questions, interviewers can get a better understanding of how you use critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills. Performance-based questions are similar to behavioral questions. Behavioral interview questions also require you to discuss past work performances that the interviewers use to gauge your future job success.

Job candidates are often not experienced in talking about their greatest accomplishments, and they will have to think quickly to come up with achievement. It’s therefore important that you prepare prior to your interview. The reason for this is that when the interviewer asks you about your accomplishments, it’s actually a great opportunity to demonstrate your suitability for the job. Questions about your accomplishments allow you to share a moment in your career that is relevant to the position that you’re applying to and show that you’re able to add value to your potential future employer.

In this article, we discuss why this is the case, but also why the interviewer is asking you such questions in the first place, and what they are looking for in your answers. Also, read more about frequently asked job interview questions here and check our job interview preparation checklist.

What Are Performance Based Interview Questions?

As discussed earlier, performance-based interview questions are similar to behavioral interview questions. These questions require more from you than just a simple ‘yes‘ or ‘no.’ Performance-based interview questions require you to go in-depth about a situation you have faced in the past in a professional work environment. For interviewers, this is a perfect way to focus on your past successful experiences, how you solve problems, how you handle challenges, and in which work environments you thrive.

Performance-based interview questions, in general, have several things in common. They are standardized in nature, which helps interviewers to use the same evaluation criteria for every candidate. The most important thing about standardization is that it prevents bias by leveling the playing field for everybody who applied for the job. Also, this type of interview question requires specific examples and situations that demonstrate the skills and traits needed for the job. Furthermore, performance-based interview questions are not only suitable to assess technical skills, but they are also perfect for hiring managers to gauge soft skills such as communication, leadership, growth potential, and cultural fit.

Performance-based interview questions usually start with:

  • Tell me about a time when..
  • Give me an example of..
  • Describe a situation..
  • What do you do..

Examples of performance-based questions are:

  • Tell me about a time when you needed to persuade others to make a change. What role did you play, and what actions did you take? What was the outcome?
  • Give me an example of a time you suggested a creative idea in the workplace. What was your idea? How did you get your superiors to implement it?
  • Give me an example of a career goal you set for yourself and how you accomplished it.
  • Describe a situation in which you took a meaningful and specific action to resolve a problem in the workplace.
  • What do you do when a client asks you a question that you do not immediately have the answer to?

As you can see, performance-based questions require you to provide the interviewer with more than just a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ The interviewer wants to hear you explain a situation that you experienced during your career. It’s, therefore, important to realize that this is a great opportunity for you to showcase your skills and talk about yourself in a very positive way. However, this requires some preparation to make sure these questions do not catch you off guard. Your interview preparation should ensure that you are able to provide the interviewer with concrete examples of specific accomplishments. This means that you should be able to provide an answer on the spot when you’re being asked about your career achievements.

Performance-based interview questions about your professional accomplishments give the interviewer the ability to zoom in on situations that you regard as a great achievement in your career. The interviewer can focus on the details of the situation that you provide. That’s why you need to ensure that you provide the interviewer the situation you were in, your task in that situation, the action you took, and the specific results that can come out of those actions. In short, this is called the STAR-method of providing an answer. We will discuss this interview technique in more detail later on in this article.

Why the Interviewers Use Performance Based Interview Questions

Performance-based interview questions, just like behavioral questions, are used in every industry and company you can think of. The main goal for interviewers is to assess your suitability for the job. Performance-based questions help them do just that. These types of questions focus on your job performance and growth potential. The benefit of asking performance-based questions is that it’s an effective way to gauge how well you will do with the organization.

Revealing skills, abilities, and traits

For interviewers, performance-based interviewing has the greatest likelihood of uncovering the true skills, abilities, and traits of job candidates. Regular interview questions or non-standardized questions are prone to bias and influence the outcome of the job interview. Not only is this unfair to the candidates, but it also has a serious impact on how effective an interview process is. By using the same questions for each candidate and by evaluating these questions the same way, hiring managers can ensure a fair process for all applicants. Furthermore, it’s also the perfect way to avoid subjective hiring decisions and really focus on the candidates that stand out from a data point of view.

By asking specific questions, you are required to provide the interviewer with a specific example of past work experiences. An example of a performance-based interview question is, for instance, ‘Tell me about a time you were in a position that required you to make a difficult decision.’ You can imagine that it’s more difficult to make up a story about a specific experience than it is to a more general question. Furthermore, no matter how a candidate answers a performance-based question, it will reveal a lot about their personality and skills related to the job they’re interviewing for.

All in all, performance-based interview questions are, just like behavioral questions, the most efficient way to get information about traits and skills. They function as fact-based questions to find the right candidate for the job.

Assessing soft skills

The ability to assess soft skills is one of the main reasons for using performance-based interview questions. Before your interview, the interviewer will most likely already have reviewed your resume and motivational letter. However, these documents only allow them to assess your hard skills and review your educational history.

Your soft skills, work experience, and responsibilities need to be demonstrated through your answers to the performance-based questions asked. During job interviews, the interviewer wants to figure out whether or not your qualifications align with the job requirements. Soft skills are important for everyone who wants to work in a professional environment that requires teamwork and clear communication. Performance-based interview questions are perfect for hiring managers to address these necessary soft skills.

Pros and Cons of Performance-Based Interview Questions

The pros of performance-based interview questions are clear. These questions can be easily related to the hiring business’ activities. Furthermore, the answers to these questions give the interviewer insights into past work behaviors and work experience. Performance-based interview questions are great to ask additional follow-up questions based on the information provided by a candidate. In general, they are more suitable to uncover essential information about a candidate than other types of interview questions.

The cons of performance-based interview questions are that they do not necessarily reflect how a candidate would behave today. In other words, the questions and answers center themselves around previous work behavior and experience.

What the Interviewer Wants to Know From You

Performance-based interview questions are great for uncovering true skills, abilities, and traits. Interviewers want to gain knowledge about your proven work experience and which accomplishments in your career are most valuable, according to you. Hiring managers want to get more insight into your personality and how you go about your work and career. Basically, they are interested in the following things about you:

  1. Work ethic

A strong work ethic is a desired characteristic for new employees. This is because candidates with extensive relevant work experience and the right skills still won’t be a valuable asset for an organization unless they exhibit a strong work ethic.

For interviewers, your willingness to show dedication and work hard is essential. This, in combination with the right qualifications and skill, make the perfect candidate for a hiring manager. Furthermore, it’s interesting for them to hear you talk about what you find important in your work. Also, he or she is interested in what you view as an achievement or success.

Your interview preparation should help you get ready and able to provide the interviewer with detailed examples of your previously demonstrated inclination to work hard to reach your targets.

  1. Core values

Your core values are your personal values that guide you when making decisions and performing work. The interviewer wants to find out whether or not your beliefs, ideals, and practices in your work match what the company is looking for. Questions about your job performance and achievements give the interviewer more insights into your core values.

  1. Real-life examples that demonstrate your traits and skills

Performance-based questions require you to provide a real-life situation to help you prove you have the skills and experience the employer wants. By describing your events and achievements, the interviewer can get an idea of what to expect from you. Based on this, they can assess your suitability for the job.

Frequently Asked Performance-Based Interview Questions

Below you can find commonly asked performance-based interview questions:

  1. Could you tell us about what interested you in this job and why you believe you make a good candidate?
  2. What do you think are your greatest strengths? Could you give an example of how you have used those strengths in a work setting?
  3. Describe your most creative solution to an organizational problem. Tell me about the situation, the actions you took, and what the outcome was.
  4. Tell me about the most challenging situation you have faced at work.
  5. What do you consider your greatest weakness? How do you plan on improving those weaknesses?
  6. Tell me about a situation in which you were responsible for getting others to make a change. Tell me about the situation, the actions you took, and what the outcome was.
  7. Describe a time when you used good judgment and decision-making skills to solve a problem.
  8. Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a superior. How did you resolve the situation?
  9. What professional achievement are you most proud of?
  10. Tell me about a time you went above and beyond to achieve something.

Learn more about frequently asked interview questions here.

How to Formulate Answers to Performance-Based Interview Questions

Focus on a couple of things when you discuss your work experiences during a job interview:

  1. Give the interviewer an answer in the form of a ‘success story.’ Walk them through the challenges you were facing and how you approached them. Furthermore, talk about your actions and the success you had by following them.
  2. Structure your story logically. Use the STAR interview technique to do this. STAR is an acronym that stands for a situation (S), your task (T) in that situation, the actions (A) you took, and what results (R) you got from your actions.
  3. Make sure that you highlight your achievements in your answers. This sounds like an open door, but it cannot be emphasized enough. Focus on demonstrating that you’re the right person for the job.
  4. Demonstrate the skills, abilities, and experience needed for the job you’re interviewing for and that the interviewer wants to see from you. In other words, match your qualifications to the job and skills, as mentioned in the job description.
  5. Give serious answers that demonstrate your dedication and focus on your goals. Answer the question professionally and describe your accomplishments to the interviewer in a concise way.
  6. Honesty is key. Hiring managers are trained to notice when a candidate is faking or making up a story. Prepare yourself well before the interview so that you have several real-life situations that you can discuss if the interviewer asks you to.

STAR Interview Technique

The best way to prepare for performance-based job interview questions is by structuring your answers to questions that you expect based on your research, according to the STAR interview technique.

By using the STAR method, you can give the interviewer an answer that includes exactly what he or she is looking for. Also, it allows you to convey a concise answer that includes the skills that make you the right candidate to hire. Below, the STAR acronym is broken down into each step.

Situation

Start your story by explaining the situation that you faced. The start of your answer ‘story’ should answer questions such as:

  1. What was the situation?
  2. Who was involved?
  3. Why did the situation happen at that time?

It’s important to provide context around the situation or challenge. Furthermore, make sure to provide relevant details.

Task

Next, explain your specific role in the task ahead. Include important details, such as specific responsibilities. Focus on giving the interviewer an understanding of your task. This part of your answer should answer questions such as:

  1. Why were you involved in that specific situation?
  2. What’s the background story?

Action

After you describe your task, it’s time to specifically discuss the actions you took to resolve the situation. Give the interviewer a step by step description of the actions you took. This part of your answer should answer questions such as:

  1. What steps did you take to resolve the situation you were in?
  2. Why did you choose to complete your tasks this way?

Result

Finish your answer by discussing the results you got from your actions. Detail the outcomes of your actions and ensure to highlight your strengths. Also, make sure to take credit for your behavior that led to the result. Focus on positive results and positive learning experiences. This part of your answer ‘story’ should answer questions such as:

  1. What exactly happened?
  2. What did you accomplish?
  3. How did you feel about the results you got?
  4. What did you learn from the situation?
  5. How did this particular situation influence who you are as a professional today?

Sample Answers to Performance-Based Interview Questions

Below, some examples of answers to frequently asked performance-based interview questions are discussed. The examples are already written in STAR format so that you can clearly see how you can structure your answers.

Performance-Based Interview Question – STAR-Method Example 1:

‘Tell me about your most recent performance review. Can you tell me one positive highlight and one area for improvement?’

‘In my current position, there are performance reviews twice a year. Recently I had my second review of the year with my manager. Overall, she was impressed with my overall work and ability to work well within a team and meeting tight deadlines. Furthermore, she praised my ability to work closely with the management staff to develop strategies to reach set goals.

Like everyone else, I have received constructive input from my managers that really helped me improve myself as a professional.  An area for improvement for me is working on my professional qualifications. I am one exam away from getting my degree and joining the global association of investment professionals.

With that said, I enrolled to take this final exam next month. Getting this degree will help me reach my career goal of becoming a manager and eventually running my own team too.’

Why this is a strong answer:

  1. The provided example is related and relevant to the question.
  2. This answer shows important skills such as teamwork, adaptability, creativity. It clearly highlights your strengths.
  3. The answer discusses a clear area for improvement. Furthermore, you show that you immediately took action by yourself and enrolled for the exam. Also, you demonstrate that this step will help contribute to you reaching a career goal, which gives the answer more weight.

Note: This is a general example. Avoid mentioning anything that would make you seem ineligible for the job you’re interviewing for!

Performance-Based Interview Question – STAR-Method Example 2:

‘Do you work better as part of a team or individually?’

‘My five years of experience in different sales positions made me comfortable working as part of a team as well as working individually. For instance, a lot of my sales meetings are generally one-on-one with clients.

Client meetings are perfect for discussing details discretely, but I definitely understand the value of teamwork too. Creative sessions within our sales teams really benefited my approach to sales strategy, setting targets, and general best practices.  

Also, having a team behind you can create greater confidence among the team members because there’s always someone that can advise you in certain situations.’ 

Why this is a strong answer:

  1. This example shows that you are able to adapt to situations whenever needed.
  2. The provided example is balanced out between teamwork and working individually on assignments. This makes the answer related and relevant to the workplace.
  3. The answer explains how you are comfortable with working in teams and alone. But also even more importantly, it states how you value both teamwork and individual work plus that they have both been beneficial to your career.

Note: When discussing teamwork versus working individually, make sure that you don’t exaggerate to the point of no return. This means that if you show too much that you like to work independently, the interviewer might think that your teamwork abilities might not be there. This works for the other way around as well. Showing too much that you prefer teamwork might indicate to the interviewer that you might find it difficult to work alone or without direction from others.