Finding a job is considered one of the most stressful times of a person’s life. It is a key moment where you need to show resilience and perseverance while trying to navigate the pressures of juggling multiple applications and interviews. On top of this, you’re trying to understand what you’re looking for and what sort of role and company will make you happiest and fulfilled.
It’s already an achievement to get your foot in the door with an interview, so this article will give you a clear and concise technique on how to answer behavioural interview questions in a thorough manner. This will help you put your best foot forward and set you up for success during the process. The STAR method is used to give concise, clear answers that show tangible evidence of your skills, knowledge and experience.
What is a behavioral interview?
Behavioural questions are those prompts that ask you to provide a real-life example of how you handled a certain kind of situation at work in the past (Boogaard, 2022). Some examples include:
Tell me about a time when…
What do you do when…
Have you ever…
Give me an example of…
Finding an example is the first step, however, you also want to make sure you give a concise, compelling, easy-to-understand answer. This is where the STAR method comes in.
STAR acronym stands for:
Situation: Set the scene and give the necessary details of your example.
Task: Describe what your responsibility was in that situation.
Action: Explain exactly what steps you took to address it.
Result: Share what outcomes your actions achieved.
Now let’s dive in to this method:
Finding a relevant example
It’s important before any job interview to think of some clear examples in your professional career to answer these types of questions. Practice your examples and answers prior to the interview - many example questions can be found online so make sure you do some research while practicing using the method and thinking on your feet.
Top tip, if you’re struggling to find an example during an interview, don’t be afraid to ask to take a moment to think about it and come up with a good example.
Set the scene - the goal is to create a clear picture of the situation you found yourself in while highlighting the complexibities (ibid). Keep it relevant and focused on your story.
Top Tip - Try to provide a maximum of 1-2 sentences per each letter of the STAR method.
This is really focused on the task at hand, what you were responsible for. This doesn’t include any actions taken. It’s setting out your responsibility and any objectives that were set.
This describes the contribution that you made to the tasks at hand. Think about whether you worked with a certain team, used specific technologies, formed a plan etc.
Top Tip - Don’t be vague or too emotional in your response. Avoid saying things like “I did some research”, “ I worked hard” etc (ibid).
This is the moment to stand out by sharing your positive results and contributions to the task at hand. Interviewers don’t only care about what you did—they also want to know why it mattered. So make sure you hammer home the point about any results you achieved and quantify them when you can. Numbers are always impactful (ibid).
Top Tip - If you are talking about a time you failed, make sure you end it on a positive note with key learnings and takeaways from the experience.
Here are some examples we’ve come across previously:
Question: ““Tell me about a time when you had to be very strategic in order to meet all of your top priorities.”
Situation: “In my previous sales role, I was put in charge of the transfer to an entirely new customer relationship management (CRM) system—on top of handling my daily sales calls and responsibilities.”
Task: “The goal was to have the migration to the new CRM database completed by Q3, without letting any of my own sales numbers slip below my targets.”
Action: “In order to do that, I had to be very careful about how I managed all of my time. So, I blocked off an hour each day on my calendar to dedicate solely to the CRM migration. During that time, I worked on transferring the data, as well as cleaning out old contacts and updating outdated information. Doing this gave me enough time to chip away at that project, while still handling my normal tasks.”
Result: “As a result, the transfer was completed two weeks ahead of deadline and I finished the quarter 10% ahead of my sales goal.”” (ibid)
Don’t forget, practice makes perfect. Make sure to think about some key achievements in your previous role and look up some example questions. It definitely helps to practise in front of a mirror or in a mock setting. Make sure you go through as many examples as possible. It does become second nature!
Last top tip, always make sure you research the role and company thoroughly! There are often good indicators as to the sorts of skills the company is looking for and could ask about during your interview. Have some STAR examples ready for these skills. Good luck!
Boogaard, K., 2022. How to Use the STAR Interview Method to Get the Job. [online] The Muse. Available at: <https://www.themuse.com/advice/star-interview-method> [Accessed 29 March 2022].