Category: Career

Answer Behavioral Interview Questions with the STAR Method

Employers are increasingly interviewing candidates with behavioral interview questions. If you’re on the hunt for a new job, chances are you may come across these questions yourself. Come learn how to  answer these like a pro.

In my last three positions, I have interviewed over 400 people for jobs ranging from a dishwasher or concessions stand worker to a masters-level 5+ year experience professional. Between my own interviewing experiences and through the eyes of an interviewer, I have seen the good, the bad and the confusing. Now, I’m here to share my tips with you.

What are behavioral interview questions?

Behavioral interview questions are most often those, “Tell me about a time when…” questions. These allow employers to gauge your fit and ability off past performance. Past performance is often a better indicator of future performance than hypothetical questions. While people may know and want to respond to situations one way, they may not have the skills nor personality to do so.

For example, if you asked me, “What would you do if a client’s network went down?” I might answer something along the lines of, “I would look at their equipment and troubleshoot it based on the problem. I would make sure I get them back online.” That sounds great, right? The problem is I don’t know how to do all that. Now if you asked me, “Tell me about a time where you troubleshooted a network issue,” we would both know that I am not the right person for that job. Sure, candidates can still make up answers, but it’s much easier to tell when a story is not true.

STAR Method Answers to Behavioral Interviews

So what is the STAR Method?

You should employ the STAR method each time you answer a behavioral interview question. This ensures that you tell a full story and answer what your interviewer is asking. STAR stands for: 

  • Situation — You need to set the stage for your story by explaining the details of your situation. What job and position were you in? What happened to spark this experience?
  • Task — What was the task you were trying to accomplish? What was your goal?
  • Action — What did you do? Ensure that you are specific and clear. Take care not to talk about what your team did, though you can mention you had one, but explain what you yourself contributed.
  • Result — What happened as a result of your action? Did you complete your task? What did you learn? Ensure you fully answer their question by this point. If you have numerical evidence or positive reviews, highlight them here.

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Here’s an example of the STAR Method

The Question

Let me demonstrate an example of using the STAR method to answer, “Can you tell me about a time when you made a mistake?”

This is a fairly common question since most jobs deal with others in some capacity or another. Employers want to know how you handle these types of situations.

Here is a STAR Method answer:

Situation:

When I was at my last position, a coworker, who was an associate in the Communications department, and I, Operations Manager, had to work on a project to rebrand the company. We were to modernize it and present our idea at the next staff meeting.

Task:

I assumed that due to my more senior position that I was the lead on this project. I went to work drafting a plan, but made the mistake of not conveying that to my coworker. She also went to work hatching a plan.

Action:

When we finally met, I realized that we did double the work because we were unclear of our roles in the project. Then it dawned on me—she works in the communications department. Of course, she thought that she would lead the project. I asked that we sit down and talk about our options, especially now that we had less time to get the work done.

Result:

Initially, she was frustrated as it seemed that I under minded her authority because of our title differences. However, I apologized for the lack of communication and conveyed my support for her spearheading the rest of the project. We looked through the work both of us did and while they were vastly different, it sparked new ideas for how we could accomplish the rebranding. This situation taught me the importance of communicating and avoiding assumptions if possible.

By following the structure of the STAR method, you are able to tell a full story. You set the stage, explained what happened and what you did and ended on a positive note with what you learned. I don’t suggest saying, “The task was… The action was…” as your answers are a bit too canned and unnatural sounding.

Learn how to use the STAR Method in Behavioral Interviews to score your next job!

Preparing STAR Method Answers for Your Interview

Part of your job search should include taking some time to sit down and draft your answers to common behavioral interview questions. To help you, I have created a template for you to outline your stories. Sign up for our newsletter and have it sent straight to your inbox!



When I was interviewing, I printed probably 5 pages front and back (20 questions total) and filled in answers for as many as I could. It takes some time to complete, but paid off TREMENDOUSLY. I used many of my written answers in my subsequent interviews.

One thing I can improve on going forward is to rewrite my final story in the template to make it easier to review. However, even my messy notes were incredibly helpful. Interviewing was far less nerve-wracking because I had stories at the ready and could answer questions with confidence.

Before you leave, remember to sign up for my email list and get this template sent to your inbox. As a bonus, I also included a list of common behavioral interview questions to get you started. Be sure to adapt them to your field and occupation.

Let me know in the comments if this is helpful and what other job tips you want to see next! Until next time.

Sincerely,

Squirrel

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