Let's set the scene. You’re in a job interview, and things seem to be going well. You’ve built up a bit of rapport with the hiring manager, and you’re answering the questions you’re being asked. Just as you start getting into a bit of a flow, you hear the interviewer say, “Tell me about a time when….”
Anxiety starts to creep in. They’ve not even finished the question and your palms are starting to sweat. You rack your brain for anything at all you can use as an example. You stumble your way through your answer telling a story that half-answers the questions… you think. The conversation swiftly moves on and you can breathe.
First of all, take comfort in the fact that we’ve all been there. Behavioural interview questions are designed to be tough to answer. However, there is some good news. The STAR interview method is a strategy that has been developed to help people like you answer these dreaded questions.
What are behavioural interview questions? 🤷🏻♂️
Unlike traditional interview questions, behavioural job interview questions look for concrete examples of skills and experiences that relate to the role that they’re hiring for. They are typically open-ended questions used to gauge how you behaved in previous work situations.
In your answers, employers are looking for you to share stories and illustrate examples of your past actions that may be predictors of how you’ll act when you face these situations again in your new role.
What are some examples? 📃
Here are a few examples of behavioural questions you might be asked during an interview:
- Share an example of a time when you faced a difficult problem at work. How did you solve this problem?
- Describe a time when you were under a lot of pressure at work. How did you react?
- Tell me about a mistake you’ve made. How did you handle it?
- Share an example of a time you had to make a difficult decision. What did you do?
- Explain a situation where you used data to make a recommendation.
- Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss. How did you resolve it?
- Describe a time when you had to deliver bad news. How did you do it?
- Tell me about a time you worked with other departments/functions to complete a project.
- Share an example of a time when you failed. What did you learn from the experience?
- Tell me about a time when you set and achieved a specific goal.
What is the STAR interview method? 🌟
The STAR interview method is a technique that helps candidates prepare for interview questions that determine whether they will be able to handle specific situations associated with the role they’re applying for.
It allows you to prepare clear and concise responses using real-life examples. Try and focus on just one or two sentences for each letter of the acronym and avoid waffling on where possible.
So, let’s break down that framework. STAR is an acronym that 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.
How does the STAR method work? 🤩
The STAR method helps you create an easy-to-follow story with a clear conflict and resolution. Here’s what each part of the technique means:
Set the stage for the story by sharing context around the situation or challenge you faced. Your goal here is to set the stage of the situation for the story by sharing context around the situation or challenge you faced so that the result you touch on later seems that much more profound. Keep things concise and focus on what’s relevant to your story.
“In my previous digital marketing role, my company made the decision to focus their efforts primarily on social media marketing and to increase their social media following substantially.”
Describe your responsibility or role in the situation or challenge. This can easily get confused with the “action” part of the response. However, this part is dedicated to going through what your responsibilities were in that particular scenario, as well as any specific tasks that you had to work on.
“As the digital marketing executive, my target was to increase our social media following across all channels by at least 20% in Q1.”
Now that you’ve given the interviewer a sense of what your role was, it’s time to explain what you did. What steps did you take to reach that goal or solve that problem? This is your chance to really showcase your contribution, and it’s crucial to go into specifics.
What teams did you work with? What tools or software did you use? Were there clear and measurable goals in place and how did you track success/progress?
“I started by going back through our old posts to see what content had resonated with our audience previously. Next, I worked with the rest of the marketing team to plan and run a competition with the aim of driving engagement through likes and shares on our posts as well as encouraging people to follow the page.”
The final portion of your response should share the results of the action you took. What was the outcome you reached through your actions? If possible, quantify your success or provide concrete examples of the effects of your efforts. It goes without saying but the result should be positive — otherwise, this isn’t a story you should be telling.
“As a result of those additions to our social media strategy, I was able to increase our follower count across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter from 2000 to 3000 over the course of three months — a 50% increase which exceeded our original goal of 20% substantially.”
The STAR method for answering behavioural interview questions might seem a little overwhelming at first. But, as with all things, it will become second nature with a little bit of practice.
Whether it’s in a mock interview or just practicing your answer in the mirror, talk through your response so that it feels natural and comfortable when you’re actually in the interview.
With just a little preparation and strategy, you’ll soon see behavioural interview questions as less of a burden — and more of an opportunity to show why you’re the perfect candidate for the job.
Ian from Gradguide
Gradguide is a career guidance and mentorship program designed to help college students and recent graduates land their first job in tech. We pair you with a mentor to help improve your CV & LinkedIn, upskill, find the right roles to apply for, prepare for interviews, and seek referrals to the best companies around.