For many of the challenges in the interview process there is no magic solution. That’s not the case with behavioral interview questions. Despite their reputation for being difficult to answer, there is a very powerful technique, called the STAR method, that should be your go-to move whenever you hear the words Tell me about a time when…
While the intricacies of the technique may take practice to perfect, the foundation is very straightforward. When you are asked a behavioral question, i.e. Tell me about a time you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done, you structure your answer into 4 concise parts:
- Situation – explain the circumstance in which you were involved
- Task – outline the objectives you needed to accomplish
- Action – describe the actions you took to complete the task
- Result – identify the outcomes which yielded the desired result
The idea is to tell a story that provides all the necessary information to answer the question, while remaining succinct and not losing the interviewer with a long, rambling response.
The behavioral interview question has become so common that it’s rare to go through an interview without fielding a couple of them. The goal of the question is to find out what the candidate can accomplish and how they go about doing it. The best answer will demonstrate positive character traits, such as leading in a stressful situation or thinking outside the box, that can’t be shown on a resume.
There are several ways to prepare for these questions. First, identify which traits you consider to be key strengths. These are the traits that make up the core of your professional self, and you want to make these the cornerstone of every interview. Secondly, dig into what traits the company holds in high esteem. Look over their core values, details in the job description, and even the company’s blog/social media.
Here’s how to answer the example from above, Tell me about a time you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
Situation: My company shipped one of my newest customers a product, but the order ended up lost by the carrier.
Task: I felt that a mishap like this could derail our growth with the client, so I took it upon myself to track down the shipment personally.
Action: I went to 3 possible locations where the order may have been and spoke with the people there. As extra motivation, I offered a $50 gift card to whomever could find it.
Result: We found the package at the 3rd location! While I wasn’t allowed to pick it up myself, I notified the customer and they were able to swing by and grab it. This effort made a strong impression on them.
That’s all it takes. No rambling, no unnecessary details, just an engaging story that answers the question. This format cleanly sets up the story, walks the interviewer through your thought process and actions, and lays out the outcome. If you have specific numbers for your result, such as growing revenue or exceeding goals, be sure to include them.
Try to construct 5-10 stories that had a positive outcome and jot down the STAR points – just the barest outline. The goal is to put together a few bullets to create a story framework, not to memorize a script.
There you have it, your “Ace in the Hole” for behavioral interviews. With the STAR format you can handle any question with a clear, concise answer that lays out the story in an easy-to-follow manner. Have experiences prepared ahead of time, then apply the STAR format and you’ll excel at this historically treacherous portion of the interview.