There are many ways that hiring managers can approach interviews. One of the most common formats you’ll face is the behavioral interview. In this kind of interview, questions are asked about your experiences in certain situations, both real and hypothetical, to assess your competencies and personality. Behavioral interview questions are all about getting the candidate to show, rather than just tell, an employer that they are a good fit for a position.
“In a behavior-based interview, a candidate can’t simply state that she is a great team-builder,” notes George Dutch, a career expert at JobJoy.com. “She must provide specific examples of teams she has built, ways she has overcome team conflict, and how she has led her team to achieve a goal.”
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The questions asked in a behavioral interview are driven by the competencies or skills that are required for the job. Employers will identify what is needed for success in the position and look for prospective employees to demonstrate these traits in their responses. Some examples of the types of interview questions they might ask include:
- Tell me about a time when you had to solve a problem in a short amount of time.
- Give me an example of a time when you disagreed with your leadership.
- What was a professional mistake you have made and what did you learn from it?
- Tell me about a time when you had to use negotiation to achieve a desired outcome.
While the questions might sound easy, providing a coherent answer can be challenging in the heat of the moment. That’s where the STAR method comes in. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result, and it is a great blueprint for structuring your answers during a behavioral interview.
How to Use the STAR Interview Method
Example Question: “Tell me about a time when you acted on your own initiative to solve a problem.”
S – Situation: Describe the context of your story.
“The whole team was working hard on a presentation to give to an important client in an hour.”
T – Task: Explain what was required of you.
“I was finalizing the slides for the presentation when I noticed that an important concern of the client was not addressed properly in the slides.”
A – Action: Tell what steps you took.
“I added a new slide with the pertinent information that I pulled from an earlier report we did. Then, I offered to quickly present that slide when it came up in the meeting.”
R – Result Describe what happened as a result of your actions.
“The team lead was surprised by my last-minute addition, but the client specifically called out the usefulness of the information I had included, and asked for a follow-up briefing with more details on the subject.”
Because these types of questions call for in-depth answers, spend a good amount of time before interviews coming up with responses that you might use. Ericka Spradley, President of My Next Level Career Consulting, suggests carefully reviewing the job posting to identify the skills needed for the role and preparing examples that demonstrate your proficiency in those skills. She recommends writing these examples down, and even recording of filming yourself reciting the STAR responses.
The more preparation you do, the more confident you will be in your answers. “Be positive about your actions throughout your response,” James Rice of WikiJob suggests, “and do not make up an example as you will not come across as believable.” If you cannot think of a good situation to use on the spot, ask your interviewer for a little time to think of a well-structured answer that will demonstrate your competencies and skill.
According to Lisa Shuster, President of the Human Resources company WorkMoreHuman, employers ask behavioral questions in interviews because it enables them to “evaluate a candidate’s competencies and skills in the context of their past experiences.”
A jobseeker that goes into an interview armed with a few strong examples and structures their answers using the STAR method will shine in these kinds of interviews.
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