You know your strengths; you know your weaknesses. But what about the questions you can’t prepare for in advance?
Without fail, most interviews contain “behavioral questions”, otherwise known as the “tell me about a time…” questions. These questions can range from “tell me about a time you worked on a team” to “tell me about a time you experienced positive customer service and what that means."
Cue the “ummmm…” and “can you repeat the question??” responses, because these can be hard to answer. NO LONGER! There is actually a designed system to answering these questions, called the STAR Method. That’s right, there is a structured response, so that you can feel prepared and ready to answer the behavioral questions no matter what is thrown your way.
Your answers should flow as follows:
Start by describing the situation. This is the backdrop, the overview. Cue the interviewer into what the situation was, giving specific details as to the problem or question that needed an answer. (Where and when is the context of what's going on?)
The description of your task should be an answer to the situation above. What needed to be done and what was the goal? (What is the answer?)
Talk about YOU. Describe what actions you took and how you carried out the steps to achieve your goal. Avoid talking about group generalizations; the action is all about what YOU did to strive towards success. Elaborate on your steps to include the tools you used to carry out this action. (How do you answer this?)
This is the time to talk about the outcome of your actions. Don’t make the interviewer prompt you to share the result- it should be the conclusion to your answer! Remember to quantify the results in a way that is measurable and a noticeable change. Do not be afraid to take credit for your action or take pride in the result. At the same time, if the result was not positive, be sure to include that in the Result description IN ADDITION TO a reflection on what that taught you. Even if the outcome wasn’t favorable, make sure it was favorable to you. (What happened due to your actions?)
In addition to the STAR method, know that you can prepare for some of these questions in advance! A helpful tip is to think of about 5 experiences you have that can be go-to stories to answer a multitude of behavioral questions. For example, participation in a Case Competition could potentially be used to answer:
- Describe a time that you worked within a team.
- Tell me about a time that you took on a leadership role in guiding others.
- Give an example of a time you used problem solving skills.
- Tell me about a time you influenced someone and how you approached the situation.
- Tell me about a time that you were able to work well with somebody who you did not get along with.
- Describe a time that you motivated others in working towards a common goal.
- Tell me about a time you encountered an unforeseen problem and your actions to solve it.
- Describe a stressful task that you were asked to complete and how you went about handling it.
- Tell me about a time that you made a mistake and the results of your actions.
As they always say, a single acronym can speak a thousand words.
Review STAR Method and Behavioral Interview questions. Also check out our Elite 8 Interview Tips.