Behavioral Interviewing

Behavioral Interviewing

Formulate Your Response

Behavioral interview questions are the most common questions asked by employers. There is always a method to the madness, use the STAR method to set you up for success!

Keep Reading to Learn:

  • What behavioral interview questions are
  • The STAR method
  • Examples of behavioral-based interview questions

If you’ve ever been interviewed before, chances are you’ve been asked a question that starts one of these ways:

  • “Tell me about a time when…”
  • “Can you give me an example of…”
  • “Tell me how you would…”

Those are all examples of how Behavioral Interview questions start, and employers frequently use these types of questions to get interviewees to tell specific stories about situations where they have used skills that the employer is seeking. Note that we said specific stories. Pick one situation and one example. Don’t generalize about the entire time you were the President of the Chess Club. Tell them the story about the tournament you took the lead on planning!

We have a handy way for you to think about answering these questions. Picture a time when you did exactly the thing they’re asking about, and then format it as a STAR story:

STAR Story Format:

Situation: Describe the context of the story. Where and when did it happen? Who else was involved?

Task: Explain the problem or task at hand and your role in addressing it.

Action: Detail the steps you took to tackle the task. What actions did you take? What skills did you employ? Were there any notable actions from others involved?

Result: Share the outcome of your actions. What happened as a result? Reflect on any lessons learned or insights gained from the experience.

Sample Questions

  • Tell me about a time when a decision was made that you didn’t agree with. What did you do? Were you a part of the discussion and decision process? If so, describe your role and what happened.
  • Can you tell me about an event that really challenged you? How did you meet the challenge, and in what way was your approach different from others?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to work with someone whose personality was different from yours.
  • Give me an example of a time you took on a leadership role. How did you handle yourself in that situation?
  • Describe a time when you had to interact with a difficult (customer, client, coworker, etc). What was the situation, and how did you work through it?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to manage multiple, important tasks. How did you prioritize? What did you do in that situation?

Sample Story

The Question: Tell me about a time when you took on a leadership role. How did you handle the situation?

Situation: My junior year, I was the professional development chair of the Women in Business club at St. Thomas.

Task: That meant that I was responsible for bringing speakers to our meetings to discuss career-related topics. Things mostly went smoothly, but there was one particular situation where we had a challenging time scheduling with a guest. They were the Director of Finance at a large company, and I was really nervous to work with them!

Action: Initially, when I scheduled with them weeks in advance, they readily agreed to our meeting date and said they were happy to come. So we created marketing materials and started letting everyone know they were coming. Two days before the meeting, they cancelled and asked if they could reschedule. So I worked with them to do that, and we pivoted our meeting and re-did the marketing for their new presentation date. But they cancelled again the day before. This time, instead of rescheduling, I politely let them know that it might be better if they could come to our open house event instead of a scheduled presentation.

Result: Fortunately, they agreed with me. I’d been concerned that I wouldn’t be assertive enough and they’d push to reschedule again. I learned a lot about being flexible and honest in this situation and that people are more understanding than I might think!

Next Steps

Write it down!

A great first step to practicing your STAR stories is to write them down! Draft ideal response with the STAR method to get you started.

TIP: Take a look at the job description and see what skills and attributes are called out. They might be things like time management, ability to work independently or as part of a team, flexibility, analytical skills and many others. You can think of STAR stories that highlight those skills, knowing that they’ll probably ask questions to get you to talk about them!