Undergraduate Career Services

Mastering the "STAR" Method

Behavioral Interview

Behavioral interviews are designed to provide the interviewer with information about how you think and behave in situations. Hiring managers are interested in your method of thinking and going about doing a task as well as how you respond in difficult situations.

Advantages

  • The point of the question is clear
  • Researching the job and the company can help
  • Your recent behavior is the focus

Disadvantages

  • Missing or inappropriate behaviors are more apparent
  • Work history and accomplishments may be easier for you to describe than behaviors
  • Traditional interviews are more spontaneous; in behavioral interviews, you have less influence on the agenda

STAR Method

An effective way to answer behavioral questions is to provide the interviewer with four pieces of information:

S = Situation
T = Task
A = Action
R = Results

10 Common Behavioral Interview Questions

  • Give me an example of how you exercised leadership in a recent situation.
  • Describe a time when you managed a project.
  • Think about a recent project you were assigned. How did you manage your time and organize the project?
  • Tell me about how you use your communication skills, written and oral.
  • What would you do if you had a conflict with a co-worker?
  • Tell me about a time when you were under a great deal of pressure. What was the source of the pressure and what did you do?
  • Tell me about a decision you have made recently and how you reached it.
  • Please tell me about a recent team you worked on and what was the outcome?
  • Tell me about how you persuade people to accept your point-of-view.
  • Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult customer. How did you deal with it?

Additional Behavioral Interview Questions

What steps would you take in organizing a ____ event?
What is the worst situation you have faced in a job? How did you deal with it? What happened?
What was the most difficult ethical decision you have had to make? What was the result?
Tell me about a time when you were held accountable for a problem that you hadn’t caused.
Think about changes you have seen and tell me how you handle change.
Tell me about a time you were criticized, what the issue was, who criticized you, and how you handled it.
How do you build a team under you?
Give me an example of a time when you did not have enough information to do your job. Describe the steps you took.
Give me a specific example of a time when you sold someone on an idea or concept.
Tell me about a time when you made a bad decision.

Using the STAR Method

Be prepared to delve deeper into the situation you use as an example. Sometimes interviewers will pick apart the story to try to isolate specific skills they are seeking.

  • Situation: Give an example of a situation you were involved in that had a positive outcome. Situation can be from a previous co-op, volunteer experience, class project, or any relevant event.
  • Task: Describe the tasks involved in that situation. Clearly articulate to the interviewer what needed to be done.
  • Action: Talk about the various actions involved in the situation’s task. If you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did. Don’t tell what you might do, tell what you did.
  • Results: What results directly followed because of your actions. What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn? Try to quantify whenever possible.

Whenever possible quantify your results. Why?

  • Numbers illustrate your level of authority and responsibility. Ex: As a shift supervisor I was responsible for training all new employees. I trained about 12 new employees there. I was also the team leader for a group of 5 employees I assigned tasks to and evaluated their performance.
  • Numbers illustrate the level of your success of the effectiveness of your actions. Ex: The marketing campaign resulted in a 15% increase in sales of ____. The four follow-up phone calls resulted in a 94% survey completion rate.
  • Numbers illustrate the amount of experience you have. Ex: I reconciled the sales reports of $5000-$20000 on a daily basis for a year.

Example of a STAR Answer

Question 1:

Tell me about a time when you took initiative on a project?

Answer 1:

(Situation) During my last co-op, I was responsible for managing various company sponsored events.

(Task) I noticed that attendance at these events had dropped by over 30% over the past three years and wanted to do something to improve these numbers.

(Action) I designed a new promotional packet to go out to the local community businesses. I also included a rating sheet/consumer survey to collect feedback on our events and organized internal round table discussions to raise awareness of the issue with our employees. I also tapped into my social media marketing skills and launched a social media strategy utilizing Facebook and Twitter platforms in order promote company events, increase awareness, and spark new ideas from followers.

(Result) We utilized some of the wonderful ideas we received from the community, made our internal systems more efficient and visible and raised attendance by 18% the first year.

Question 2:

Describe a time when you were under a great deal of pressure?

Answer 2:

(Situation) During my last co-op, I was a part of the sales and marketing team. I was responsible for working with sales representatives to create and customize marketing materials and work on new client proposal kits/pitches.

(Task) About six weeks into the start of my co-op, my department was tasked with two large scale client proposals each totaling up to $1million in potential sales with a month turnaround time. Being short staffed, my manager assigned me as the primary point-of-contact and project manager on both potential accounts.

(Action) I immediate scheduled daily meetings with each of the sales managers assigned to the project. We were able to lay out a workable plan outlining actions, deliverables and agreed upon deadlines to guarantee sales materials would be available for each client pitch.

(Result) While it was challenging and involved long hours, the pay-off was that we were able to sign contracts with both new clients, totaling over $2 million in sales in less than three weeks.