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How To Answer Behavioral Interview Questions

Prospective employers love to ask you behavioral interview questions (also called situational interview questions). These kinds of questions dig a little deeper into what makes you tick. The answers to behavioral interview questions reveal how you have handled real-world situations in the past, which predict how you will probably behave in similar situations in the future. More importantly, they show an employer how you approach and solve problems—which is a valuable thing to know about a potential employee.


We almost always have to answer behavioral questions with some kind of example or story. Questions that begin with “Tell me about a time when you…" or “How have you handled…" invite you to tell a story or describe a particular situation where you accomplished a goal, solved a problem, or overcame a challenge at work.

One of the challenges with these kinds of interview questions is that it can be all too easy to get caught up in the story and miss making your point. Your point, in any story you tell (or in answering any interview question), is to give them one more reason why you're a great candidate for the position.

The best way to effectively answer any behavioral interview question is to always frame your story in a particular structure, called the STAR technique.

What Is The STAR Technique?

STAR stands for "Situation or Task," "Action," and "Result." Most people have no trouble retelling the situation and the action they took. But it's very easy to forget about telling the result, which is the most important part.

When you tell your story, tell it like this:

Situation Or Task

Job candidate answers a behavioral interview question with the STAR technique

Set the scene for your story. What was the situation? What task were you faced with? Give it some context, and show them what the problem was.

Action

Professional man answers behavioral questions during a job interview

Talk about your thought or decision-making process that led to your choosing an "Action" to take. Walk them through it with you:

"Because of X, Y, and Z, I looked at A, B, and C and decided that our best course of action was to do G."

Result

Professional woman answers behavioral interview questions during a job interview

This is the most important part of the STAR technique. Obviously, this needs to be a positive, happy ending. If at all possible, quantify your result. This means to describe your result in terms of numbers, dollars, or percentages. For example:

"I saved the company $47,000."

"I reduced our losses by 30%."

"I saved a customer relationship worth $1M per year."

"We were able to hire 6 new employees and increased our production by 400%."

Whatever your results were, quantify them. This is the "wow" moment in your story. Numbers provide hard evidence that you did what you said you did, and put your achievement in context. This is the surest way to impress potential employers.

All the stories you can tell that show how you approached a problem or task, thought critically about it, and made good, solid decision that benefit your company will help you stand out in the interview and get the offer.

Discover what key competencies hiring managers look for with behavioral interview questions, and weave the themes of your stories into a compelling reason to hire you in Career Confidential's Behavioral Interview Podcast.


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