Behavioral based interviews are all the rage these days. If you have not yet heard the term, you will soon. The basic idea is that an interviewer will ask you a series of questions that will draw out answers that show a pattern of behavior from the candidate. These questions are based upon the logic that there is no better indicator of future performance as past performance. As such, good interviews are those that elicit examples of past success…or failures.

Answering behavioral questions can be stressful for those unfamiliar with the process. I highly recommend using the following model called the S.T.A.R. answer:

The-Star-Method

  • S- Situation: Lay out the background of the example you are about to discuss.
  • T-Task: Explain some of the key task you had to complete or overcome in to resolve the situation
  • A-Actions: Detail the specific actions you took or initiated. Be exhaustive.
  • R-Results: Finish up by outlining the results you achieved and how you resolved the situation.

The reason I suggest the S.T.A.R. method is that studies have shown that people retain information the best when it is presented as a story. The S.T.A.R. method is a great way to package your relevant work/academic experiences as easy to comprehend mini-stories. When constructing your S.T.A.R. answer, aim for about 3:00 minutes in length. This is about the maximum amount of time that someone can listen to you before the start thinking about other things. There is no point talking about how you implemented an effective client database if the interviewer is wondering what they might eat for dinner.

Also, when you detail the results as part of your answer, be sure to tie your skills into the needs of the employer. This can be easily done by saying something like “…And I would be able to bring my [insert ability/skill] to task in this position as you are in need of someone who can [insert job responsibility].

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Constructing good S.T.A.R. answers on the spot can be tricky at first and there is no way we can predict exactly what questions you might be asked. However, if you build a set of S.T.A.R. answers before hand you will be well prepared to answer questions and you will have a stronger idea on how to construct S.T.A.R. answers on the fly. I have noticed that most behavioral questions usual circle these three general areas:

  • A time you had a success and what you did to achieve it
  • A time when you had a challenge and what you did to overcome it.
  • A time when you had a failure and what you learned from it.

If you can prepare examples for these three themes for each distinct entry of your resume, you will be well prepared to answer almost any behavioral question like a star.

If you have any questions about interviewing or if you would like to practice answering behavioral questions using the S.T.A.R. methodology, please come by the Careers and Employer Partnerships centre. We are located in TRS 2-148. I hope to see you around.

Posted by Dan Kennedy

Dan Kennedy is Manager of the TRSM Business Career Hub. He has over 10 years of experience helping students successfully navigate the job search process. His areas of expertise are resume writing, interviews, and Batman-related trivia.

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