You're in a job interview and you hear:

"Tell us about a time when you ... "

How do you respond?

This is a behavioral interview question. The interviewer is looking to hear a story about how you used your skills in a specific situation.

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The STAR Technique

It can be difficult to come up with an answer on the spot. Use the STAR technique to prepare examples in advance.

STAR stands for: Situation, Task, Action, Results

Watch the short video below for an overview of the STAR Technique in action.

Quiz

Which of these questions can benefit from the STAR technique?

Why did you leave your last job?

What salary are you seeking?

Do you have a car and license to drive?

How do you handle conflict?

Preparation

Before your interview, think about your past work and volunteer experiences, your accomplishments, and your challenges.

Use the STAR technique to write 5 stories you can use to answer common questions during your job interview.

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Scenario

Let's look at a specific example.

Tell us about a time when you had to work with a team to complete a project on a tight deadline.

Situation

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Give context for the example.

  • Where were you working at the time?

  • What was your role?

  • When did the event happen?

  • What were the circumstances?

***

3 years ago, I was working as a marketing manager at Company Y. We discovered a missing piece on a project the week before it was due.

Task

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What were you asked to do?

What was the goal or desired outcome?

Tip: The task is often part of the question.

***

I was asked to coordinate with the project team to complete the missing piece and deliver the project on time, within 5 days.

Action

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What action did you take?

Walk through the steps you performed towards achieving the goal.

Be specific!

***

I met with the project team and created an action plan with a detailed timeline. I scheduled daily check-ins so we could address any obstacles quickly.

Result

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What was the outcome?

Did you accomplish the task?

What were the lessons learned?

***

By assigning tasks based on the strength of each team member, and keeping the lines of communication open, we completed the missing piece with a day to spare. The client was so impressed he hired us to work on his next campaign.

Take Action

Use STAR when an interviewer asks, "Tell us about a time when you ... "

  • Situation: Set context for the story, including obstacles to overcome.

  • Task: Describe your responsibility in that situation, goal, or desired outcome.

  • Action: Explain exactly what steps you took to achieve the desired outcome.

  • Results: Share the outcome of your actions, including successes and lessons learned.

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You Try It!

Use STAR to prepare an example for each of these common interview questions for your next interview:

Tell us about a time when you ...

  • ... solved a difficult problem.

  • ... took responsibility for a mistake.

  • ... showed initiative.

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This Byte has been authored by

KA

Kitzzy Avilés

Learning and Development Leader and Facilitator