Crushing a Behavioral Based Interview

How many times have you been in an interview and heard “Tell me about a time when…”?  This interviewing technique is known as Behavioral Based Interviewing, and is designed to help interviewers learn about past behaviors and traits in order to understand what skills and traits you would apply to the job for which you are interviewing.

It’s easy to get lost in figuring out the best way to answer these questions, or to find yourself overthinking the answer.  So what is the best method to answering Behavioral Based questions?

When answering these questions, simply remember STAR. STAR is an acronym that stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

  • Situation/Task: What was the exact and specific situation or task with which you were confronted. You should not generalize when answering. Appropriate situations or tasks could be from previous jobs, internships, school, volunteer experiences, etc…
  • Action: You should give specific actions that you took; if you were part of a group or team, be sure you focus on your role. There should typically be more than one layer when discussing the actions taken.
  • Results: What was the outcome; good, bad or indifferent? What was learned from this event? How did this outcome impact future operations?

So how does this work in real interviews?  Here is a scenario where the STAR method is and isn’t used in answering the interviewer’s question:

Where the STAR method hasn’t been used:

“That is a great question.  I was in a team once where we were tasked with creating a new product that could demonstrate some promising growth numbers.  As we began to create the product, it became clear that one aspect was working extremely well while the rest was not working.  We focused on what was working soon after that realization.  Ultimately, the project hit the goal.”

Where the STAR method has been used:

“That’s a great question. In my previous role, a cross-functional team was used to develop a product using someone from every department in the company. The goal was to create a new revenue stream that could show some early growth. Since it was a small organization, the team was five members total and I assumed the role of project manager.

Coming from more of a design/creative role, taking on the PM responsibilities was a personal challenge I wanted to grow my skills. Once the tasks were created and delegated, we started to roll up our sleeves and build the product. Unfortunately, because I was a rookie project manager, some of the tasks were out of order. The good news is our team had great communication and the problem was quickly fixed. As I was assessing the progress of the product, I noticed that one of the features was out performing all other features combined. After I discussed this with the team, we decided to shift gears and focus on that one element. I had to re-do the entire project plan. This time without any workflow hitches.

The results were good for the company. We created a product that showed some early signs of growth but for drastically different reasons than we originally intended. With great communication, being agile to shift gears and knowing where to put our time, we made a product that started to generate new revenue. “

The difference between the two methods is clear. Unless you are under intense time pressure for your interview, the first non-STAR answer glosses over everything that helped you grow your career and doesn’t allow the interviewer to gain insight into what skills you will be able to transfer to their workforce.

If you can remember the STAR Method, you can crush any Behavioral Based Interview.

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