How to Answer Behavioural Interview Questions Using the STAR Technique

People tend to panic when they prepare for interviews and are expecting behavioural interview questions or competency-based questions. They feel how impossible it is to guess what they might be asked. It can be a daunting prospect.  Not really. It needn’t be. You must know what qualities and experience the job you applied for demands. Prove you have them. Use the “STAR” technique – standing for  SituationTaskActivity and Result.

STAR is the Outline of Your Story-form Answer

Using STAR to prepare Behavioural Interview Questions is a matter of applying  the technique to the job description and person specification  on the original application form. These should be a good guide in telling you what qualities the employer needs you to display. (For a simple example, a Team Leader or Management role would require examples of you showing evidence of leadership potential or experience.) The STAR model helps you to shape and tell your best “stories”.

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Breaking Down the STAR Process to Answer Behavioural Interview Questions

 S for Situation

When asked a behavioural interview question, it’s best to give your answer in the form of a brief story. First, describe the situation in order to set up context. What exactly was the problem? How did the problem directly relate to the skill identified in the interviewer’s question?

Say, for example, you were asked to show that you could take a sensible intiative to avert a workplace crisis. Here is an example of how it works:

S (Example Situation)

 “At my current job, as Practice Manager at a busy surgery, an angry patient can cause upset and distress to everyone in the waiting room. A month ago a woman burst in and began abusing the receptionist when she was asked if she had an appointment or an emergency. She was very loud and used a lot of swear words. I heard the receptionist threaten to call the police.”

Notice how the language is specific and concise.

T forTask

The task describes exactly, was required of you. Again, it helps to add detail.

“I saw my first task as being to remove the abusive woman from the public area, and find out what the issue was, and resolve it if possible.”

“I came out into Reception – which reassured the receptionists and patients  – and waited a few moments until the woman ran out of steam. She was red in the face and I thought looked unwell. My colleague explained that the issue was about the lady’s husband and his Test results. She was demanding to see his Doctor then and there. I confirmed this with the woman, who nodded.

A for Activity

Activity describes the actual steps you took to achieve your goal. It’s what you did. Sure you specify what YOU did, not just the team. It’s YOU they are interviewing.

 “I asked her to come into the back office, sat down making sure I could reach the door if necessary, and asked her to sit as well. I asked if she was our patient, which she wasn’t, and explained that we couldn’t interrupt her husband’s doctor when he was seeing another patient. I promised to leave a message about the test results, which were for diabetes. I took their phone number, and gave her water to drink. It seemed likely that she had emotional or mental health issues. I explained that our receptionist had been trying to help her, and she said she was sorry for her behaviour” 

R for Result

The result describes how the situation ultimately played out. Use data and numbers if possible. Make sure to clearly identify your accomplishments and end on a positive note.

 “The woman understood that we were not holding back the test results, which were for routine monitoring. She told me about her own health problems and I suggested she see her own GP. She left very calmly.” 

The STAR technique is actually recommended by employers. These Interview Questions also occur on Application Forms, and it is clever to have your behavioural / competency examples written down. STAR is just as effective in writing.