In the interviews, you’ll come across behavioural questions and questions about your skills. These are the questions to which we often hear comments like, “They asked me again how I handle stressful situations and how I function in a team. Oh, those HR people and their psychological questions.”
However, employers ask you these questions to get an insight into how you handle situations that are important for the job you’re applying for. We believe that with good preparation you’ll be able to answer these questions well, and the S.T.A.R. technique will help you to do this.
Okay, and what’re the behavioural questions?
As the name suggests, behavioural questions are those that ask you about your behaviour in a particular situation. The topics vary, but most questions are related to the job you’re applying for. Examples of question topics include:
- coping with stress,
- communicating with colleagues,
- presenting ideas to colleagues and/or supervisors,
- problem solving,
- making (unpopular) decisions,
- dealing with failure, time management,
- making a priority list in stressful situations,
- resolving conflict situations with colleagues
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. With this technique, you can answer questions about skills or behaviours fully and clearly while describing the specific situation, activities and results achieved.
Begin your answer with a description of the situation or task related to the question, or the skills or knowledge required. Describe a specific situation or event and avoid a generalised description of all similar situations that have happened to you in the past. Give as much detail as possible in your answer so that your interviewer can get a better picture of the situation and understand it better. You can give an example of a situation from your previous or current job, your volunteer work, a personal or university project, a related private situation, and any other relevant situation.
After describing the situation, state what exactly was your task and responsibility in the given situation (not the task of the whole team if it was a group project, for example).
Describe the activities that led you to complete the task set, giving enough detail to show that you used your knowledge and skills in these activities. Focus on what you did and the specific steps you took to achieve the goal. Be careful not to describe what the other team members did, for example, in the project you gave as an example. When describing your activities and tasks, use “I”, not “we”.
Finally, show what the result of your action was. What happened? How was the situation resolved? What contribution did you make and/or what did you achieve? What new knowledge, insights and skills did you acquire thanks to the situation described? It’s good if you can list more than one positive result. It’s important to mention your results in the situation described, regardless of whether the situation led to a positive or negative outcome. Sometimes even a situation with an extremely negative outcome can show your strengths (e.g., losing a match can show that you’re good at dealing with failure).
What would this look like in practise?
Employer’s question: Describe a situation where you had to solve a task in a short time.
In my current job, where I work as a student, there was a situation where a colleague who worked with me in the team resigned (situation) and I was asked to take over his tasks in the project he was working on because there wasn’t enough staff. The deadline for the project was one week (task). After I found out that I’d take over his part of the project (action), I first asked my colleagues who were working with him where exactly he’d left off and what exactly I was supposed to take over. Then I prioritised my tasks and solved them one by one. If I’d questions, I first tried to find the solution myself, and if that wasn’t possible, especially because of the short deadline, I asked my colleagues for help. In the end, we finished the project one day before the deadline and the client was very happy with the final product (result). After that I came to the conclusion that although I usually like to organise my tasks in advance and take enough time for each task, I also work well in stressful situations (new insights from the situation).
To help you prepare for answering behavioural questions, we’ve prepared material for you that will guide you through answering behavioural questions. If you’ve any further questions, please feel free to make an appointment with the career counsellor.