Just Think STAR

golden stars
Published: Sunday, March 20, 2016 by Jill Klees

What accomplishment are you most proud of? Give me your best example of providing outstanding customer service. What does being a team player mean to you and share an example that demonstrates it? How do you build rapport with a difficult team member? If you are in job / internship search mode, you might very well be faced with answering one of these thought provoking questions. These questions are situational or behavioral interview questions, and the interviewer is looking for a particular kind of answer from you.

It might help to understand the big picture of where these questions are coming from.  The purpose of asking situational or behavioral questions is:

• to get to know you,
• to understand your work style,
• to see how you handle stressful situations, and
• to learn more about your personality style.

Because the interviewer is trying to determine if you are a good fit for the job, the team, and the company culture, you’ll want to answer these questions using examples of real “work” situations versus using examples from your personal life. Relating your answers to the needs of the job you are seeking is a huge plus too.

The interviewer is looking for specific examples of a time when you dealt with certain situations and he/she wants to know specifically what you did, how you did it and the result or outcome you achieved. Even if the question seems like you could provide a quick answer or brush over the specifics by providing generalities, that is not what you want to do to make and leave a lasting impression. You’ve got to go deeper.

You can go deeper by first using the job description as your guide. When you are prepping for your interview, pay close attention to the qualifications the employer is seeking. Secondly, prepare to talk about examples from your “work” experiences that demonstrate how you have these qualities. Examples can come from work, course projects, volunteer, and internship experiences. Then, finally practice answering situational or behavioral questions using the STAR method. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

Just think STAR and use this formula to briefly describe the situation and/or task you were involved in, demonstrate the specific action (s) you took, and then follow-up with the result or outcome. Using this method will keep you on track and ensure that you fully answer the question. Review the iSchool Career Development Interviewing pages for more on how to prepare, plan, and practice for your next interview.

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