Have you ever been in a job interview where the employer begins a question with the phrase, “Tell me about a time when…?”  You may have been asked to describe a time you’ve worked well with a team, a time you’ve implemented a creative solution to a problem, or a time you’ve faced an ethical dilemma.  If you have come across these types of questions, you may have found they can seem a bit tricky to answer.  These types of questions are referred to as behaviorial interview questions.  When asking behavior questions, the employer is hoping to gauge what type of skill set you have in an effort to determine how successful you’ll be in a future job.  Employers often feel that past behavior is the best predictor for future behavior.  This blog will introduce you to a strategy to help you answer these questions and a few tips on how to best prepare.

The S.T.A.R. interview technique gives you a way to frame the answers to your questions.  Utilizing the technique will ensure you are giving enough information in your answer in a way that is well organized.  S.T.A.R. stands for:

S – Situation: Describe the logistics of your experience (time, place, position, etc).
T – Task: Share what you were responsible for accomplishing.
A – Action: Share how you accomplished the task.
R – Result: Explain what came as a result of your work.

To further explore that method, I will share an example of a question and answer framed in this way.

Question: Tell me about a time when you implemented a creative solution to a problem.


  • Situation — I was an intern in the advertising department of the Daily News.
  • Task — Advertising revenue was falling off and large numbers of long term advertisers were not renewing their contracts.
  • Action — I designed a new promotional packet to go with the rate sheet.  I compared the benefits of Daily News circulation with other ad media in this area.  I also set up a special training session for the Account Executives with a marketing professor to discuss competitive selling strategies.
  • Result — We signed contracts with 15 former advertisers for daily ads and 4 for special supplements.  We also increased our new advertisers by 20%

When answering behavioral questions, be sure to be specific, use relevant experiences, and place the focus of your answer on your strengths, skills, and accomplishments.  To help you prepare for these questions, you can also complete the following exercise to help you brainstorm stories.

Brainstorming Exercise

Take a close look at the job description and pick out four characteristics you believe the employer would find valuable in a new employee.  Next, reflect on your experiences and think of two times you demonstrated each of the characteristics.  Write out these eight experiences in the S.T.A.R. format and practice telling them to a friend, partner, family member, or pet.  The more familiar you get with telling your stories, the more prepared you will feel to tackle any question that is thrown your way.

If you have interest in practicing this interview technique, please make a mock interview appointment with our office by calling 541-737-4085.  You can also use the online program InterviewStream through Beaver JobNet.  Good luck!

Posted by Bobbi Hutcheson, Career Services Graduate Assistant

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a reply