Behavioral job interview questions are some of the most common interview questions you will encounter when looking for a new job. Behavioral interview questions often begin with a phrase such as, “Tell me about a time…” or “Give me an example…”
In this article, I share how to answer behavioral job interview questions. Then, I break down my STAR(T) formula for answering behavioral interview questions. I conclude with an example answer to a behavioral interview question using my STAR(T) formula.
How To Answer Behavioral Job Interview Questions
Most interview coaches and job search experts recommend using the popular STAR method to answer behavioral interview questions. While this formula can work well, I instead recommend my modified formula that adds an extra T at the end for “Tie (your answer back to the company and position)”:
- S = Situation
- T = Task
- A = Actions
- R = Results
- T = Tie (your answer back to the company and position)
The fifth step in this highly effective formula is an important addition as you want to connect the dots between your story and the company/position interviewing for. This fifth step is particularly important if you are changing industries or job functions.
STAR(T) Formula For Answering Behavioral Interview Questions
You can use my STAR(T) formula to answer nearly any behavioral interview question. The following is an in-depth breakdown of the five-part STAR(T) formula.
Part 1: Situation
First, describe the situation (some interview coaches refer to this step as the setting). Provide enough context for the interviewer to understand your subsequent story as well as the impact on your organization.
Tip: You want to avoid the mistake of excessively narrating the situation. A good rule of thumb is to keep this portion of your answer to two sentences in length maximum.
Part 2: Task
Next, narrate your specific task. Be sure to highlight if this task was beyond your day-to-day responsibilities. Also, expound if you were specifically sought out by leadership to complete this project or initiative.
Tip: Like the first step, keep your task to a few sentences in length maximum. This is important because you want to focus most of your story on your actions, followed by the results.
Part 3: Action
After you have set the stage, you want to explain the actions you took. You want to be detailed here. For instance, explain the cross-functional partners you collaborated with and influenced. Further, recount how your approach was different or unique from your peers. In other words, articulate what makes you fabulous and how it made you successful in the situation at hand.
Tip: Because the interview is about you and your leadership prowess, most of your answer should focus on the actions you took.
Part 4: Results
Now, describe the results of the previously mentioned actions you took. Explain the impact your actions had on your colleagues, your clients, and your company.
Tip: Think about why the CEO and shareholders would care about the work you executed. Avoid the mistake of holding back. This is your time to shine!
Part 5: Tie (Your Answer Back To The Company And Position)
Finally, you want to connect the dots for the interviewer. Express how your answer is relevant to the company you are interviewing with. If your story was from your experience at a retail giant but you are interviewing with Meta, for instance, you want to illustrate how your experience is relevant to the tech industry. But don’t stop there. Spell out how this story relates to the job posting.
Tip: This portion of your answer does not have to be lengthy. And, if the connection between your story and the company/position is clear, you can also highlight how your answer connects back to the interviewer’s question.
Example Behavioral Interview Answer: STAR(T) Story — Speaking at the International Gay Coaches Conference
Now that you understand how to answer a behavioral interview question using the STAR(T) method, I want to share an example behavioral interview answer using the STAR(T) formula. My hope is this example serves as inspiration as you create your own story.
Situation Example: I was scheduled to co-develop and co-present the 6-hour Pre-Conference Institute at the International Gay Coaches Conference in New York. With less than two weeks’ notice, my fellow presenter backed out of the speaking engagement, leaving me on my own to develop and present an interactive workshop for 20 gay coaches.
Task Example: I had less than 2 weeks to turn a co-led workshop into a solo workshop. I needed to develop an extra 3 hours of learning curriculum on a topic area I had no prior knowledge of.
Action Example: I began by completing a deep dive on the co-presenter’s assigned topic. I then reviewed my preexisting curriculum to see what content I could strategically repurpose for this workshop. Next, I reformulated my workshop agenda to integrate the 3 hours of newly developed content. This sets me apart from other professional speakers because I am highly skilled in pivoting at a moment’s notice.
Once I arrived at the conference, I intentionally mingled with attendees to gain their trust and buy-in; I wanted allies I could count on during my session. Then, once the workshop commenced, I was honest with participants about the co-presenter situation in case there were any hiccups. This further sets me apart from other professional speakers because I bring authenticity and honesty to everything speaking engagement.
Result Example: The workshop was an overwhelming success. Attendees shared responses such as, “This was a masterclass in coaching.” After the session, the conference organizers repeatedly shared that attendees received immense value from my workshop. Additionally, I was invited to serve on the organization’s Conference Program Committee.
Tie Example: This is only one example of my experience in developing and facilitating high-impact workshops for diverse audiences.
Now, it’s your turn to craft a STAR(T) story. I hope these behavioral interview tips inspire you as you prepare for your next interview. You’ve got this!