Some of the most revealing questions employers will ask you in a job interview are the ones about your past work experience and challenges. They want to know what your work style was, what you accomplished, and how you dealt with challenges. The theory is that how you have behaved in previous roles should serve as a reliable indicator of how you will behave in future ones.
How you answer those questions can also indicate how self-aware you are, and how much you’ve learned on the job. A career-minded candidate will be able to articulate their on-the-job struggles, achievements, and progression.
For many people, these situational questions are also the most difficult to answer on the spot. You could stumble over what to say or end up rambling on too long if you aren’t prepared with a structural answer to questions about your work experience.
Fortunately, there is an easy to remember the formula for crafting professional answers to behavioural questions like a STAR. Keep the word STAR in mind, and then talk about your work by explaining the Situation, describing what your Task was, telling them the Actions you took, and what the Results were.
For example, here is a behavioural question. Could you give me an example of a time when you were assigned a challenging goal and how were able to reach or achieve it?
A STAR answer:
When I was hired as the lead editor for Acme.com, they were losing traffic to two rival publications that were cutting into their market share.
My department was tasked with delivering a traffic increase of 37% over the previous 12 months – with no additional resources.
I used real-time analytics to gain an in-depth understanding of how users interacted with our website. By watching precisely what stories, headlines, and placements earned the most engagement from visitors, I was able to optimize the editorial choices for maximum returns.
Within three months, my team had doubled the key metrics of visits, unique visitors, and page views, far exceeding the targets we were assigned without spending a penny more on advertising or editorial.
Most behavioural job interview questions will begin with openings like “Tell me about a time when…”, “Describe a situation where…”, or “Could you provide an example of …”
This is your opportunity to shine. Think of a challenge, an accomplishment, or whatever scenario fits the question and then talk about the situation, task, action, and the results. A sentence or two for each will keep your answer brief, professional, and on-topic.
If you to pause and gather your thoughts before answering, that’s okay too. Remember the three-second rule for job interviews.