Answering Behavior Based Interview Questions- STAR Technique

Questions that start with "Tell me about a time when..." are popular because they show how you've handled difficult situations in the past - which is a good indicator of how you will deal with similar situations in the future.

Spend time thinking about your strengths, skills and stories to illustrate to an employer. Your research on the employer/occupation will tell you the skills required for a particular job.  Be specific.

All good stories have a beginning (setting up the situation/task), a middle (where the action takes place) and an end (the result or relevance of your behaviour).  Remember, you want to discuss what you did or accomplished in the story.

The STAR Technique

Some Typical Behaviour-Based Questions:

  • Describe your most disappointing and frustrating experience in gaining the support of others for an idea or proposal.

  • Tell me about a time when you had to work hard in order to fully understand what another person was saying to you.

  • Describe the last time you did something at school/work that went well beyond expectations.

  • Give me an example of a time in which you felt you were able to motivate your co-workers in school/work.

  • Tell me about a time when you dealt effectively with conflict.

  • Describe the most significant written document, report or presentation that you have completed.

The STAR Technique for Answering Interview Questions

S/T- Situation/ Task


R- Result/ Relevance

This technique will ensure you answer all aspects of the question you've been asked.

Interview Question: Tell me about a time when you had to explain detailed information to someone.

STEP 1: Think of a story you can tell to illustrate the example.

STEP 2: Start by describing the situation and the task you were assigned ~ Situation and Task

Situation/Task – Working in Laboratory Services at the University of Guelph, there were often visiting researchers who needed to have detailed protocols explained before they were allowed into the labs. In the past, the researchers were given a 10-minute tour.

STEP 3 - Talk about the action you took that illustrates the skill you've been asked about ~ Action

Action – To ensure consistency, I developed a comprehensive one-page document that was reviewed with each researcher in addition to the tour. They had to read and sign the document before being allowed into the labs.

STEP 4 - Explain how it turned out and how it relates to the job ~ Result  ~ Relevance

Result – Since implementing the system the information that needed to be communicated was always available, and we thereby decreased safety violations by 20%. As well, the system was made more efficient because now anyone working in the lab can administer the procedure to visiting researchers.

Relevance – I found a way to ensure detailed information was more clearly understood, and lab safety was increased. If I am the successful candidate, I would assess current communication procedures to determine if more efficient methods could be implemented.


  • Think about stories that illustrate your competence and skill. 
  • Don’t try to “wing it” during the interview, be prepared with examples.
  • Be specific and use STAR. 
  • Don’t give the employer an “I usually ...” answer.  Give them a specific example of a situation where you can demonstrate the skill.
  • Talk about your role in the story – what action did YOU take.  The story should focus around you – not your supervisor or co-workers.
  • The bulk of the answer should focus on the results and relevance to the position.