April 21, 2022
Situational style questions are favourites for many interviewers and you can expect to have at least one of these posed to you during the hiring process. Whatever type of interview you have coming up, using the STAR approach to help you prepare is hugely beneficial. We look at what STAR is and how you can use it to get to the next rung on the career ladder.
A situational question can also be referred to as a behavioural question. They are questions designed to bring out detailed responses of when you were in a challenging situation and how you dealt with it. You can usually identify a question like this as the interviewer will typically begin by saying, ‘can you tell me about a time when you…’ In some cases, you may be asked a hypothetical behavioural question such as ‘what would you if…’ In either case, adopting the STAR method will help you answer well.
The STAR method is a framework you can use to make sure you are answering situational questions comprehensively and concisely. It is an acronym that stands for situation, task, action and result. Companies use this method as one of the ways to discover if you are the best fit for the role.
During an interview, you are not expected to provide a detailed monologue of a past crisis, but it can be easy to go off topic or into too much detail, especially if you are nervous. The STAR method helps to keep you in check, and the listener engaged.
Start by setting the scene. Briefly explain the circumstances around the challenge you faced. Use a work or professional situation rather than something personal. If you do not have any work experience to refer to, you can use an example of something that happened in your educational journey or any volunteer work you have done.
Go on to explain what your task was in the situation you are describing and what the goal was. What were your responsibilities in this scenario? At this point, you can be fairly succinct, mentioning just one or two points.
What actions did you take during the process? This part of the STAR is the place where you should provide the most detail. Your reaction or action is the element where interviewers will lean in to see how you respond to certain situations. While you should still be succinct, you can elaborate on what you did specifically in this situation. Interviewers are looking to assess your time management skills, how you deal with conflicts, and how you communicate. Bear these things in mind when you are preparing responses to help you stay focussed on the impression you want to give.
As you talk through your situation you will naturally move on to emphasise what happened as a result and any key learnings you made along the way. When you are thinking of a situation, choose one where there is a positive result or a result you can put a positive spin on.
Below is an example of how you might answer a situational interview question:
‘Tell me about a time when you demonstrated good communication skills’.
Situation – When I worked at an advertising agency, we had an unhappy client who we needed to reassure we were working hard for.
Task – my job was to listen and really understand the client’s position, and to demonstrate the activities we were doing on their behalf and the results we were achieving for them.
Action – I scheduled regular weekly meetings where the team shared all the details of the activities we were undertaking. I also communicated to the project team what was happening and what we needed to do to fulfil the needs of the client.
Result – over 6 months, we had regular meetings and the client was satisfied with the work we were doing, later commissioning further projects for us to take on.
Although situational questions are somewhat unpredictable, using the STAR approach will structure your preparation well and serve as a good reference during an interview, overall making you feel more confident and able.Back to Blog