Job interviews are often an important part of the path to work and knowing how to prepare for them can give you an advantage during the hiring process. Consider the STAR method to help you answer behavioral questions during your next interview.

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Be a STAR in Your Next Interview

Apr 16, 2019

Do you have a job interview coming up? Congratulations! Job interviews are often an important part of the path to work and knowing how to prepare for them can give you an advantage during the job-application process.

Today, we take a look at one type of question you may face and show you an approach for answering that will help you stand out to an interviewer.

Behavioral questions

Often, interviews will include what's known as "behavioral" questions. These questions offer you the opportunity to talk about your past experience and offer specific details about how you accomplished goals or solved problems in a previous position, whether it was in a past job, during a volunteer project or an internship. Being prepared for this type of question can help you highlight some of your strengths.

Some examples of behavioral questions may include:

  • How have you handled challenges or tasks in the workplace that you may not have had prior experience with?
  • Give an example of how you solved a problem that a team was facing.
  • Can you tell me about a time when you didn't achieve a goal and how you handled it?

STAR answers

The best way to approach behavioral questions is to use the STAR method. This helps you break down a scenario and explain how you successfully navigated it.

Situation: Offer some background on what the task or challenge was that you'll be addressing

Task: Define what your role was and what your responsibilities were for the particular situation

Action: Explain what steps you took or ideas you offered to help solve the problem or tackle that challenge

Result: Share how the situation was resolved, highlighting how your actions helped reach that conclusion

Here's an example:

If you're interviewing for a customer-service job, you may be asked how you've addressed difficult situations in the past when dealing with customers.

An interviewer wants to know that you're able to remain calm while dealing with a customer, including someone who is frustrated, while finding a solution that's beneficial to both the company and its customer.

If you've worked in customer service before, you can call on any experience you may have with customers attempting to return a purchase without a receipt.

Situation: "An unhappy customer was attempting to return an item without a receipt. While the customer wanted a full refund, company policy indicated that returns without a receipt were eligible only for store credit."

Task: "As the customer service representative helping him, it was my job to listen to him and find a resolution that both satisfied him and aligned with the company's policy of not allowing a full refund without a receipt."

Action: "First, I apologized for the inconvenience and asked for more information on why he wanted to return the item. Once the customer voiced his issues with the return policy, he indicated that the returned item was meant as a gift. I was able to talk with him about what sort of gift he was looking for and offered to help him find another item."

Result: "The customer accepted my help and I assisted him in picking out a new gift option that was the same price as the original item he was returning so that the store credit would cover the cost of the new item in full. He was thankful for the help and indicated that he was very happy with his experience."

In this scenario, an interviewer might recognize your ability to follow company policy while appreciating the value of a customer by apologizing for the inconvenience and providing additional help. While others may have just apologized that it was the policy, a resolution like the one above highlights that you made sure the customer felt taken care of and was encouraged to come back in the future.

As you prepare for your next interview, think about some of the projects you've worked on and challenges you've faced in the past. Then break each scenario down into the STAR structure: what the problem was, what your responsibility was in finding a solution, what actions you took, and how the issue was resolved. Thinking about these scenarios before an interview may help you feel confident answering during the interview.

If you're working with a Ticket to Work service provider who offers interview preparation help, talk with them about some of your STAR questions. They may be able to help you brainstorm some situations to discuss with a potential employer or hold a mock interview to help you practice your responses. That way, you'll head into an interview feeling like the star you are!

Ticket to Work

Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and want to work. The Ticket program is free and voluntary. It helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce.

Learn more

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

Learn more

To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Ask a representative to send you a list of service providers or find providers on your own with the Ticket program Find Help tool.

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