When it comes to job interviews, behavioral questions can be stressful. These are questions that ask you to provide specific examples of times when you demonstrated particular skills or behaviors. A popular technique to structure your answers effectively is the STAR method. But, to give your response an extra edge, we like to use the STAR-L method.
The STAR-L method provides a framework to answer behavioral interview questions in a clear, concise, and organized way-- which helps you stand out to the interview team. Here's what each letter stands for:
S (Situation): Describe the context or background
T (Task): Explain the challenge or responsibility you were given
A (Action): Detail the specific actions you took to address the task
R (Results): Share the outcomes of your actions (you’ll want to highlight positive results here!)
L (Lessons Learned): Reflect on what you learned from the experience
Let’s put this into practice:
Question: Tell me about a time you had multiple conflicting priorities and how you worked your way through it.
STAR-L Method Response:
Situation: "Last quarter, we had two large projects that were due, our quarter end reports and at the last minute, we had a new hire starting."
Task: "We needed to get both projects wrapped up and presented to the clients, submit our quarterly reports, and onboard a new employee."
Action: "As a team, we met and reviewed the project plans. From there, we assigned two people to focus only on wrapping up the projects and putting together the client presentations. I focused on the quarterly reports and building out a new hire training plan.”
Result: "It took a few days of long hours, but the team pulled together and the new hire ended up being great timing as she was able to jump in and help out. We were able to meet all deadlines."
Lessons Learned: “From this experience, it was so important for our team to work together to prioritize, divide, and conquer to ensure the projects and reports were done on time– and, of course, the new hire had what she needed to be successful.”
Regardless of whether the result was positive, presenting the Result and Lessons Learned in a way that shows reflection and growth will make you stand out. When interviewers ask questions like this, especially questions like, "Tell me about a time you failed," what they are looking for is humility, accountability, and growth. No one is perfect– taking responsibility and learning from our mistakes is something that makes a great leader and team member.
But how do I prepare when I don’t know what the interviewer will ask?
Before your interview, review the job description and identify key competencies. Think of situations (ahem-- refer to your resume to compare) where you've demonstrated these skills and practice framing them using the STAR-L method. Also, where you can, use quantifiable numbers (i.e. two projects, five reports, three hires, saved the company $15,000). This preparation ensures you're not just answering questions but telling memorable stories that help you stand out.
Not only does structuring your responses make it easy for interviewers to see transferable skills, but it also showcases your reflective abilities and commitment to personal growth.