Be prepared for behaviour-descriptive interviews

In your next job interview, the interviewers may ask you to describe a situation from your work history. When interviewers use this behavior-descriptive technique, they are assessing how you will perform in the future based on how you performed in the past.

Examples: Tell me about a time when…

… you had to deal with a challenging problem

… your work or idea was criticized

… you had a problem working with others on a team project

… your schedule was suddenly interrupted

It’s important that you recall the situation you’re describing clearly and concisely and that your story reflects well on you as a potential employee.


The STARS technique will help you clearly describe what you did and the results you achieved.

Situation – Describe the circumstances and the problem you faced.

Task – Explain what you needed to do, why you needed to do it, and the challenges involved.

Action – Describe the actions you took.

Results – Explain what happened as a result of your efforts.

Skills – Describe the skills you used to accomplish what you did

Example: Tell us how you’ve handled a problem with a customer.

Situation: An unhappy customer claimed the shipping department sent his shop the wrong parts.

Task: As parts foreman, I had to determine if it was our mistake or the customer’s.

Action: I assured the customer that I would look into the problem myself. I checked all the details. Sure enough, we’d made the mistake – a typo. The problem was with our parts-numbering system, where similar parts had numbers that were too much alike.

Results: I couriered the correct parts to the customer overnight and told him his order was on us. I assured him that we would make changes so that the problem wouldn’t happen again. I worked with a team to develop a new numbering system that has cut response time by 15% and reduced errors from an average of 11 to 3 per month.

Skills: I used my communication, analytical, and teamwork skills to solve a specific problem for a customer and an overall problem for my company.


Develop at least 3 STARS descriptions of how you handled situations similar to those you might encounter on the job.

  • Limit your examples to situations you handled well.
  • If the stories you have prepared do not fit the question, take time to think about your answer. You can’t anticipate all of the possible questions, so be ready to think on your feet.
  • If you don’t have a work-related experience, describe a situation from a volunteer or community experience.
  • If you have no relevant experience, describe how you would handle the situation if it were to happen.
  • Always be honest. Don’t make up an answer. When the interviewer follows up with detailed questions about the situation, you risk exposing your dishonesty.

Adapted from the Government of Alberta, Jobs, Skills Training and Labour