The STAR Technique of answering behavioural questions

“Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.”

“Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.”

“Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.”

“Tell me about a time when you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have liked you (or vice versa)”

“Give me an example of a time when you tried to accomplish something and failed.”

“Give me an example of a time when you showed initiative and took the lead.”

“Tell me about a situation when you had to deal with an upset customer or co-worker.”

“Tell me about a time when you had to make an unpopular decision.”

“Please tell me about a time when you had to fire a friend at the workplace and how you dealt with that.”

“Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do that you had to prioritize your tasks.”

We have all come across such questions in one interview or the other. They are called Behavioral questions. They may be a bit tricky to answer if you are not well prepared or if you are in a panic situation. That is why the best secret to answering interview question is first to calm down and relax, secondly, be confident even when you are unsure of the right answer and finally know the best way to answer such questions. This is the technique we shall be sharing with you.

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The STAR Method represents: Situation, Task, Action, and Result

Behavioral question: “Tell me about a situation when you had to use creative thinking and innovation to solve a problem at the workplace.”

Situation: You are required to clearly describe the situation or event. Be sure to provide enough detail and not a generalized description. The situation expected may be from a previous position, volunteer experience or any other relevant event.

For example- “There is a period, in the second quarter of our fiscal year when there was a stagnation in revenue. The marketing department in which I was part of was not doing so well and the sales were pretty low according to the company standards.T he sales were about 20% lower than the previous quarter.We had many department meetings trying to brainstorm how to bring the company back to its feet.”

Task: You need to define the goal or task you were aiming to achieve in the situation previously described.

Describing the task:” The Company needed to urgently come up with innovative strategies to achieve higher sales.”

Action: You need to describe the specific action or steps you took and your particular contribution. Remember to keep the focus on you and not what a team did.

Describe the action you took: “It is during this time that I came up with the idea of creating a reward system in the company and for the clients. Rewarding loyal clients is a way of showing appreciation for choosing our products and services and it encourages current clients to keep being loyal to the brand and also drawing in new clients in the process. I shared with my department colleagues and I led the team to come up with a good strategy which we later shared with the management. It was not easy convincing the management to take up the new strategy because of the costs involved in the short-run.”

Result: As a conclusion, you need to describe the outcome of you accomplished. Give a description of what you accomplished as a result of the steps you took.

Describe the end result:”I must say, this is among the best decisions the company made as the sales gradually rose by 35% in the third quarter superseding even the first quarter. Not only that, we managed to get a greater online visibility as clients gave feedback on our website and social media pages. This accomplishment was a major reason I was awarded the employee of the year at the End of year party”

By answering the questions in a detailed manner, the interviewer gets to understand that you are a person who takes initiative and that you are actually good at mobilizing a team.

It is important to follow all the parts of the STAR method and become as specific and detailed as possible at all time. Remember the main reason why the interviewer asks such questions is to get a clear understanding of how you deal with situations, what kind of a leader you are, how you deal with failure etc.This is to establish what kind of a person/team player you will be in the organisation.


What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?

This question is one that is used to prove how self-aware you are as an individual. In terms of the strengths, they are in most cases evident from your CV or cover letter, but the interviewers want to know from you because most people write generic CVs.

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Provide a clear and precise answer

This is one of the reasons why you need to prepare for the interview. In the case where you are not adequately prepared, you will not be so sure on which attribute to talk about, which one will give you an upper hand? The secret is not on how sophisticated you seem, the secret is on how confident you are. The other question that is related to this is, “what are the three adjectives that define you?”

Magically convert a flaw into a strength in disguise

Talking about your weaknesses is a much harder task than discussing your strengths. There are two ways to approach this:

i)Transforming a theoretical weakness into a strength-You could talk of a weakness that is known and talk about it as a strength. For example:

My biggest weakness is being too empathetic. I believe in listening to the opinion of everyone on the team and getting to understand their perspective. This is a good thing as everyone feels respected, however, it could derail decision making.”

This shows that your interpersonal skills are your biggest strength and that you are aware of the flaw in it.

ii)Talking about a weakness you are working on-In some cases, it’s actually good to admit that you are struggling with a certain attribute, but you are work-in-progress. This shows that you are willing to self-assess and work on yourself. For example:

“My biggest weakness is that I get too absorbed in an activity that I may lose track of time. However, I am currently working on my time-management skills.”

Learn to answer the unasked question

Behind every question, there is an unasked question, and the best way to capture the interviewers’ attention is to give that answer beyond the question. For example, when stating your strengths and weaknesses, you could go the extra mile of proving this by giving an example of how this came into play at the workplace.

For example:

Interviewer:”Tell us about your strengths.”

You:”My strength is that I am a relationship-oriented leader. In my previous position, for example, there is a water project we were working on as an organization. Unfortunately, the community was not willing to cooperate well in the project and there was a lot of tension and most of my team-mates were getting discouraged. I realized needed to step up and develop a good relationship with the people in the community before embarking on the project. I personally set up meetings with the community leaders and other individuals and helped them to understand what the project means to the community and why they should be part of it. Despite the language barriers. We managed to have a very good relationship and understanding.

You could have left the answer at,”My strength is that I am a relationship-oriented leader. “However, by giving a scenario, the interviewers get to see your skill at work. Do not fear to be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses before you attend the interview, and prepare what to say. You could learn more about your weaknesses and strengths by taking psychometric tests or asking the people in your circles.

What salary are you expecting?

We have all heard of cases wherein an organization, people holding the same position are paid different salaries. How is this possible? It all starts with the interview stage.

Most questions in an interview are straight-forward until the interviewer asks,”if we consider you for this position, what salary are you expecting?”At this point, it is easy to feel intimidated and suddenly panic may stream in. There is need to apply discernment, which will ensure that you get the maximum wage the company can afford to offer you but at the same time not end up looking high-priced such that you miss the opportunity. The best way to do this is having the following in consideration:

Conduct research on the market rates

The importance of adequate research before an interview cannot be over-emphasized. It is important to know how much a person in the same position makes annually or monthly. This information may be a bit difficult to get as the income varies across regions, companies and the demand in that period. The best place to get reliable information is through recruiters, as they understand the market trends and the financial positions of companies.

Know your worth and show confidence

No matter how tough this question may feel during the interview, don’t let it sway the confidence you have portrayed all along. The best way to get the best compensation for work done is by knowing your worth. Let the interviewer understand that you are confident in your skills, you can deliver effectively and you know how much you are worth. With this, you will be able to negotiate and achieve a win-win situation.

Give a salary range

The safest bet when it comes to quoting a salary is giving a range. A range allows you to give the minimum you can take for your services. This gives a headstart for the discussion and also allows the interviewer to know whether they can afford you.

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What was your previous salary in your previous position?

This is another question that gets tricky to answer especially when you know that you earned less than what you would have wished. Some companies are ‘bargain hunting’ and may use this question to pay less than what they should pay as long they are a margin above your previous organisation. The best way to answer this question is, to be honest with the interviewer or answer the question indirectly. You could mention the differences in roles in the two position as this will show lack of comparison when it comes to fixing the salary.

The money topic is a hot issue, that can easily turn a calm interview to a ‘hot-seat’ kind of setting. Just remain calm, don’t be afraid to show your worth and what you can offer and finally be flexible for negotiations.



5 Habits that improve your communication skills

Soft skills are a great asset to have on your career journey and one of the things interviewers look out for ideal candidates. Some of the essential skills are presentation and communication skills. This means that in order to have a successful career, you need to work on improving your presentation and communication skills. How do you achieve excellent presentation and communication skills?

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Be keen on non-verbal communication

Research states that 55% of communication done is non-verbal. This proves that the message you are relaying is only communicated by 45% of what you say. Your body language is therefore very critical in an interview setting. Avoid slouching-maintain an upright posture throughout the interview to show confidence. Learn to adopt a proper posture in your day to day life.

Learn to make eye contact. This is something that growing up, it was never instilled in us. To some, it is even a sense of rudeness to keep eye-contact with someone who is older or at a higher authority. However, when it comes to the corporate world, maintaining eye contact with an audience or an individual shows interest and confidence.

Know your key-points

It is important to know the key points of your message whether its a presentation or an interview setting. This is for the sake of emphasis and repetition. If possible, begin and end with the key points. Ask yourself,”What is the message I want to convey? What are my key points or keywords, “then concentrate on bringing that out as coherently as possible.

This means that the best way to become a good communicator is to learn how to research first, get the message and evaluate the key points.

Listen more than you talk

This sounds a bit the opposite of what we expect, as we think communication or presentation is so much about what you say. However, a good listener is the best communicator. A good listener takes the thoughts or questions of the other person into account before they speak. In an interview, this allows you to answer the tricky questions. In a meeting or presentation, you can provide a thoughtful answer that earns you respect.

Speak slowly but coherently

Speak slowly to articulate the words right but not too slow as to show lack of confidence. Speaking too fast makes the audience miss out on what you are saying. Therefore know the balance and remember that what is important is the content of your message.

Focus on earning respect

Finally, each time you speak either to a big audience or to anyone, focus on earning respect more than making people laugh or just driving in points. Let this be a goal you aim at achieving each time you want to pass a message. It’s good to know how to create a balance between having a light moment, which makes your audience more comfortable and maintaining that professional respect. The secret is in knowing the timing.

Therefore, in order to adopt good communication and presentation, there are habits you need to adopt in your day to day talks and in preparation: Know the non-verbal cues that you need to adopt or drop, speak coherently,prepare and know the key-points, listen more than you speak and work on earning respect. With these, you will gradually become a very good communicator.

How to give constructive feedback to employees

“That was a good job!” a common phrase we love to say. As a manager/employer, we know that we are supposed to appreciate well-working employees. However, we know that this is not the easiest of tasks.

Know the right timing

It’s tempting to give the employee feedback on the hallway after a presentation. At this point, you are not expected to go deep into details- a smile, a pat on the back, and simple words of affirmation are enough. The best time to give constructive feedback is having a sit down with the employee and doing it in a relaxed environment.

Similarly, waiting until the end of year evaluation will not be helpful to the employee. It is advisable to have feedback and evaluation as often as on a weekly basis. This is because the situation is still very fresh and relevant and it will be impactful to the employee both at that time and in preparation for the next task.

Feedback Sandwich

This is one of the best feedback mechanisms to employ. It helps to create a balance between negative and positive feedback. Negative feedback is crucial in propelling a business, corporate or personal relationship forward or breaking them. It is therefore important to know how exactly to do it.

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In a sandwich, what makes it a sandwich and not just boring bread is the middle part. Which in this case, is the constructive criticism(negative feedback).Therefore, the best way to give constructive feedback is to find a genuine positive remark about the person.

For example:“I really admire your confidence and how open you are to taking challenges. It’s a great asset to have.”

It’s good to note that, this should be a genuine remark so that it does not look like mere flattery. As human beings, we all have an ego and love to feel appreciated, so by giving a positive feedback first, you soften the heart of the person, and the moment you give the negative feedback then they don’t feel attacked, hurt or get defensive.

For example, you could continue,”In order to be viewed as credible and well-informed, you need to always be prepared, conduct a thorough research on the topic or subject matter. This makes it easier to go into details on your presentation and you can handle any question that is given to you. I noticed that you struggled a bit with handling the tough questions, which could have easily been answered to the clients. In this way, you will end up closing more deals”

Finally, conclude with positive feedback, so that the person feels once again appreciated and not left nursing hurt from the criticism.

For example:“I can tell you have a lot of great potential in you, and you can do even better in the next presentation. Let me know if I can help to get the information you may need, such as the company financial projections that may not be very clear.”

The feedback sandwich is therefore very helpful, not only in creating a balance which considers the employee’s feelings but also ensures that you go into details. It is also vital to ensure that you make it personal where necessary and not cause embarrassment in a group setting.To give constructive feedback,be keen on the timing and HOW to do it.