In this example, the candidate focused on problem-solving, but also shared evidence of leadership, communication, teamwork, customer service, and remaining positive under pressure. Prioritize the skill in question, but, as you practice your response, consider how other skills might also be revealed.

Question

Question: “Describe a time when you had to act quickly to solve a problem.”

Response

Sample response covering each part of S.T.A.R., Situation, Task, Action, and Result:

Situation

I work as a restaurant server and, at the beginning of what would have been a slow shift, there were power outages around town. Word spread that we were open and before long we had a line into the parking lot. We were not staffed for a busy night, and the manager needed to help in the kitchen.

Task

Knowing I was the server with the most experience, the manager asked me to start handling things at the front. I needed to begin acting as host while still pitching in to help with serving or bussing.

Action

First, I thought of way to open more tables and assign myself an area to bus while managing arrivals. I pulled the other servers and bussers together to share the plan and make sure I wasn’t missing anything from their perspective. Next, I thanked the customers for their patience and gave them an update on the wait time. I wanted them to have a good experience so they would visit again when their options weren’t limited by a power outage. I continued checking in with the manager and other staff while monitoring seating and communicating with customers.

Result

By the end of the night, we had tripled our typical Tuesday night business with no complaints and reasonable wait times given the circumstances. Customers thanked us for doing our best to accommodate more people, and the servers and bussers said the process worked well for the situation. The manager thanked me for quickly providing a solution that worked for the team and for also staying calm and positive.

Choose Relevant, Recent Examples

Examples can come from part-time jobs, community or campus involvement, research projects, class projects, internships, or co-ops. The further along you are in college, the less you should draw from high school experiences.

Vary the experiences used for your examples. It’s fine to use the same experience for a couple of S.T.A.R. responses, just be sure you’re describing two different situations from that experience.

It’s better to avoid using examples from your personal life, however, there can be exceptions. If you have questions, reach out to a career consultant or ask during a mock interview.

Additional Examples of Behavior-Based Questions:

  • Tell me about a time you showed initiative.
  • Describe an experience where you interacted over time with someone from a different background.
  • When have you had to make a decision with limited information?
  • Describe a time when you demonstrated adaptability.
  • Tell me about a time when you were not successful. What did you learn?
  • Tell me about a time when you worked under pressure.
  • Tell me about a mistake you made. How did you handle it?
  • When have you gone above and beyond what was expected?
  • Have you ever encountered a difficult customer?
  • Describe a time when you worked with a team. How did you contribute?
  • How have you demonstrated leadership?
  • Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a team member, classmate, coworker, or supervisor.

Additional Information