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STAR is Not Enough: Tips For Behavioral Interview Questions

STAR is not enough

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Behavioral interviews are a critical component of the hiring process, allowing the hiring manager to assess a candidate’s past behavior in various situations. Particularly for roles demanding strong interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence, behavioral interview questions have become a cornerstone. These types of interview questions aim to uncover a candidate’s past behavior in various situations, giving the hiring manager a glimpse into their potential future performance.

 While the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) has long been considered a best practice for framing responses in these interviews, it may not always be the best way to convey the breadth of one’s capabilities, especially in roles requiring emotional intelligence and strong leadership skills or when faced with complex team dynamics or stressful situations. 

In this post, I will introduce the SCRIPT Framework that can be used to answer all types of behavioral interview questions:

  1. Story Title
  2. Context Explanation
  3. Role Definition
  4. Issue Identification
  5. Problem-solving Actions
  6. Tangible Outcomes

“SCRIPT” fits well as it implies writing or outlining a story, which aligns with the narrative approach of your framework. It’s concise, easy to remember, and directly relates to the storytelling aspect of behavioral interviews.

Tips For Behavioral Interview Questions: STAR is falling short

Why the STAR Method Falls Short

The STAR method, though a great way to structure responses in behavioral interview questions, often limits a candidate’s ability to fully articulate their thought process and soft skills. For instance, when asked to give an example of a time when they had to make a difficult decision under a lot of pressure, the STAR framework might not provide enough scope to dive into the nuances of emotional intelligence or time management skills. Moreover, in roles that require close attention to team dynamics – such as a leadership role or a managerial position – simply recounting a specific time or situation might not adequately showcase one’s ability to be a team player or a team leader.

Tips for Behavioral Interview Questions: Introducing SCRIPT

Introducing SCRIPT

To address these limitations, I propose a six-step framework for answering behavioral interview questions, designed to offer a more comprehensive view of a candidate’s abilities, particularly for those in management positions or part of a team in high-pressure environments.

  1. S: Story Title
    1. Begin with a captivating title for your story to grab attention and set the tone for your narrative.
  2. C: Context Explanation
    1. Detail the context, including the project, the team members involved, and the important task at hand, ensuring you paint a vivid picture of the situation.
  3. R: Role Definition
    1. Clearly define your role in the scenario, highlighting your job description, leadership skills, and how you contributed as a team player.
  4. I: Issue Identification
    1. Identify 3 specific problems you encountered, like a tough decision or a challenging situation under a lot of pressure.
  5. P: Problem-solving Actions
    1. Describe 3 actions you took to address each problem, emphasizing your time management skills and your approach in similar situations.
  6. T: Tangible Outcomes
    1. Conclude with the positive outcomes of your actions, such as meeting a tight deadline or achieving better results, showcasing your ability to handle stressful situations.

S: Story Title

The first step in the SCRIPT framework, “Story Title,” is all about setting the stage for your narrative. When responding to behavioral interview questions, starting with a compelling title can significantly enhance your answer. Here’s why:

  1. Captures Attention: A well-chosen title immediately grabs the interviewer’s interest. It’s like a headline that intrigues and invites the listener into your story.
  2. Sets the Tone: Your title sets the expectation for what’s to come. Whether it’s a tale of overcoming a challenging situation or demonstrating exceptional leadership skills, the title primes the listener for the story’s context.
  3. Aids in Structuring Your Response: By beginning with a title, you’re not just diving into details. Instead, you’re providing a framework for your narrative, which helps in organizing your thoughts and delivering a coherent response.
  4. Memory Cue: Choosing a title also helps you as the storyteller. It serves as a mental cue, keeping your narrative focused on the specific example you’ve selected.
  5. Personalizes Your Answer: A unique title makes your story memorable. In a sea of similar responses, it can be the differentiator that makes your answer stand out.

When crafting your title, think of a concise phrase that encapsulates the essence of your experience. For example, “The 11th-Hour Turnaround” instantly tells your interviewer that this will be a story about a critical last-minute save during a difficult situation. This approach not only enhances the impact of your response but also showcases your communication skills and ability to engage your audience.

C: Context Explanation

The second step in the SCRIPT framework is “Context Explanation.” This step is crucial for behavioral interview questions as it provides the backdrop for your story, laying out the specifics of the situation you’re about to delve into. Here’s how to effectively approach this step:

  1. Detail the Project or Situation: Describe the project or situation you were involved in. This could include the goals, challenges, and the significance of the project to the organization.
  2. Introduce Key Players: Identify the teams and key individuals involved. This clarifies your working environment and the dynamics at play.
  3. Stakes and Implications: Explain what was at stake. Were there critical deadlines, significant financial implications, or important client relationships on the line? This sets up the importance of your actions within the story.

By thoroughly setting the context, you ensure that the interviewer fully understands the environment and challenges you were facing. This step is about painting a vivid picture to immerse your audience in your story, making them appreciate the complexities and nuances of your experience.

R: Role Definition

In the SCRIPT framework, “Role Definition” is the third step. This is where you clarify your specific role in the situation you’ve just described, as part of your answer to the behavioral interview questions. Here’s how to effectively articulate this step:

  1. Define Your Position: Clearly state your job title or role during the situation. Were you a team leader, a key contributor, or a coordinator?
  2. Responsibilities and Scope: Outline your responsibilities and the scope of your role. What were you directly accountable for? How did your role influence the project or situation?
  3. Leadership and Collaboration: If applicable, describe how you led or collaborated with others. This could include how you motivated team members, resolved conflicts, or coordinated efforts.
  4. Personal Involvement: Emphasize your personal involvement in the situation. How did your actions and decisions impact the course of events?

By precisely defining your role, you help the interviewer understand the extent of your involvement and responsibilities. This step is crucial for illustrating your direct impact and contributions to the situation, showcasing your skills and competencies in a professional setting.

I: Issue Identification

The fourth step in the SCRIPT framework, “Issue Identification,” involves pinpointing 3 specific problems or challenges you faced in the situation. Here’s how to approach it:

  1. Highlight the 3 Problems: Identify and describe the 3 key issues or obstacles you encountered. These could range from technical challenges, team conflicts, resource limitations, to unexpected changes in project scope.
  2. Use of “I” Statements: It’s crucial to frame these problems from your perspective. Use “I” statements to personalize your involvement in identifying these issues. For instance, “I noticed a significant delay in project milestones,” or “I identified a gap in team communication.”
  3. Impact of the 3 Issues: Explain how these 3 problems impacted the project or situation. Were they threatening the project’s success or team morale? Was there an angry customer?
  4. Complexity and Relevance: Showcase the complexity of the problems and why they were significant. This demonstrates your ability to recognize and tackle relevant and challenging issues within your role.

This step is essential for setting the stage for the actions you took in response to these challenges, demonstrating your problem-solving skills and proactive approach in difficult situations.

P: Problem-solving Actions

In the “Problem-solving Actions” phase of the SCRIPT framework, you detail 3 specific actions you took to address the issues identified. Here’s how to effectively articulate this step:

  1. Actionable Steps: Describe the 3 concrete actions you took in response to each specific action. These should be specific and detailed, showing your direct involvement in resolving the issues.
  2. Strategy and Implementation: Explain your thought process and strategy behind these actions. Why did you choose these 3 particular steps? How did you implement them?
  3. Leadership and Collaboration: If your actions involved leading a team or collaborating with others, highlight how you navigated these dynamics. Did you delegate tasks, coordinate with other departments, or lead meetings?
  4. Use of “I” Statements: Emphasize your individual contributions. For instance, “I initiated a new communication protocol,” or “I developed a revised project timeline.”

This step showcases your ability to take decisive action, apply your skills, and drive solutions in challenging situations. It’s about demonstrating your effectiveness and impact in your role.

T: Tangible Outcomes

The final step in the SCRIPT framework is “Tangible Outcomes.” This is where you articulate the results or the impact of your actions. Here’s how to do it effectively:

  1. Describe the Results: What were the outcomes of the actions you took? Did you meet the project deadline, improve team efficiency, or increase customer satisfaction?
  2. Quantify the Impact: Whenever possible, use specific data or metrics to quantify the impact. For example, “My action plan reduced project delays by 30%” or “We saw a 20% increase in client satisfaction.”
  3. Personal Achievement: Highlight any personal recognition or growth you achieved as a result of handling the situation. Did you receive an award, a promotion, or notable acknowledgment?
  4. Reflect on the Learning: Briefly mention any key learnings or professional development you gained from the experience.

This step is crucial while answering behavioral interview questions, because it illustrates the effectiveness of your actions and the value you bring to a role. It’s about connecting the dots from the problem to the resolution, showcasing not just what you did, but also the positive outcomes of those actions.

Tips for Behavioral Interview Questions: SCRIPT Examples

SCRIPT Examples

To demonstrate how the SCRIPT framework can be applied, we need to look at specific examples.

Let’s take the question “Tell me about a time you faced a difficult problem at work. How did you solve it?” and answer it from 3 perspectives:

  1. Software Engineer
  2. Product Manager
  3. Technical Program Manager

Answering as a Software Engineer

S (Story Title): “The Bug Hunt Odyssey”

C (Context Explanation): In my last job as a Software Engineer, we were in the final stages of a major product release when we encountered a critical, elusive bug. The project was already running tight on schedule, and this bug threatened to delay the launch.

R (Role Definition): As a senior member of the development team, I was responsible not only for coding but also for ensuring the quality of our deliverables.

I (Issue Identification):

  1. Intermittent Bug: The primary issue was an intermittent bug in the software, which was difficult to replicate and trace.
  2. Inadequate Testing Methods: Our existing testing procedures weren’t robust enough to catch this type of elusive bug.
  3. Pressing Deadline: The project was on a tight schedule, and any delay in fixing this bug would postpone the product launch.

P (Problem-solving Actions):

  1. Targeted Test Design: I developed a series of specialized tests aimed at consistently replicating the bug to understand its pattern.
  2. QA Team Collaboration: I worked closely with the Quality Assurance team to refine our testing strategy, ensuring a more comprehensive coverage.
  3. Extended Work Hours: To mitigate the time lost in bug fixing, I extended my work hours, focusing on resolving the issue without impacting our delivery timeline.

T (Tangible Outcomes): My approach led to the identification and resolution of the bug within 48 hours. We met our launch deadline, and the product was well-received, contributing to a 15% increase in client satisfaction scores. This experience also led to the adoption of more robust testing procedures in our team.

Using SCRIPT, this response not only outlines the actions taken but also emphasizes personal involvement and the tangible impact of those actions, offering a comprehensive and engaging narrative.

For more information about Software Engineering interview preparation, you can look at my post How to Prepare for Software Engineering Interviews

Answering as a Product Manager

S (Story Title): “Navigating the Feature Conundrum”

C (Context Explanation): In my role as a Product Manager at XYZ Corp, we faced a challenge during the development of a key feature for our software. The feature was highly anticipated but was proving to be more complex and resource-intensive than initially planned.

R (Role Definition): My responsibility was to oversee the feature’s development, ensuring it met user needs while aligning with our business goals and timelines.

I (Issue Identification):

  1. Technical Complexity: The feature was technically more complex than anticipated, causing delays.
  2. Resource Allocation: Our team was overextended, with several key members already engaged in other critical tasks.
  3. User Expectation Management: There was a high user expectation for this feature, and any significant changes or delays risked customer dissatisfaction.

P (Problem-solving Actions):

  1. Feature Scoping: I led a re-evaluation of the feature, scaling down to a more manageable version without compromising core functionality.
  2. Team Restructuring: I realigned team members, bringing in additional resources and adjusting priorities to focus on this feature.
  3. Stakeholder Communication: I maintained transparent communication with stakeholders, managing expectations by explaining the revised scope and timeline.

T (Tangible Outcomes): The revised feature was successfully launched, meeting the revised deadline. It was well-received by users, maintaining customer satisfaction, and our team’s revised structure improved our overall efficiency for future projects.

For more information about Product Manager interview preparation, you can look at my post How to Prepare for Product Manager (PM) Interviews

Answering as a Technical Program Manager

S (Story Title): “The Integration Challenge”

C (Context Explanation): At my previous role as a Technical Program Manager, we encountered a significant hurdle during a major system integration project, which involved coordinating multiple teams and aligning different technology stacks.

R (Role Definition): My role was to oversee the project, ensuring seamless integration across all platforms while keeping the project on schedule.

I (Issue Identification):

  1. Cross-Team Coordination Issues: There were communication breakdowns between different teams, affecting project cohesion.
  2. Technical Misalignments: Differing technology stacks across teams posed integration challenges.
  3. Strict Deadlines: We were operating under a very tight deadline, adding pressure to resolve issues swiftly.

P (Problem-solving Actions):

  1. Facilitated Communication: I initiated regular cross-team meetings to enhance collaboration and address communication gaps.
  2. Technical Solutions and Compromises: Worked closely with technical leads to find middle-ground solutions for technology stack integration.
  3. Deadline Management: Reassessed and adjusted project timelines where feasible, negotiating for extra time to ensure quality integration.

T (Tangible Outcomes): The project was successfully completed with effective integration across all platforms. The improved communication strategy led to better team collaboration in future projects, and meeting the revised deadlines bolstered our team’s reputation for flexibility and problem-solving under pressure.

For more information about Technical Program Manager interview preparation, you can look at my post How to Prepare for Technical Program Manager (TPM) Interviews

In your journey to master the art of interviews, it’s not just about how you answer but also what you might be asked. To help you prepare, here’s a curated list of the 60 most common behavioral interview questions. These questions belong to different types of interview questions and cover a range of scenarios and skills, giving you a comprehensive set of challenges to apply the SCRIPT framework to. Use these behavioral interview questions to practice and refine your responses, ensuring you’re ready to impress in your next interview.

  1. Tell me about a time you faced a difficult problem at work. How did you solve it? – This one’s a classic! They’re looking to see how you tackle challenges.
  2. Describe a situation where you had to work with a difficult person. How did you handle it? – This tests your teamwork and people skills.
  3. Can you give an example of when you showed leadership? – Even if you’re not applying for a leadership role, they want to see that potential.
  4. Tell me about a time you made a mistake. What did you learn from it? – Everyone makes mistakes, right? They want to see if you can learn and grow from them.
  5. Describe a time when you had to manage a tight deadline. – This one’s all about time management and how you handle pressure.
  6. Can you tell me about a long-term project you managed? How did you keep everything moving along? – Long-term projects test your planning and organizational skills.
  7. Give an example of how you’ve worked on a team. – Because teamwork makes the dream work!
  8. Describe a time when you had to go above and beyond your job duties. – They love hearing about that extra mile.
  9. Have you ever had to convince a team to work on a project they weren’t thrilled about? How did you do it? – This one’s a test of persuasion and leadership.
  10. Can you discuss a time when you had to make a difficult decision? – Decision-making is a key skill.
  11. Tell me about a time when you had to deal with conflict on the job. – Conflict resolution is crucial in any workplace.
  12. Describe a situation where you saw a problem and took the initiative to correct it rather than waiting for someone else to do it. – They want self-starters!
  13. Can you give an example of how you set goals and achieve them? – Goal setting and achieving speak to your motivation.
  14. Tell me about a time you received criticism. How did you handle it? – Constructive criticism is all about growth.
  15. Describe a time when you had to adapt to a significant change at work. – Change is constant, so how you adapt is important.
  16. Can you provide an example of a time when you had to multitask? – Multitasking is a part of most jobs these days.
  17. Describe a time when you took a risk at work. What was the outcome? – Risk-taking can be a key part of innovation.
  18. Tell me about a time you had to learn something new within a short deadline. – Learning agility is a big plus.
  19. Can you give an example of a time when you had to persuade others to accept your point of view? – Influencing skills are always in demand.
  20. Describe a situation where you weren’t satisfied with your job. What could have made it better? – This reveals your job satisfaction factors.
  21. Tell me about a time when you had to rely on written communication to get your point across. – Communication isn’t always verbal.
  22. Can you discuss an instance where you had to use data to make a decision? – Data-driven decision-making is key in many roles.
  23. Describe a time when you had to give a presentation. How did you prepare? – Presentation skills are a huge plus.
  24. Tell me about a time when you had to prioritize your tasks quickly. – Prioritization shows how you manage workload and stress.
  25. Can you give an example of a time when you had to work under a lot of pressure? – This is about your stress management skills.
  26. Describe a time when you had to deal with a coworker who wasn’t pulling their weight. – Again, this is about teamwork and conflict resolution.
  27. Tell me about a time when you were overwhelmed with work. How did you handle it? – This speaks to your resilience and stress management.
  28. Can you give an example of a goal you didn’t meet and how you handled it? – It’s about how you handle failure and setbacks.
  29. Describe a time when you had to make an unpopular decision. – This tests your decision-making and leadership skills.
  30. Tell me about a time when you improved a process. – Process improvement shows innovation and problem-solving skills.
  31. How do you handle a situation where you have multiple priorities? – This question assesses your time management and prioritization skills.
  32. Can you describe a time when you had to give difficult feedback to a colleague? – It’s about your communication skills and handling sensitive situations.
  33. Tell me about a project where you had to use your creativity to solve a problem. – This question seeks to understand your creative thinking and problem-solving approach.
  34. Describe a time when you had to work with limited resources. – It tests your ability to be resourceful and efficient.
  35. Can you discuss a moment when you had to make a quick decision without all the necessary information? – This checks your decision-making skills under pressure.
  36. Tell me about a time when you had to learn a new skill to complete a task. – It’s about your adaptability and willingness to grow.
  37. Describe a situation where you had to work with someone who had a different working style than yours. – This question assesses your teamwork and adaptability.
  38. Can you give an example of a time when you had to manage a team through a difficult period? – It evaluates your leadership and crisis management skills.
  39. Tell me about a time when you had to adapt your communication style to get your point across. – This is about your communication flexibility and effectiveness.
  40. Describe a situation where you took on a project outside your usual responsibilities. – It tests your initiative and willingness to take on new challenges.
  41. Can you discuss a time when you had to negotiate with others? – This question assesses your negotiation and persuasion skills.
  42. Tell me about a time when you had to work under tight budget constraints. – It’s about financial acumen and resource management.
  43. Describe a situation where you had to deal with an unexpected obstacle in a project. – This checks your problem-solving and adaptability skills.
  44. Can you give an example of a time when you had to defend your decision? – It’s about your confidence and rationale in decision-making.
  45. Tell me about a time when you had to manage a difficult stakeholder. – This question assesses your stakeholder management and diplomacy skills.
  46. Describe a situation where you took a unique approach to solve a problem. – It tests your innovative thinking and problem-solving skills.
  47. Can you discuss a time when you had to balance short-term and long-term goals? – This question is about your strategic planning and foresight.
  48. Tell me about a time when you had to handle a high-stress situation. – It’s about your stress management and resilience.
  49. Describe a situation where you had to collaborate with a difficult team member. – This assesses your teamwork and conflict resolution skills.
  50. Can you give an example of a time when you had to deal with a major change in your organization? – It tests your adaptability and change management skills.
  51. Tell me about a time when you took the initiative to improve a process or system. – This is about your proactive approach and continuous improvement mindset.
  52. Describe a situation where you had to gather and analyze information to make an important decision. – It’s about your analytical and decision-making skills.
  53. Can you discuss a time when you had to prioritize customer needs over company policy? – This question assesses your customer-centric approach and ethical decision-making.
  54. Tell me about a time when you had to juggle multiple responsibilities. – It’s about your multitasking and organizational skills.
  55. Describe a situation where you had to go out of your comfort zone to complete a task. – This question tests your willingness to challenge yourself and grow.
  56. Can you give an example of a time when you had to deal with a tight project timeline? – It’s about your time management and efficiency under pressure.
  57. Tell me about a time when you had to influence a group without having formal authority. – This assesses your influence and leadership skills.
  58. Describe a situation where you had to take the lead on a project without much guidance. – It’s about your initiative and self-direction.
  59. Can you discuss a time when you had to make a tough ethical decision? – This question tests your integrity and moral judgment.
  60. Tell me about a time when you had to collaborate with other departments to achieve a common goal. – It assesses your cross-functional collaboration and teamwork skills.

Remember, the key to success in behavioral interview questions is not just in the content of your answers, but in how you structure and deliver them. Use these questions as a training ground to apply SCRIPT, and you’ll be well on your way to showcasing your skills and experiences in the most effective light. The best candidates have practiced many behavioral interview questions on their own and they find answers based on their previous roles that are a good fit so that they are not surprised when they come up during a real interview.

Tips For Behavioral Interview Questions: SCRIPT vs STAR

Comparative Analysis: SCRIPT vs. STAR

In this section, we’ll compare the SCRIPT framework with the traditional STAR method to highlight their differences and advantages while answering behavioral interview questions.

  1. Depth and Detail: While STAR provides a basic structure (Situation, Task, Action, Result), SCRIPT delves deeper. It emphasizes not just the action and result but also the context, specific role, and a detailed analysis of issues and actions.
  2. Personal Contribution: SCRIPT places a stronger emphasis on individual contributions by using “I” statements in the Issue Identification and Problem-solving Actions steps, offering a clearer picture of personal impact.
  3. Narrative Engagement: The SCRIPT framework starts with a Story Title, creating a more engaging and memorable narrative. This helps in capturing the interviewer’s attention and making the response stand out.
  4. Complexity in Problem-Solving: SCRIPT encourages a more thorough exploration of problems (Issue Identification) and actions (Problem-solving Actions), highlighting complex thinking and strategic planning.
  5. Outcome Focus: Both frameworks culminate in results, but SCRIPT’s Tangible Outcomes step encourages quantifying the impact and reflecting on personal growth, providing a more rounded conclusion.

Overall, while STAR is a solid foundation for structuring interview responses to behavioral interview questions, SCRIPT offers a more comprehensive approach, particularly valuable for roles that require detailed problem-solving, strategic thinking, and clear demonstration of individual impact.

Tips for Behavioral Interview Questions: Conclusion


In wrapping up, it’s clear that while the STAR method stands as a benchmark for answering behavioral interview questions, the SCRIPT framework offers a better way to articulate your experiences with much detail in your next interview. It’s particularly effective for job seekers aiming for a management position or those who have faced complex work-related situations. By highlighting specific actions and providing a sample answer for different roles, SCRIPT helps you to showcase your greatest strength and past performance in a more compelling kind of way. It’s a strategy that not only addresses the most common behavioral interview questions but also resonates well with potential employers, showcasing your hard skills, emotional intelligence, and positive attitude.

Tips for Behavioral Interview Questions: SCRIPT call to action

Call to Action

I encourage job seekers and new hires to adopt SCRIPT in their interview process, especially in situational interview questions. Use it in mock interviews to refine your answers, ensuring you don’t just recount past roles but tell a good story that reflects your entire team’s effort and your leadership. Remember, even the best candidates make mistakes; what matters is how you learn from them. Share your experiences, particularly those involving difficult clients or handling bad news, and let’s discuss how SCRIPT has transformed your responses. to behavioral interview questions Let’s collaborate to bring out the best work in your next live interviews!

About Me

I am an engineer with 15+ years in the tech industry, including roles at Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. I've been a Software Engineer, Product Manager, and Technical Program Manager. I also have an MBA from Kellogg School of Management with Majors in Finance and Marketing.

What drives me? A passion for empowering engineers to achieve Financial Independence and Retire Early (FIRE). I reached FIRE, when I turned 40 years old. Whether it's through personal finance strategies or career insights, I'm here to guide you on this path. Have questions or need advice? Feel free to reach out!

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