Use the STAR and WIFU methods to answer behavioural interview questions


Interviewing has never been my strong suit. In fact, I dread going to interviews.

During school and after graduation, I was fortunate enough to land some coveted interviews, but my batting average was very low, so to speak.

Fortunately, through feedback and a lot of research, I have found some essential tips and tricks that have helped me become a better interviewee. Hopefully they can help you too!

Start with feedback

It’s easy to get down on yourself after a few rejections (I know I always did), but the only way you are going to get better is to learn from your mistakes. To do this you must always ask for feedback from the person or panel who interviewed you.

I didn’t start doing this until my latter years, but they have made a world of difference.

These are some of the things I learned by asking for feedback:

  • Some recruiters have a checklist and listen for key words or skills—especially for phone interviews
  • It is very important to articulate your answers well and make them short and precise—don’t ramble
  • Have an effective opening and an even more interesting close to help recruiters remember you
  • Know relevant things about the company. For example, if you are going for a marketing role, talk about their brand differentiation or pricing strategies (one of the few things I managed to do well)
  • Most importantly, structure your answers so they are relevant to your employer (more details below)

STAR and WIFU answers to interview questions

Once you have received proper feedback on your performance (if you’ve never had a professional interview, try mock interviews), it’s time to start thinking about how you can answer questions better.

Most employers use behavioural interview techniques. The best way to tackle behavioural questions is to use the Situation, Task, Action and Results (STAR) and What’s in It For You (WIFU) methods.

The important thing to note here is that most interviewers aren’t looking to hear WHAT you did, but rather HOW you did it. Rather than the interviewer having to figure out how your answers relate to what they are looking for, you ultimately do the work for them, leaving them very impressed.

How to apply the STAR and WIFU methods

Here’s an example of a behavioural question an interviewer might ask, as well as a potential answer strategy:

“Tell me about a time when you faced multiple priorities and explain how you handled it.”

Situation During my last position as a [insert title] at XYZcompany, I was in charge of completing several year-end reports and, at the same time, I was also given a lot of ad hoc reports and calculations.

Task I had to complete the ad hoc reports and calculations, and then make time to finish the year-end reports by the last week of December with complete accuracy.

Action I created a schedule of when each report was to be completed, and planned and allocated time for each project. I also set up reminders for daily duties and additional ad hoc calculations on MS Outlook (get specific with applications), and delegated some tasks to my co-workers who have already done such things before.

Results By employing well-developed time management skills, I was able to complete all my tasks with complete accuracy and efficiency.

WIFU This experience and these skills will allows me to deal with the multiple priorities that this role offers, and I will be able to produce excellent results for you. (This answer seems kind of vague, but specify it to the position you are applying for using the job description).

That is pretty much a small example of the most effective way to articulate and structure your answers in an interview. A lot of practice and mock interviews should help make this structure second nature to you.

Other things to keep in mind

Once you’ve received appropriate feedback on how to improve, and you have structured and prepared your answers using STAR and WIFU, its time to focus on other ways to wrap up the interview and swing it in your favour, including:

  • Dress the part—you can never be overdressed, so always look sharp, especially in a corporate environment
  • Smile and relax—know that the other person behind you is human and try to make it a conversation
  • Research the role, organization and, if possible, the interviewer—check them out on LinkedIn or even Facebook
  • Finally, toward the end, ask the right questions. Don’t ask questions to prolong the interview, but ask things that are intriguing and will make you seem valuable to the interviewer. For example, “What are some of the challenges I will face in this role and how do you suggest I prepare in order to be successful?”
About the author

Tahsin Borhan is a recent graduate, who is currently enjoying the fruits of his four years of labour (university!). He is very passionate about branding and marketing strategy, and sees himself as an entrepreneur or helping build a start-up within the next five years. Currently, he is employed as a marketing analyst with a large telecommunications company and, on the side, he also enjoys advising students about career planning and expressing their leadership potential.