How to Utilize Data in Your Behavioral Interview Answers

interview tips Aug 09, 2022

Utilizing data is extremely beneficial when answering behavioral interview questions. Today, we are going to discuss a few critical areas to focus on. We will cover how to drive results with data, specifically in your behavioral actions. For this process, we will apply the S.T.A.R. method (Situation. Task. Actions. Results.) to structure and organize the details in your answers. 

Item #1—Situation

In your situation, there are only a few key areas to uncover data. First, you need to state your company role and provide any relevant background information. If you work at a smaller company the interviewer is less familiar with, you may need to provide a 3-5 second overview to set the stage. It might be the opposite if you work for a really large company. You may need to niche down and speak about your role more specifically. 

Assume your interviewer has never looked into your full background. Providing these simple data points will help you make a stronger connection and bring more relevancy to your examples.

Next, I want you to get connected to the question that is being asked. All you need to do at this stage is provide a few specific details that will get your interviewer to pay attention. The trickiest part of this step is that these data points need to be specific, yet generic. Simply put, provide the specifics, but keep it generic enough so that a wide audience would understand the subject area. Do not use organization specific terms and make sure you are not using abbreviations that they may not connect in the moment.

To get them connected, we are talking about a few items. Examples might include the critical stakeholders, the process and the costs. You will want to practice this before your interview and get good at presenting your situation in about 20-25 seconds.

Item #2—Task

This is the area where data is least relevant, but it is still worth reviewing because of one very important item. The timeline is such a great data point. It will give your interviewer a little bit of context. Instead of just saying you were tasked to bring the program back on track, you can say something like: 

“I was tasked with bringing the program back on track (insert timeline here).”

This extra specificity will help provide valuable context. Your interviewer will understand the urgency, complexity and difficulty of the project.

Item #3—Actions

This is the big one. Remember, your actions should make up about 65-70% of your answer. The biggest shift that will bring out that data is moving from storytelling to doing. Let’s take a closer look at three critical areas in your answer that need the most focus: 

  1. Research & Analysis—When did you start your research and analysis and what conversations did you have with critical stakeholders? What data did you look at in this stage? How did you go about gathering this information? What method did you use to share this data with the critical stakeholders? How did you uncover additional data by meeting with those critical stakeholders? 
  1. Testing & Execution—How did you drive results with data during the testing and execution phase? In many cases, candidates forget to even bring up this step or they gloss over it really quickly. How you drive results with data starts in the testing phase. Talk about how that data informed the project and helped determine the next steps of the execution phase.
  2. Documenting, Presenting & Launching—Don’t go too high-level here. I want to know the exact method that you presented or socialized this information. It’s very similar to our research and analysis action and how we shared it with the critical stakeholders. It’s important to show how you document and present things like socialization as they will often be part of your new job description.

Item #4—Results

There are also three critical data points here:

  1. Answer the Question—In so many cases, our results are driven by something else. Always make sure your results actually answer the question being asked. 
  1. Numbers—Numbers are the universal language. You will want to spread numbers throughout your results. Just make sure you are really pushing on numbers as critical data points. Back percentages with real data to avoid ambiguity: “We saved 30% of time, which was equal to 10 hours per team per week.”
  2. Repeatability—Bring in data that showed you had a larger impact. Maybe you helped affect positive results outside of your group. Perhaps you won over a big client and that led to more business opportunities for the company. Repeatability is so important because your interviewer is looking to see how your examples had a larger impact on the organization.

Item #5—Sample Answer

I recommend you watch the full video on this topic below, along with a sample behavioral interview answer I filmed last year (click here to view). I walk through the critical data points in this answer to show you the S.T.A.R. method in action—including what I did wrong and right.

For more interview insight and information, follow my YouTube channel, visit my blog or access the Practice Interviews website.


Jeff H. Sipe

Jeff has interviewed over 1000 people in his career and previously spent five years working at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley. You likely found Jeff through YouTube and you will find the same level of dedication in his one on one practice interview sessions.

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