You’ve dusted off your resume, applied for a couple of jobs and have landed a job interview. You’re excited, but now, it’s time to prepare for the job interview and to polish up your interviewing skills. Whether the interview is in-person or online, many people find formulating the best responses to the interviewer(s) questions to be the trickiest or most nerve -wracking part of the job search process. And today, most companies are shifting away from traditional interview questions in favor of behavioral type questions which provide the interviewer(s) with greater insights on the candidates’ capabilities to perform the role being hired for. So, being able to effectively respond to behavioral type interview questions will help you stand out and be a star in your next job interview.
Traditional vs Behavioral Interviews
When it comes to job interviews, there are two types of questions that are commonly used- behavioral and traditional. Behavioral type interview questions are based on the premise that past behavior is a great predictor of future performance. As such, interviewees are asked to respond to questions by using specific and concrete example of how they have successfully applied their skills and expertise in the past. The examples or stories they provide for these behavioral interview questions give the interviewer(s) crucial information about the candidate’s capacity and capability to do the job.
Behavioral type questions usually begin with or include phrases that ask you to:
- Tell me about a time when…
- What do you do when…
- Have you ever…
- Give me an example of…
- Describe a…
On the other hand, traditional(classic) interviews uses specific questions that produce straight forward responses. Examples of traditional interview questions include but are not limited to:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why did you leave your last job?
- What do you see yourself 3-5 years from now?
- What makes you the best candidate for this job?
- How do you deal with conflict?
- What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- What would your previous supervisor say about your work performance?
How to Use the S.T.A.R Interview Method
S.T.A.R. is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result. This method provides interviewees with an effective way of ensuring that their responses to interview questions are clear, concise and demonstrates their competence and expertise. With this approach, interviewees are encouraged to use the different elements of the method, to provide clear examples/ stories of how they have performed in previous roles to showcase their knowledge, skills and experience.
- Situation: For this first step, you will need to draw on past experience to provide the interviewer(s) with a relevant example of a situation you were in and explain what you were required to do. Your response should help the interviewer understand the who, what, where, when, and why of the scenario.
- Task: Having described the situation, the next step is to state your position, your objective and what you were responsible for doing in the scenario being shared.
- Action: In this step, you will need to clearly outline the actions you took to achieve the goal or complete the assignment.
- Result: Finally, you will be required to describe the outcome or what happened because of the actions you took. Bear in mind that your response should reflect positive outcomes. If you failed or things didn’t go as planned, be ready to share with the interviewer (s) what you learned or gained from that experience.
As you share your stories or examples, remember that the star in the scenarios you share should be you. Interviews that use behavioral type questions are not an opportunity for you to show off your teamwork skills (unless asked to share an example of how you work in teams). The questions are intended to draw out what you have done in the past and your expertise. Use I statements, instead of We to help the interviewers understand what you have done and what you are capable of. So, use the suggested prompts to keep your answers brief and don’t ramble on.
How to Develop Your S.T.A.R. Example/Story
I frequently have opportunities to conduct interviews as a member of interview panels. Before the interview starts, the panel meets to discuss the position, interview questions, what we are looking for in the ideal candidate for the job and to go over the rubric or scoring sheet that we will be using to assess each candidate. While all candidates being interviewed qualify for the position and might be able to do the job, how they respond to the interview questions is the key differentiator or litmus test for who will be selected for the role. I have seen instances where someone who is acting in the position interviews for the role and not get selected, and instances where the best candidate on paper interviews poorly. From the experience of being on both sides of the table/screen, I know the importance of answering interviewing questions effectively.
How can you share stories or examples that tie your experience and accomplishments back to the question to showcase your skills and expertise?
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
Every job posting/ announcement carries a description of the responsibilities of the position, key words and the important skills and abilities that the employer is looking for. To use the STAR method effectively, you will need to prepare by reviewing the job description to identify the essential skills needed to execute the role successfully. Examples of these could include project management, customer service, leadership and management, database management, financial management/budgeting and so on. Since these skills will be the focus of the interview, you must be ready to share your relevant experience with the interviewer/panel.
Once you have identified the key skills, reflect on your previous experiences and exposures (work or volunteer) to find specific examples of a time when you used those skills. Then use the S.T.A.R. method to write a clear and positive story of your best example managing a project, leading a team, or developing budgets. Write down an example/story for as many of the key that were listed in the posting. While you won’t know the questions beforehand or the type that will be asked in the interview, the examples you have prepared will help you tie in your experiences and accomplishment to whatever questions you are asked.
S.T.A.R. Method Example
1. “Tell me about a time when you experienced conflict on the team and how did you resolve it?
- Situation: I was tasked with implementing a new project management system. This meant I had to coordinate the tasks and goals across several teams. Unfortunately, there was a long-simmering conflict between two of the team leaders who were going to have to work closely on this project.
- Task: I started by creating the timeline, then figuring out when those two people would work together to accomplish joint tasks.
- Action: I met with each of them individually to explain that they would be working together and asked how I could help things work smoothly. As a result of those meetings, I was asked to sit in on all of their project meetings as a neutral third party and provide feedback. I was also copied on every written communication to ensure things were handled professionally and appropriately.
- Result: There were a few times when friction was a problem. But, because I was involved from day one and acted as a neutral third party, we were able to finish the project on time. Projects that were completed on time increased 20% during Q1 and Q2 this year”.
Finally, regardless of whether you are contemplating a career change or are preparing for your next opportunity, you will have to get through an interview process. The S.T.A.R. method has proven to be an effective approach to preparing and communicating the best responses to behavioral type interview questions. So, when you have your next interview, arm yourself with some great stories or examples (Developed using the S.T.A.R. method) which will help you stand out, star your next interview and land that job.
Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!
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