Behavioural questions are a near certainty in any interview. This is your opportunity to provide real-life examples about how you dealt with one situation or another in the past. They usually begin with such prompts as:
- Tell about a time when…?
- Give me an example of…?
- Have you ever…?
Each of these prompts lead to questions that challenge you to draw upon a real-life situation from your past work experience, detail how you chose to handle that situation, and present the outcome.
These questions can be tricky for many reasons. First, it’s hard to predict what sort of story you’re going to be asked to tell, which makes preparing an answer challenging. Second, you want a story that highlights the value you bring to the table, but you also want it to be genuine and lacking in boastful self-congratulations. And third, telling a story that accidentally gives an unflattering impression or raises a red flag could risk blowing your shot at the job (“Tell me about a time you received criticism and how did you react” anyone??).
Happily, as with so much of the interview process, a simple method has been developed to prepare for these very types of questions without falling victim to the pitfalls identified above.
The STAR Interview Method
Situation: Set your scene. When did this scenario occur? What was the workplace? Where were you in your career? Providing context and offering important details will help you paint a picture for your interviewer.
Task: Explain your role and describe the responsibility you held in the situation. Were you in a management role? What was expected of you? This will provide the additional context needed to bring your role into the scenario.
Action: Detail the steps you took in the situation; how you behaved. Why did you choose this particular course of action? (Hint: this is where the soft skills come into play)
Result: Reveal the outcomes achieved as a result of the action you took. This is where you can emphasize the value you ultimately brought to the table.
Applying the STAR Method in three simple steps:
- Prepare two stories for the soft skill requirements of the job.
As with so much interview preparation, your most valuable asset is the Job Description. Use the Job Description as a roadmap to help identify the soft skills required for the job. With these soft skills in hand, prepare two stories for each soft skill, using the STAR components identified above. Remember: It’s one thing to simply state the facts; it’s an entirely other thing to transform these details into a compelling and meaningful story.
- Look at your stories from your Interviewer’s perspective
Once you’ve crafted these stories from your own perspective, now it’s time to put yourself in your interviewer’s shoes. Ask yourself: “How have I portrayed myself in this story? Do I come across as someone that I would want on my team? If you’re uncertain, read your stories to a friend and ask for their impression. If the answer is no, return to the drawing board and see what other examples you can drum up that will better illustrate the value you have to offer.
- Preparation is key; delivery is crucial
Just like preparing answers to other frequently asked questions, the better prepared you are, the better your delivery will be. Practice your stories out loud; record and play them back; even better: relay them to a friend. If you’re unsure how compelling your story is, ask your friend for feedback. Which parts were engaging? Which ones weren’t? Did I repeat myself? Where can it be tightened up? The better you know the beats you must hit, the more confident you will be delivering your story with an assured smile and solid eye-contact when it counts.
You are telling your story. If anyone can ace it, it’s you!
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