Why the STAR Method Works Wonders (And Will For You Too)
With interviewers increasingly using what is called “behavioral interviews’ to evaluate a candidate’s fit for a job, candidates need to come to interviews prepared to provide real life examples of how they have handled certain situations in past jobs.
Most behavioral interview questions start with something like “Give me an example of where you’ve handled a situation similar to _______________________”, which is a specific situation that they believe might happen in their current workplace. They are interested in knowing if you have dealt with situations like the one they have described in the past and what actions you took.
They will be evaluating your answer based on several factors including:
- How closely your answer matches up with how they want you to behave in their environment
- How you approached the situation – your thought process, your mind set
- Your comfort level with the type of situation being described
Why are employers so interested in interviewing candidates behaviorally?
Behavioral interviews help to solidify your ability to perform while on the job and gives them “facts” to base their hiring decisions on. In fact, behavioral interviewing is 55 percent predictive of future behavior of an employee, compared with 10 percent for traditional interviewing. With high employee turnover plaguing most organizations, hiring managers want to pay closer attention to the candidates they are hiring and base hiring decisions on facts not just gut instincts or skills and experience.
New to the STAR method? Don’t be nervous! There is a formula for how these types of questions can be answered in a way that demonstrates your qualifications for the job and how well you will fit in with the company’s preferred ways of working. We call it the STAR method and when you use it you will end up being a STAR candidate!
Here’s how it works:
S Describe a SITUATION that is close to the interviewer’s situation as possible. If you have a couple of situations in mind, think about the one that produced a positive outcome. Include the who, when and how information in a way that sets the stage to describe your success.
The situation I am thinking of involved an interaction with myself and John,, who was someone on our team assigned to the same project I was. We had been working together for 2-3 weeks when we realized that one of our vendors who we counted on was letting us down. John thought we should terminate our relationship with this vendor and find a new one. I wanted to see if we could continue the relationship but work with them differently.
T Describe the TASK you were facing – being very specific, clear, and concise. Be sure to describe the challenges you faced.
This was the first time John and I had had a difference of opinion and we had to move quickly as if we were going to terminate the vendor we had to find a new one quickly. Project deadlines were only 1-2 weeks off and we knew it would take 2-3 days to find and orient a new vendor.
A What ACTION did you take? What did you do? How did you overcome the previously mentioned challenges/hurdles?
John and I sat down over coffee, talked thru our differences of opinion, and ended up agreeing to have a serious talk with the vendor and put them on notice that their relationship was in jeopardy if they didn’t fix the way they were communicating with us on their piece of the work so important to the project. I was able to communicate my concern about changing vendors in mid-stream. John was able to tell me exactly why he was not happy with the vendor’s performance. Our solution was a combination of both of our perspectives.
R Describe the RESULT. What was the result of the action you took? If you have metrics or data to back up the result, even better. Absent data, be sure to drive home the impact you had/the way you solved the problem at hand
The conversation with the vendor went surprisingly well. The vendor was very responsive, added some additional resources to their own team, and ended up improving their performance so quickly it surprised both myself and John.
We were able to complete our project on time (in fact a day or so ahead of schedule) plus created a much better working relationship with a vendor that we could work with on other projects.
Other helpful tips and ideas for behavioral interviews:
- When asked to give an example, describe a situation, it’s okay to take a moment to reflect before answering the question! You can say “let me think about that for a second.” OR you can rephrase the question back to the interviewer in your own words to make sure you understand what they want from you. Don’t be afraid to give yourself a few extra moments to collect yourself and your response.
- Focus on the value YOU added in the example you shared. And be specific. While you can talk about how the team did better, they will want to know how you specifically contributed to that outcome. This is your time to shine!
- If asked a question about a time when things didn’t quite work out how you planned or where you “failed” be sure to talk about what you learned, what you would do differently next time. This shows self-awareness and growth – two signs of a great employee.
- Keep a list of some of your important “work wins” in your mind! Before an interview, think about some of your shining moments in your professional life and practice talking about them in STAR format. You may not know what questions the interviewers will ask you, but having these examples that describe your ability to shine fresh in your mind will help you formulate answers to the questions when the time comes.
- You may want to write a couple of your examples out in STAR format prior to interviewing, especially if you are not used to forming your answers in this manner. Then practice reading them out loud to get comfortable with the format and make sure your answers sound like YOU. You want to sound prepared but not rehearsed
Are you ready to be a STAR? The recruiters at PACE take a great deal of pride in how we get candidates prepared not just to interview for a job, but to get job offers from those just right employers with those just right jobs. Getting good at responding to behavioral interview questions is just one of the ways we help you do that.
PACE Staffing Network is one of the Puget Sound’s premier staffing /recruiting agencies and has been helping Northwest job seekers find their “just right” jobs for over 40 years.
Featured in Forbes as one of America’s Best Temp Staffing Firms and a 5-time winner of the coveted ClearlyRated Best in Staffing designation, PACE is ranked in the top 2% of staffing agencies nationwide based on annual surveys of customer satisfaction.
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