Many recruiters look for candidates who demonstrate certain sought-after traits by utilizing a standard set of behavioral-style or competency-based questions during the interview. Asking the same questions of each candidate helps an interviewer to remain objective and eliminates the risk of bias. This line of questioning typically starts out with, “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of…”
Unfortunately, candidates are not always taught how to answer these types of questions, especially when they’re just starting out in their careers. As a result they don’t perform their best during an interview.
To impress your interviewer and give effective answers to their questions, I highly recommend using the STAR technique.
The STAR acronym stands for:
SITUATION – When asked to describe a past event or offer an example of something you’ve done, set the stage for your story. Give background details and talk about who was involved, where it took place, and when it occurred.
TASK – Describe what was required. Note any obstacles or challenges – limited funds, deadlines, etc.
ACTION – Talk about what you specifically did. Outline the steps you took.
RESULT – Describe how the situation played out. What was the outcome? What did you accomplish?
When using this technique, it is important to offer an actual situation (as opposed to a hypothetical one). Be sure to keep your narrative concise, quantify the results, and finish with an overall positive learning experience. Most importantly, remember to tie the account back to the sought-after competency. With practice, your answers will get the point across while coming across as enjoyable and memorable stories to the listener.
In preparation for this exercise, write down a list of the desirable attributes that an interviewer would potentially look for. (HINT: You can often find these in the job description). Now, think about real scenarios from your recent work or school experience where you’ve demonstrated those traits. I guarantee it will be much easier to think of good examples beforehand than on the spot during the interview. Practice talking about those situations out loud using the STAR format.
The use of behavioral interview questions creates an even playing field for candidates, but you can really stand out from your peers in the substance and delivery of your answers. And think about it, who doesn’t love a good story?
Kristin Seeger is the Recruiting Manager for Kreischer Miller and is responsible for the entire recruiting function of the firm. She joined the firm in 2007 after beginning her career in audit at KPMG and then working as a recruiter for accounting professionals. She enjoys making people smile and being an inspiration to others. When she’s not out making connections, she enjoys exercise, reading, and spending time with family and friends. Contact Kristin at Email.
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