You’re in a job interview, and things are going well so far. You dressed the part, rocked the interviewer with your extensive background, and even befriended people at the front desk. Then, the interviewer hits you with the dreaded “Tell me about a time when….”
Situational questions can often throw prospective candidates for a loop. Even with adequate preparation, it can still be tricky to properly portray the situation and your relatable skills in regards to the answer that they are seeking out.
You quickly sort through your brain for any relatable situation, eventually coming up with an example that somewhat satisfies the prompt but doesn’t highlight the attributes that the interviewer was seeking. We’ve all been there. Fortunately, there’s a much simpler way to organize information to create a clear and concise answer to make the process behind these questions a little easier.
This method is referred to as the S.T.A.R Method. This technique offers a concrete way to elaborate on your previous accomplishments and skills by giving a situational example and backing it up with associated skills.
How do you know if you should use the S.T.A.R Method? Watch out for key words in behavioral questions, often beginning with:
Tell me about an instance…
Give me an example of…
Describe a time…
Besides thinking of the situation, the S.T.A.R Method backs it up with structure so that you don’t end up rambling for ten minutes with unnecessary details. This method provides a framework so that you can stick to the point and highlight the skills that make you a good fit….which is exactly what the interviewer is looking for. It helps you create an easy-to-follow scenario with a clear conflict followed by a resolution.
Now, what is the S.T.A.R method exactly? Let’s break it down. S.T.A.R is an acronym that stands for:
1.Situation: Set the scene and provide situational details.
This is the crucial starting point (and perhaps the most difficult part). You won’t know exactly what the interviewer will ask you, but it’s a good idea to have a few scenarios prepared in your head, so that you can adapt them for different questions.
If the question really throws you for a loop or you just can’t think of one quickly, don’t be afraid to ask for a minute so you can prepare yourself.
2. Task: Describe what your responsibility was in that situation.
After you’ve picked a scenario, it’s time to add any appropriate details. It’s tempting to include all sorts of unnecessary details, but try to avoid this as much as possible before you start going down a rabbit hole. Focus this section on a few sentences and try to keep it concise.
Your goal here is to paint a clear picture of the situation you were in and highlight any particular difficulties.
This can easily become merged with the action portion. However, this section is dedicated to your responsibilities and objectives, then to be followed by the action segment.
3. Action: Explain your actions (and the steps you took)
Now that you’ve given the interviewer a description of both the situation and your role within it, it’s time to explain what you did and what steps you took to resolve the problem. This is the section you want to add extra details. Showcase yourself and your contributions with the details of what program you used, if you worked on a team, any steps that were involved, etc.
4. Result: Share the outcome of your actions (along with the importance of those actions)
Finally-the results! This is your time to shine and explain what effects your contribution had as a whole. Make sure this part is very clear-you don’t want the interviewer to be confused as to what impact your efforts made, that’s the whole point of the question!
Interviewers don’t only care about your actions but also they want to know why it’s important. Make sure to focus on results and include any necessary details-numbers are always a great bonus!
Package all of these components together and you’ve mastered the S.T.A.R method. This process might seem a little overwhelming at first, but with practice it will become a lot more manageable. With enough practice, you’ll be a star in your next interview.
Content courtesy of Michelle Finn, Founder of Pop Design Shoppe
Contributing Author, Michelle Finn
Michelle has a strong marketing background in a versatile set of roles including social media, events, and field marketing. She fell in love with design and combined it with her skills to create her business, Pop Design Shoppe. In the future, she hopes to continue her work within design or the arts (including interior design, fashion, the visual arts, and event design). She wants to continue working on projects that create impact. Her perfect day includes a morning workout, sunny day at the beach (preferably with her dog joining) followed by an evening out with friends at an event.