The STAR Method: The Secret to Acing Your Next Job Interview
At Hi-Tech Japan, we work every day with many candidates, and we know how difficult it can be to present yourself as the best option for a job position.
One of the main problems, our candidates get, is to present their story clearly.
For example, you are in an interview room and everything is going on well. You did not get lost when you were getting to the office, you were able to have a friendly chat with the hiring manager, and you are answering the questions you are being asked perfectly.
When you start thinking about how you just aced this interview, you hear the question “Tell me more about that time when.”
This is the point when you feel something dropping in your body. Your brain goes numb trying to come up with something or anything. You try clutching to anything, and you end up stumbling.
You should first take comfort in knowing many people have been through the same situation. Answering these types of questions is not easy. But the good news is that there is a strategy that you can use when coming up with answers to these questions, and you will be impressed.
This method is known as the STAR interview.
What is the STAR Interview Method?
This is a technique that offers a straightforward format that can be used in answering behavioral questions – these are the type of questions that are asked so you can give more real-life examples of how you handled a given situation related to work in the past.
You don’t have to worry because recognizing this type of questions is easy. They usually open like:
What do you do when…
Tell me more about a time when…
Give me an example of…
Have you ever…
Thinking about fitting examples to the response is just the start. You will also need to share details in a way that the interviewer can easily understand without rambling.
This is how the STAR interview method is going to help you. “You will have a simple framework that will help you tell a story using experiences from your work”, according to Al Dea, who is a leadership and career coach and the founder of CareerSchooled.
Here is the breakdown of the STAR technique. STAR is an acronym standing for;
Situation: setting the scene then giving the necessary details
Task; Describing your responsibility in the given situation
Action; these are the steps you took in addressing the situation
Result; The outcome you were able to achieve
The above four components will help in shaping your anecdote and this makes it much easier for you to share a focused answer, and the interviewer is going to get a good picture of what you did. The answer will help them know how the candidate is going to fit the job, says Dea.
Using STAR to Answer Interview Questions
The first is knowing what the acronyms stand for, then the next step is knowing how you are going to use it. Below is a step by step process that is going to help you get the best STAR interview answers.
1. Finding a Suitable Example
You won’t be able to benefit from the STAR interview method if you are not going to use it in structuring answers using an anecdote that is not relevant. This is why you need to find the right scenario from your work history that you can start from.
It is impossible to know what the interviewer is going to ask you (although there are some common questions you can expect to be asked). Keeping this in mind, it is a good idea to have some examples in your brain. These examples can be tweaked then adapted to a different question.
Look at your previous job and see some scenarios that you succeeded in handling, then think of a way you can apply to the question you will be asked. Practice by going over some common questions. If you do this a couple of times, you will see an improvement. You will be ready for any questions asked.
If you are in an interview and you find yourself having a hard time coming up with an example that fits a specific situation, don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to give you a minute. According to Emma Flowers, a career coach, it can be impressive for a candidate to ask for more time so they can come up with the right answer. Taking a couple of seconds to put your thoughts together is a good idea.
2. Laying out the situation
Once you have selected your anecdote, you will move to the next step of setting the scene. You can find yourself tempted to add unnecessary details to the answer, and this is common when you start feeling nervous. If the interviewer asks you about the time when you were not able to meet the expectations of a client, they are not interested in knowing the entire story, just the specific situation.
The main goal in this stage is painting a picture of the situation that you were in and emphasizing the complexities you were dealing with. Anything you say at this point should be relevant to what you are trying to share.
The STAR method is there to make things simple. There are people who end giving too many details and their answers become too long. The best way to know whether you are sharing too much is if you find that you are giving more than two sentences for each of the letters.
If an interviewer was to ask you to tell them the time when you achieved a goal that was out of reach when you were starting.
The best response in this type of situation will be something like this “I worked in a digital role in my previous company and my main area of expertise was email marketing, and the goal of the campaign was to aggressively increase email subscribers”
3. Highlighting the Task
There is a reason why you are telling the story – you had some part to play in it. This is the point where you let the interviewer know your role in it.
Many people can confuse this with the “action” part of your response. The goal of this is providing specifics of what your role in the particular situation was. This will come before you say what you actually did.
Your Response (Task): “The target I had was increasing the email list by 50% by the next quarter”
4. Sharing How You Took Action
Now that you have let the interviewer know the role you were playing, you need to tell him/her what you actually did. The steps you took in solving that problem.
You should avoid giving glossed-over or vague answers like “I really worked hard on that project” or “I invested a lot of time and effort in doing research…”
This is where you have the chance of showing your contribution, and you should include specifics. Trying to give as much information about it as possible. Were you able to work with a given team? Did you use any software in the process? Did you have a detailed plan? These are the types of details the interviewer is interested in.
Your Response (Action): “I began by going back and reading some old blog posts and using the information to encourage subscriptions, and this led to an increase in subscriptions. I then went to work with the marketing team so we could arrange for a webinar that needed an email address to register, and we were able to add more people to our list”.
5. Dishing Out the Result
This is your chance to shine and show the difference you were able to make. This is where you are going to share the results you were able to get when you take the action. The results you provide should be positive. If it is not positive, then this is not the type of story you should be telling. There is no interviewer who will be impressed when you have a story ending with “after that, I got fired”
Does this mean you cannot share stories that involve some challenges and problems? No. When you are talking about a time when you made a mistake or failed, you should find a way of ending it on a high note, and this can be the steps you took to fix the problem and what you were able to learn about the process. This is a step that many people skip over. You should find a way of letting the interviewer know how the actions you took impacted the project. This is one of the most important parts of your response.
Interviewers not only care about what you did, but they also want to know why it mattered. You should not be shy to let them know the results you were able to achieve and quantify them when possible. Numbers will always have an impact.
Your Response (Result): “because of what we did to the strategy, I managed to increase the subscribers from 50,000 to 90,000 in just three months, which was 20% over our goal”.
Putting it All Together
Have you noticed that it is all starting to make sense? Here is another example of question and answer so you will be able to understand the concept even better.
The Interviewer asks: “Have you been in a situation where you had to be very strategic so as to meet all of your goals, tell me more about it”
Situation: “At my previous job my role was sales associate, I was tasked with being in charge on a new customer relationship management system (CRM) – and this was on top of the normal responsibilities.”
Task: “The goal of the project was migrating to the new system in three months, and still meeting my normal sales targets”
Action: “For me to do this, I had to properly manage my time. I allocated two hours a day to the CRM project. In these two hours, I was transferring data and updating information then cleaning out old contacts. This allowed me to make a lot of progress on the CRM project while still being able to handle my normal sales responsibilities”
Result: “Because of my approach, I was able to complete the project three weeks before the deadline, and I exceeded my sales goal by 12%”.
The STAR interview process will help in answering questions that can seem a bit overwhelming at first. Once you start practicing, you will start finding it easier and second nature. You should always practice.
Some ways you can practice include; practicing in front of the mirror and a mock interview. When you get to the interview, you will feel comfortable and the entire thing will feel natural.
When you practice, you will see these types of questions as a chance to emphasize your qualifications and skills, and less of a burden.
We hope you will ace your next interview!
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