Here at ProFocus, hiring managers tell us that interviews get tough for candidates when they start to ask behavioral based questions. We’ve heard that the candidates especially struggle when given the “tell me about a time…” type of question. Hiring managers ask these questions to let your past work performance prove what you’re capable of doing in the future.
The best technique for responding to these types of questions is the STAR technique. It works so well because it gives such a simple but powerful structure to demonstrate examples of how you handled applicable situations in the past. And the acronym STAR really helps you remember how to respond when you’re in the middle of a stressful interview! STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result.
Here’s how it works:
(S) Describe the Situation; give context to your story. What is the event, project, or specific challenge you faced?
(T) Describe the Task you were asked to complete. Give details about this assignment or responsibility you had, and include any problems or issues you encountered.
(A) Explain the Action you took to complete the task. Provide character by talking about any creative solutions or problem-solving you did that led you to choose to take this specific action.
(R) Explain the Result of your actions. Remember companies want to know what’s in it for them, so the result is a key aspect of this approach! Did you resolve a conflict, save the company time or money, improve a process? And, if possible, relate it back to how you might be able to use it in the role you’re interviewing for.
And this technique can be used throughout the interview, not just for behavioral questions! It’s very useful when reviewing some of the job responsibilities and achievements on your resume, for example.
You’ll likely find this technique most helpful when talking about your work experience from the past, not hypothetical questions about how you might handle something in the present or future. Other behavioral questions where the STAR technique is very helpful might start off like:
- “Have you ever…”
- “Describe a situation where…”
- “Give me an example of when…”
Use STAR to Prepare!
Make sure you memorize what the acronym STAR stands for, and practice sample questions with yourself before your next interview. Use your resume or make a list of some of the accomplishments you’re most proud of, and describe them using this technique. And think about the kinds of skills that are in the job description, and how you could use the STAR technique to show you have those skills too. You may also want to reference other examples of behavioral questions online, to help you prepare for your next interview.
If you’re a technologist considering contract work, and you’d like some help in the job search process, give ProFocus a call! Whether you’re looking for temporary or permanent placement, our recruiters can help you find a tech project that is challenging, exciting and fits your skills.