As you go through the interview process, you will meet many interviewers who use behavioral based interview questions. These questions ask for specific examples of your past experiences and usually start with “Tell me about a time when you …” or “Describe a situation when…” These questions are used to give a good representation of how you will handle future situations. The most effective way to answer these questions is to develop your stories in advance and practice telling them so that you clearly communicate your experiences and most importantly, your results.
The process used to develop these stories is often called STAR or SAR process (Situation, Tasks/Actions, Results). This process helps you to describe past accomplishments and make them memorable for the interviewer. It also allows you to adapt your story to the specific company needs/opportunities and identify what you learned for future situations.
In order to start the process, think back on all your experiences in various jobs, volunteer situations and education. Identify some specific situations that you feel showcase your expertise. You should have a variety of situations that address different skills linked to the type of job you are applying for such as: team building/participation, customer service/sales, conflict resolution, project management, leadership, process improvement, communication. A good story can be easily adapted for several of these categories depending on the question you are asked.
S Describe the specific situation in enough detail so that the basics are covered: who, what, where, when, why. Situations can be problems, opportunities, new requirements, improvements, etc.
T/A Describe the steps you took to address the situation. Summarize the key steps so you can give a good overview of your actions, who you worked with and how you were able to resolve the situation.
R Here is your opportunity to bring it home! Often people don’t clearly communicate what was the impact of their actions. Try to answer the question “so what, how did your actions benefit the organization.” Quantifying results as much as possible is ideal, but qualitative results are also helpful. Also, think about how this situation is transferable to the new job or company.
Effective stories should be able to be told in about one to two minutes. Often people spend too much time describing the situation and actions, then short change the results. The interviewer is really listening for your results and how you will help them solve their problems. The more specific and memorable you make the stories, the more likely you will impress the interviewer.
Be sure to write the stories out in advance and practice with someone to make sure you hit the critical points. This is a great topic to work on with your CRC advisor!
- Melissa Jensen, CRC Advisor