One you’ve been in the throes of a job search you’ve experienced all different kinds of interviews – some good and some bad. The most challenging interview is often one where the interviewer doesn’t really know what to do or which questions to ask. It’s hard to get your points across when the interviewer isn’t asking you the right questions, or when they get off topic.
Lots of candidates also dread competency-based interviews, even though they’re pretty straightforward. The interviewer asks you to describe a situation in which you had to use certain skills – not what you would do, theoretically, in a hypothetical situation, but what you actually did. Most people can talk at length about what they would do – all it takes is reading a few case studies. But it’s hard to make up specific details and to keep them all straight, so competency-based questions add an extra layer of credibility.
The trick, of course, is to develop a response that tells the recruiter what they really want to know. Having a specific structure to follow helps. The STAR technique is a method of answering competency-based questions that gives you a chance to shine (get it, like a star).
What is the STAR method?
The acronym STAR represents the four components of a good answer: Situation, Task, Actions, Results.
This is where you set the stage. It’s your opportunity to describe in detail the “what” and the “why” of what’s to follow. Why were you asked to do this particular task, and what made it so important?
Example: “When I worked as a product manager for XYZ Corporation, there was a time when sales of our best-selling dog food seemed to hit a brick wall. This particular dog food had been doing well for years, growing both in terms of sales and market share. When sales suddenly dropped, we needed to figure out why.”
This is where you describe your specific role in the situation.
Example: “I was put in charge of finding out what happened so that we could address the problem.”
Next, describe both the actions you took and the thought processes behind them. A lot of people struggle with this part – and, ironically, it can be harder when you’re more experienced, because you’ve internalized that knowledge – but the more details you can provide, the better your answer will be.
Example: “I decided I should start by finding out what our customers were saying, so I spent some time on social media. I looked at both our Facebook and Twitter accounts, and I did a few hashtag searches to find out what was trending. It turns out that some consumers had confused our brand with one that had just issued a recall after a number of dogs became very sick. Once the incorrect reference was out there, it spread through social media, and consumers stopped buying our product. So I put together a social media campaign to get the facts out there. We used all of our channels — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc. – to spread the word. It took a few weeks to see results, but our sales did recover, and we ended up increasing our market share by 6%.
When it comes to results, be as specific as you can. Focus on the type of metrics that would be most relevant to the job you’re apply for.
Example: My content strategy and implementation increased traffic by 225% and conversions by 10%.
What do I need to successfully answer STAR questions?
The whole point of the STAR method is to weed out posers by requiring a level of detail that can’t be faked. So the more detail you can give, the better: names, dates, facts and figures, etc. Review your resume or portfolio ahead of time so that you can speak confidently about several situations that demonstrate the skills required by the job you’re applying for.
While the prep work may seem intense, there’s no better way to showcase what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve learned from it.