If you’ve ever been on a job interview, it’s likely you’ve been asked to give an example of how you handled a particular circumstance/challenge in a prior work situation. These types of questions are called behavioral interview questions, and answering them well requires not just identifying an example that hits the mark, but also making sure you are able to convey the story in a clear and compelling way. That means including specifics regarding lessons learned as well as how you successfully applied transferable skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, people management, etc.
Understandably, knowing how to craft effective responses to such questions isn’t intuitive for everyone. However, according to a recent article published by The Muse, there’s an easily learned approach to creating masterful answers to behavioral interview questions: the STAR Method. In this context, STAR is an acronym that describes the four key points that comprise impressive responses:
Situation. This first step of the process involves clearly and concisely illustrating the context in which the specific circumstance/challenge arose. While there can be a temptation to include extraneous details in an attempt to add “color” and make the story more interesting, the best responses are straightforward and brief. For example, if you’re asked to describe a time you had to deal with a customer who was particularly upset, you might say:
Example: “One day during an especially busy dinner rush at the last restaurant where I worked, I became aware of raised voices in the section that was being covered by our best waitress.”
Task. Here, the goal is to clarify the role you played in the example. What were your specific job responsibilities in the situation you just described? Was there a certain objective to meet? In other words, how did you fit in to the picture?
Example: “As manager, I could sense that it was time for me to step in to make sure that the situation didn’t escalate and drive away or upset other customers.”
Action. Now that you’ve provided a setting and explained the role you had to play, it’s time to talk about the steps you took to address the circumstance/challenge. What’s critical here is to make sure your language isn’t too general. For example, instead of saying “I tried to diffuse the situation,” you might say:
Example:“I started by expressing empathy that the customer was having a bad experience and asked him to explain to me in specific detail what had happened. I listened carefully to what he said, while maintaining eye contact, and every time I responded to his comments I spoke slowly and softly, in an effort to get him to match my tone.”
Result. This last portion of your answer should emphasize how you succeeded in positively impacting the situation — and why that result mattered.
Example: “Rather quickly, I was able to get the customer to lower his voice, and there were no issues with other customers. Ultimately, his waitress shared with me that, despite the incident, the customer left her a good tip, which doesn’t always happen with angry customers.”
To read the full article on The Muse, click here. And for more on looking for work after cancer, check out the following resources from CAC: