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Beyond the usual barrage of questions about your strengths, weaknesses and job skills, hiring managers sometimes employ behavioral techniques to find out what sort of job candidate you really are. In this type of interview, the employer will ask you how you behaved – or would behave – in certain situations, with the idea that your responses will give him some idea about how you'd behave in similar situations in the new job. Like other interview questions, "passing" this part of the interview requires research and practice.
The STAR Method
The "S.T.A.R." method refers to the way you'll respond to any behavioral interview questions thrown at you. The acronym is short for situation or task, action, and results. With each question the employer asks, you'll need to set up the scene by describing the situation or task you were dealing with. Next, you describe the action you took to resolve the situation or handle the task and then explain the results for your organization, clients or co-workers. It is important to quantify the results, suggests the University of Minnesota's CLA Career Services. For example, if you were asked to resolve a sales slump at one of your previous jobs, you would discuss the action you took and how much more sales you generated because of it.
How to Spot STAR Questions
During the interview, the hiring manager might not come right out and say that he's moving onto the STAR portion of the interview. But you'll recognize the questions because they'll typically include something like "Tell me about a time when..." or "How would you react if..." There are typically two types of behavioral interview questions. The hiring manager will either ask you to describe how you responded to negative situations in the workplace, or have you discuss successes you've had and how you accomplished them.
What the Employer Will Want to See
As with any portion of a job interview, the STAR portion is your chance to show the employer that you are what she's looking for. Before the interview, review the job posting to jog your memory about the skills and qualities she's looking for, then frame your STAR interview responses to address those qualities. For example, if an employer is looking for someone with strong leadership skills, you might tell a story about how you took the reins during a work crisis, turned the crisis around and improved the company's performance. If she's looking for someone who's detail-oriented, you might talk about helping your former boss analyze the company's expenditures, and how that resulted in increased profits.
Well ahead of the interview, write down a few possible scenarios the employer might ask about based on the expectations listed in the job posting. Next, have a friend or colleague practice asking you about them. You might even create a checklist for your friend to use, which lists "scenario or task, action, and results." When you mention one of the parts of the "STAR," your friend can check it off. At the end, ask your friend for feedback on your responses. Another helpful exercise is to videotape yourself so you can see and hear how you respond to questions. If you find that your answers waver too much, or don't get quickly enough to the point, practice being more confident and concise when discussing how your actions and behaviors have benefited former employers.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.