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The Recession-Proof Interview

Behavioral Interviewing—Frame it with a STAR 

Behavioral-based interviewing is touted as providing a more objective set of facts for employers to make objective employment decisions. Employers use a behavioral interview technique coined STAR to evaluate a candidate’s experiences and behaviors so they can determine the applicant’s potential for success. The interviewer identifies job-related experiences, behaviors, knowledge, skills, and abilities that the company has determined as desirable for a particular position. Some common, desirable characteristics include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Sense of Urgency
  • Willingness to learn
  • Energetic
  • Self-confident
  • Team Player
  • Professionalism
  • Adaptability

Behavioral Interview Questions typically start out: “Tell about a time when ...” or “Describe a situation ...” so listen for these phrases.

As a candidate, you should be equipped to answer the questions thoroughly. Obviously, you can prepare better for this type of interview if you know which skills or competencies that the employer has predetermined to be necessary for the job you seek. Researching the company will enable you to zero in on the kinds of behaviors the company wants. In the interview, your response needs to be specific and detailed. Candidates who tell the interviewer about particular situations that relate to each question will be far more effective and successful than those who respond in general terms.

Ideally, you should briefly describe the situation, what specific action you took to have an effect on the situation, and the positive result or outcome. Frame it with a STAR. Why frame it in this manner? Because past behavior predicts future performance.

1. S/T: Situation or Task (Also know as a problem to solve, the issue at hand.)
Describe the situation or task at hand.

2. A: Action
Provide specifics actions that you personally dealt with relating to the situation or task at hand.

3. R: Result (Or outcome to the situation/task.)
If there is no result, there is no performance that the interviewer will assess on your behalf.

Remember that many behavioral questions try to get at how you responded to negative situations; you’ll need to have examples of negative experiences ready, but try to choose negative experiences that you made the best of or—better yet, those that had positive outcomes or those that you learned a lesson that serves you well today.

Here’s a good way to prepare for behavior-based interviews:

  • Identify six to eight examples from your past experience ON YOUR RESUME where you demonstrated top behaviors and skills that employers typically seek. Think in terms of examples that will exploit your skills or the characteristics listed above.
  • Half of your examples should be positive, such as accomplishments or meeting goals, and HOW you met these goals.
  • The other examples should be situations that started out negatively but either ended positively or you made the best of the outcome and you have learned a valuable lesson that has furthered your career. Be prepared to explain how this lesson has furthered your career.
  • Vary your examples; don’t take them all from just one area of your life. Jobs 10 years ago taught us valuable lessons that we still reference today.
  • Try to describe examples in story form Situation—Action—Result/Outcome, as described above.
  • You may take in your resume and your notes to reference during your interview – this shows preparedness.
  • Pre-determine questions regarding the position and the company, do not “wing it” when it comes to questions; candidates that don’t ask well thought-out questions don’t get the job!
  • Don’t ask about salary, incentives or benefits in the first interview—don’t break this cardinal rule.
  • We don’t get what we don’t ask for—close the interview! Tell the interviewer that you are interested in the next step of the interview process and ask the interviewer what the next step is for you to remain in the interview process.
  • In the interview, listen carefully to each question and discuss an example that provides an appropriate description of how you demonstrated the desired behavior that you deem the interviewer is seeking.