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I work with hundreds of people on all aspects of their job search, including technical and behavioral interview preparation. I have found that, more than anything, people need help with their responses to a few key questions in the behavioral interviews. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind.
Be a STAR.
Answering questions about yourself might feel like a piece of cake, but when you get into the actual interview, many people freeze up. A good way to think about your responses to these questions is to organize them in the STAR method. You can also think about this structure as a beginning, middle and end.
Let’s go through how you can answer this question using the STAR method: “Tell me about a conflict you’ve had at work and how it was resolved.”
• S = Situation
This is the introduction to your response where you describe the premise of the question you were asked: “At my last position, I really enjoyed working with my team and my supervisor. I learned so much from them because it was my first job out of college and I really felt like I was able to grow professionally. Thinking back on a conflict, though, I do remember a time when I was working on a cross-disciplinary team with software engineers, product managers and designers.”
• T = Target/Task
This is where you determine the goal of the question and bring it to light: “When our team met for the first time, everyone was excited to work on the project, which was to completely revamp our company’s app. But, there was a lack of leadership in the room and a lot of strong voices led to some chaos and conflict.”
• A = Action
What did you actually do to solve the initial problem? “Realizing that we were not getting anywhere with everyone talking over one another, I decided the best thing to do would be to establish some processes that would help us make more informed decisions. I brought out the whiteboard and started writing down everyone’s ideas.”
• R = Result
This is the conclusion of your response, where you tell the interviewer what you achieved: “When all of the ideas were in front of us, we were able to organize ourselves and vote for them by priority and importance. By bringing the volume in the room down and bringing everyone’s ideas to an equal playing field (the whiteboard), the team was able to make a decision in 30 minutes, versus the hour and a half we had spent ‘brainstorming’ before.”
Actually write down your answers before the interview
Be specific with your responses. Instead of diving into everything, tell the abridged story and then offer to go into more detail about past projects or experiences if the interviewer would like. When you do this, it lets them know that you have the emotional intelligence to curb yourself.
An example of a response to “Tell me about a time that you used analytics in an interesting way,” might be: “In my last position where I was working on growth marketing for a young startup, I knew analytics would be important so I developed a tracking system that would keep us up to date on the progress we were making. Happy to go into more detail on this, if you want.”
All of this is tough to remember on the spot, but the main thing you can do to get better at wording is simple: Write down your answers on a document or on paper so you can see them in front of you as you practice. That will help you iterate and concretely understand how you come across. It will also be much easier to get feedback from peers and mentors on how to improve. You’ll have a reference for practicing common questions with partners.
Don’t bother memorizing your drafts, as that will sound rehearsed. It’s much more important that you wrote them down in the first place. That action, in and of itself, will make your answers naturally more polished, just like how writing a study guide for a test will help you study in the first place.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a successful behavioral interview. If you prepare for these questions the same way you would prepare for technical interviews, you can expect to impress your interviewer and convince them that you’re not just technically proficient — you’re the whole package.
June 3, 2019 at 07:31AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs