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Be A STAR In Your Next Job Interview

Nov 16, 2007
Recently, I consulted with a young professional who had completed an initial job interview, and was informed by the company that they were interested in conducting a second interview. The good news: the company was now considering the interviewee for a management position rather than the initial technician position. The bad news: the young professional was unsure what to expect during the second interview.

Obviously, she had appropriately prepared for the initial interview. What she wasn't prepared for was an interview that focused on a different set of skills. However, if you fully understand how to interview successfully, you'll realize that a certain framework exists for all interviews.

What I will share with you are the five key steps, to be used in all types of interviews. These five steps are appropriate for behavioral interviews, group interviews, stress interviews, phone interviews, second interviews - - it doesn't matter the interview format. When you're able to understand the flow and structure of job interviews you're more likely to anticipate actions undertaken by the interviewer. So, if you're familiar with the way in which most interviewers attempt to learn more about applicants within the scope of an interview, then you're one step ahead of the rest.

Most interviewers need to be able to walk away from each interview with quantifiable and/or content-rich details regarding the applicant. It's not enough to merely say "this is a good candidate for the position because he works well with people." An interviewer has to be able to specify the exact reasons why this candidate matches the position qualifications. If it's difficult for you to explain your work-related results and tie them to the reasons why you're the right person for the job during the course of an interview, then the interviewer will mark your candidacy as "not a good fit." Within the framework of an interview, the interviewer is trying to "screen in" your candidacy and wants verifiable information that backs up, or confirms, your fit with the position.

If you're familiar with the STAR method of interviewing, then you're moving in the right path to successfully interview. The STAR method is outlined briefly below:

STAR = Situation - Task - Action - Results

Situation / Task: Describe a specific event or situation that you handled

Action: Detail the action or steps you took related to the situation

Results: Based on your action steps, what results were achieved? If the results can be quantified ("client base increased by 25%"), then you've successfully answered the question.

The STAR method is a well-known interviewing technique. It's one that's critical to your success within the interview. However, there is one step that's missing within this method. This additional step will put your responses to interview questions in a different light and increase the value of your candidacy. Providing specific action steps you've undertaken to achieve results is an important interview technique. However, there is always the chance that the interviewer is not able to accurately connect the dots and see how the results you've obtained in one situation will transfer easily within her company's structure and environment. Imagine explaining how you increased your former client base by 10% through specific advertising techniques - - and imagine the interviewer thinking, "not sure how that will work in our company."

Broad categories of skills (salesmanship, teamwork, detail-orientation, communication, etc.) require the detailed STAR method for you to be able to explain your capabilities in the workplace. The next step you should take will help you answer the question: "how will this candidate be successful in OUR company?"

So, here's the additional step to be added to the STAR method. After explaining the Situation/Task, Action taken, and Results achieved, describe exactly how this particular skill you possess appropriately transfers from one situation to the next. Here's an example of this enhancement to the STAR interview technique:

1) Provide a brief description of the situation: "One of my customers was unhappy with our XYZ widgets."

2) Add some detail to describe the specific task or role you were assigned to deal with the situation: "I was responsible for dealing directly with our department's major clients and so, I was charged with turning the situation around for this unhappy customer."

3) Provide one or two key action steps you took to handle the situation: "I contacted the customer directly and requested feedback. I authorized a refund or future discounts to this particular customer."

4) As a result of your action steps, what happened? "As a result of the refund and discount, the customer increased their orders by 25%."

5) Then explain how you will be able to achieve similar results within the interviewer's company: "I understand that your company values customer satisfaction, and I believe that I have the necessary skills to succeed in your company. The situation that I just described provides a good picture of my customer service capabilities."

The 5th step completely answers the question of how you will fit within the company. An additional benefit lies in the fact that you're further outlining how well you know the demands of the position and how well you know the company. Of course, the best way to use this technique is to make sure you have fully researched the company prior to the interview.

The five steps may be interchangeable - - you describe step 4 (the results) prior to step 1 (the situation), however, the key is to be able to list specific results that were gained. Most importantly, the results have to be tied directly to your action steps. Interviewers are looking for RESULTS, not just generalities ("I'm good with clients because I enjoy talking to others"). They need hard facts, verifiable data. And you're the most qualified candidate who is prepared to give it to them.
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