The Average Job Interview
4 out of 5 job interviews result in a rejection letter, so how do you make sure you stand out?
We have all heard the standard advice for any job interview.
“Make sure you provide lots of examples!”
“Wear your nice suit”
“Don’t forget to smile and make eye contact.”
But there is one thing that candidates forget to communicate above ALL else… To nail your job interview it is vital to communicate the unique and valuable way that you will be an asset to the team!
The STAR Method
Have you heard of the STAR technique for answering job interview questions? It is an acronym that describes a format for answering behaviour style questions. When used appropriately it turns a mediocre conversation into a convincing discussion of the value that you will bring to the team.
Let’s talk about what the letters stand for!
S – Situation
Begin answering by describing a situation or experience that relates to the question.
T – Task
Describe what responsibilities fall within your job description in response to the situation.
A – Action
Share the actions you took in response to the situation. Highlight the ways that you rose above the “tasks” assigned to you and added extra value to the team.
The One Thing that Results in Results
You have navigated your way through the S-T-A successfully… Now for the vital piece of the STAR formula that is often missed…
R – Result
Explain why your actions mattered to the situation. This is the chance to clearly communicate your impact to the listener. You need to tell them WHY they should care (don’t assume anything).
Take a Deep Look
Let me talk about the R in more detail. We will use an example from Sally…
Sally is a fictional software developer applying for a position at a start-up company. The role will include leadership responsibilities of a programming team. Her interview is going well and she has nailed the technical assessment. The manager says, “tell me about a time that you needed to provide difficult feedback to a member of your team”.
Here is Sally’s Response:
“At my current organization, I work with a team of 5 developers. 2 are intermediate developers and 3 are junior. During a meeting my colleague was providing suggestions to a junior developer about the format of their code. Unfortunately, the guidance didn’t align with the structure that our managers had asked us to follow …(S)…
As an Intermediate Developer it isn’t my responsibility to provide leadership to my peers, but it is important that our developers are on the same page …(T)…
I didn’t want to undermine his expertise in front of our team, so I waited until later in the day and asked to chat in private. I asked him if he remembered the recommendations that management had made. We talked about the suggestions that he provided to the junior developer. He realized that his recommendation was leading the junior developer off track. My colleague had not realized his mistake! …(A)…”
Don’t Stop Here, Sally!!!
… this is where many people end their answer. You have successfully described the actions taken and given context for the story. Resist the temptation! There is one more VITAL step of your answer to prove the value that you brought to the situation! The RESULT of your actions!
Here is the Rest of Sally’s Response:
“By respectfully bringing up the topic, I was able to ensure that the the team was using a consistent method of coding. It helped my colleague more effectively mentor a junior developer, and grew the trust that I had with my peer. He was very grateful that I had mentioned it to him and was able to immediately address his mistake. I learned how critical it is to have these conversations before too much time has passed.”
The RESULT of Sally’s actions are the most important part of the answer. In an interview, we can not assume that the interviewer will be able to infer the reason that they should care about your example. It is like assuming that a guest at your house will know where to find the cutlery in the kitchen. There is the potential that they may make a correct guess, but they might be very far from the correct drawer!
Emphasize the Why
Through communicating why the interviewer should care about your actions, you teach them about the value you will bring to their team.
When emphasizing the “R” Sally was able to communicate that she:
- knows how to respectfully provide feedback
- builds and maintains strong relationships with her peers
- has strong technical understanding
- is willing to have hard conversations when necessary
- is able to follow instructions and likes to remain in line with the vision of a leadership team
- likes to be timely and doesn’t let things drag out too long.
By skipping the “R” the hiring manager may not have recognized these facts.
In “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek, he discusses that our brains are built to care about “why” at the core, followed by “how” and then the “what” (this is based on our evolutionary biology… a post for another time…). We need to address all three of these to powerfully communicate with others.
Missing the why (as we often do) is a less convincing argument and it can hinder the quality of your job interview.
Go the Extra Step
In preparation for your next job interview, spend extra time thinking about your examples. Map out S-T-A and R to create an impactful answer that is sure to impress!