Behavioural Style Interviews Part II – “Avoiding Common Mistakes using the STAR technique & top 5 Tips for Getting the Most out of STAR”
Common Mistakes While Answering S.T.A.R. Questions
- Not answering the question at all - If an interviewer asks you a question and you can’t for the life of you think of a single specific success story from your past that you can apply to the situation, then tell them that! It’s far better to be honest than make something up. Of course, this doesn’t mean you get to tell the interviewer to move onto the next question… Instead, you’re going to flip the question back onto yourself and follow up with “…but if I had encountered a situation like that, this is how I would deal with it.”
- Not being prepared - This one is a no brainer. Especially since we’ve already outlined the five most common categories of behavioural questions. Coming up with a story on the spot often means an interviewer is stuck listening to you ramble on and on. Doing your homework ahead of time means not only will you have your success story prepared, but it will be concise and targeted. Try to prepare 3-5 success stories that collectively demonstrate a wide variety of common behaviours a hiring manager would be looking for.
- Being too prepared - Yes, this is possible. You want your story to seem effortless, but not so rehearsed as to be robotic. Review your stories before you go in for your interview, but don’t overdo it. Keep it light and conversational rather than rehearsing a story you have practiced word-for-word.
- Telling a story that is anything but a success - You want the job, right? So why would you tell a story where you fail miserably and learn absolutely nothing from the experience? While it might be a funny story overall, it’s not one that’s going to get you a job. Telling a story that has absolutely no positive outcome, either from the final results or the lessons you learned, is pointless. Now you might be thinking, “this is common sense. I would not tell a story that makes me look bad.” Here’s the deal though. Sometimes, what starts out as great intentions, can unravel before you know it. If the hiring manager decides to probe into your story, you need to be certain that he/she is not going to encourage you to reveal something you did not intend. So despite what we said about not speaking like a robot… stick to the script!
- Telling a story that has nothing to do with the question asked - This goes along with being prepared. Telling a story that is unrelated to the question demonstrates to a hiring manager that you lack focus and attention to detail, two key qualities that every good candidate should possess.
- Telling a story that makes you appear unqualified or puts you in a bad light - The opposite of this is also true. Don’t tell a story where you are “the only employee doing anything right ever”. Nobody is absolutely perfect and telling a story where you singlehandedly saved the entire company from bankruptcy while also managing to fully fund the orphanage next door as well as the panda sanctuary down the street isn’t going to just come off as impossible, it’s going to come off as fiction.
Top 5 Tips for Getting the Most out of STAR
So now that you know what you are not supposed to do, let’s focus in on what you do need to do to get the most out of the STAR Method.
- Be prepared - I know we said this above, but it really is the essence of the method. Going in with a solid set of S.T.A.R. targeted success stories will not only make answering them easier for you, but will help you highlight to the hiring manager the specific qualities and skills that make you perfect for the position and set you apart from the other candidates.
- Be specific - The STAR Method is not about being vague and wishy-washy. This goes hand in hand with being prepared. Prior to your interview you should have identified the skills and qualities the company is looking for. Make sure your stories are specific and targeted. Remember, you need to highlight the behaviour that the hiring manager is interested in, and your success story should clearly align with that. Being vague or general will not only make it difficult for the hiring manager to properly evaluate you, but it will dilute the impact of your success story.
- Be quantitative - This is very important. Hiring Managers absolutely LOVE numbers, so have solid, tangible results to back up your stories. Did you increase sales for your department by 58%? Did your actions make your team 89% more efficient? Back up your successes with hard facts and numbers wherever possible.
- Be concise - Keep your stories short, sweet and targeted. No extra info or boring details that are irrelevant to the specific question. If you see the Hiring Manager glance down at her watch or start yawning during your response, you know it is time to wrap it up.
- Be honest! - The last thing you want to do is dazzle your interviewer with a story that isn’t 100% true. Not only do you undermine your credibility down the road if they find out you weren’t honest, but it calls into question their ability to trust you overall…and nobody wants to hire someone they don’t trust.
** Look out for Behavioural Style Interviews Part III – “Example Question and Answers”