During your time interviewing for different jobs, more likely than not you will encounter employers who conduct behavioral interviews. What is a behavioral-based interview, you may ask? Behavioral interviewing is supposed to uncover your past job-related behavior to predict how you will behave in the future. It is based on the assumption that your past performance predicts future performance.
Many interviewers will thus use the STAR method, which is an acronym that stands for:
This method requires you to describe a specific example, which is structured according to the above mentioned formula. In the end, it’s all about good story-telling:
Situation or Task
This is where your story starts. Describe a specific situation where you encountered a task or faced a challenge. You need to set the context while making it concise yet informative. Only use information which can answer the STAR question without going into superfluous details. For example, if you are asked to describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult person, you may describe the situation where in Graduate school you had a very difficult adviser who required a lot of convincing before approving your experiments – this way you set the situation and the task/challenge you faced.
The answer to this part is perhaps the most important one of the STAR responses because it will show employers how you can resolve challenges by taking appropriate actions. In your response you will need to highlight your skills and personality traits relevant for the question. Continue developing your story. You have already set the context, now wow your employers by describing what actions you took. Remember, your answer should be very PERSONAL and described in DETAIL:
- What you did
- How you did it
- Why you did it
Here is the time to describe how you reacted to the situation and what skills you used to resolve the task/challenge. Don’t be modest, for example, describe how useful your bioinformatics, communication and team building skills are. From all the possible solutions, explain why you chose this particular approach to help the interviewers understand what drove your actions and show that you had calculated the consequences, thus maintaining full control of the situation.
This is the icing on the cake, the crescendo, the apex of your story where because of your hard work, you get to reap the fruits of your labour. Finish your story by explaining how your actions resolved the situation and what you had accomplished in that situation. This is also where you further highlight your skills that the employer may be looking for.
The key to answering STAR questions is being specific in your responses. Make yourself the protagonist in your story and tell it well. By the end of the story, you must convince the employers that you are capable of taking specific actions to achieve a specific goals and resolve specific challenges because you have done so in the past and this story is just ONE specific example. The best way to practice for STAR interviews is to write down a number of such stories from your experience using the STAR formula.