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STAR - this is an acronym for 4 critical stages that need to be followed in an interview. STAR questions are to be considered especially in behavior-based or competency-based interviews, as an interviewer always looks forward to understanding the candidate’s previous experiences, obstacles handled, leadership skills, performance under pressure and other such factors.
STAR questions are extremely structured behavioral interview questions where answers are provided by explaining the Situation, Task, Action, and Result of a particular topic are provided to the interviewer.
- Situation: The candidate is supposed to share a very detailed description of a challenging situation where he/she overcame a lot of difficulties to achieve a specific goal. A candidate is expected to provide as much detail as he/she can for the interviewer to analyze their hurdle handling capabilities. It doesn’t have to be restricted to a job from the past and can be spread across all experiences such as volunteering or any other such encounters.
- Task: What was the goal that the interviewee was trying to achieve? An interviewer seeks to understand the targets achieved by the candidate in the past to decide whether or not he/she will be able to manage in the organization’s culture and achieve their goals.
- Action: A candidate is expected to share an aggregate of actions taken to complete a particular task. Steps taken to solve problems while trying to achieve a goal, contribution as a team member to finish an assigned task within the expected time frame and details such as these will make the interviewer believe in what the candidate has to bring to the table.
- Result: Irrespective of how big or small a candidate’s contribution was, he/she must explain the outcome of the activities done to achieve the goal. Whether the goal was overachieved or underachieved and how well did the candidate perform in that situation. This is a factor where none of the interviewees must shy away from boasting about the work done to achieve a certain goal.
The most important aspect to consider in STAR questions is to be specific and detailed in every step of the interview and making sure that the specificity does not convert into verbosity. It will be better if the negatives of the previous job are kept at bay and the positives are highlighted in the best possible manner.
Here are 4 tips to bear in mind while preparing for a STAR interview:
- Include details: An interviewer would want to hire an individual who can step in to solve a challenge that a company must be facing. Details about how the candidate contributed towards solving a problem the organization was facing, within the desired time frame. This highlights the candidate’s perseverance, leadership skills and the will to learn along the way. It is advisable to include details which highlight the positives such as percentages or procedures. Generic answers such as “the results were better than last time” or “we achieved our desired numbers” will leave the interviewer disinterested.
- Avoid beating about a bush: What a candidate has achieved in the past, is what needs to be showcased. Proving to an interviewer that he/she is best suitable for a particular job role is important but not at the cost of sounding too full of oneself. Candidates must highlight incidents that portray their problem-solving capabilities, communication, and leadership skills.
- Don’t rush: If a candidate makes use of the STAR method to answer the interview questions, it is best if he/she avoids rushing through the interview as it may give the impression that the candidate is nervous or not confident of what he/she is explaining. Taking too much time to answer is the other extreme of time. A candidate can take 2-3 minutes to answer the each of the interview questions.
- Use first singular person: To keep the interviewers engrossed in a conversation, it will be more impactful if the candidates express their stories and experiences in singular first person rather than plural. For instance, if the interviewer intends to understand the individual's contribution, “I performed under pressure...” will be more effective than “We performed under pressure..”
In the first method, you can arrange a panel that would respond to your surveys and give you precise insights. As a panel consists of selected, filtered and handpicked individuals who already qualify for the research, asking them questions and getting insights is not just more easier but far more accurate and detailed.
The second method is applied on site for B2B or B2C purposes where you appoint interviewers or in most cases employees, to collect data on mobile devices. This method is very effective during concerts or live events where face to face data collection is possible for understanding user experience and making improvements.
Another way of conducting this research is by collecting data from locations where internet isn’t available. In such cases, the data collected offline will get automatically synced once internet becomes accessible.
For a question such as: “Tell us about a time when you showed extreme patience and performed above everyone’s expectations under immense pressure.”
- Situation: “In my previous organization, website signups and conversions were reducing quarter after quarter in 2017.”
- Task: “It was my responsibility to come up with efficient market-approved ideas to make the website better and increase website signups and conversions by at least 20% in the first quarter of 2018.”
- Action: “I designed a plan to revamp the website homepage with attractive call-to-actions. I also optimized the blogs and created a plan to generate new content every week to boost website traffic. All these blog pages had CTAs so that if visitors wish to sign-up from the particular page, they easily can. The email marketing team was informed about my targets and with a few email campaigns in a quarter, the sign-ups improved.”
- Result: “By the end of the first quarter of 2018, my team and I were successful in increasing sign-ups by 20%.”
Here are 5 STAR interview questions, similar to the one mentioned in the section above, which can be used in behavior-based interviews:
- Share with me an incident where there you had a discord with your team member.
STAR answer: There was a project where I and my colleague had a massive difference of opinion about an implementation change. I understood that I couldn’t let this dispute go any further and took the initiative to apologize, had a meeting with her and came to a common ground which we both agreed upon.
- Tell me about a time where you committed a huge mistake and how did you deal with it?
STAR answer: There was an urgent order which needed to be dispatched on a particular date. I mentioned the wrong date in the package and it got delivered a day later than what was expected. I took 100% responsibility and told the client about what happened which made them trust me and the company to continue making purchases from us.
- Have you ever managed a difficult employee from another team for an urgent project?
STAR answer: There was a time my department had to work on a lead we generated from the website and since the sales executives handle closure, I took the responsibility to coordinate with them. But, the sales executive had his hands full and wasn’t taking much interest in the lead my team generated. I made him understand the importance of the deal and its evaluation which made him interested in the lead. After that incident, we always worked on website generated leads together.
- Describe a goal which you found extreme demanding.
STAR answer: In 2017, for the last two quarters, I had to produce 8 new website pages. I divided the goal into smaller targets which made it easier for me to create the layout, content and guide the developers to create the pages before the end of December 2017.
- Share with me an incident when you had to pacify an extremely unhappy customer.
STAR answer: There was a client who was not happy with the packaging on her order and was in no mood to calm down even after trying to convince her multiple times. After sending a complimentary gift as compensation, I could persuade her to not write a negative review on our website and instead convinced her to write a positive review.