Be a STAR and Stand Out During the Interview

 Marketing Director   February 28, 2021  Interviewing

This is part of the “Preparing for a Successful Higher Education Job Interview” blog series that will equip you with the tools and techniques to feel confident and ready. Thanks to Sharon Justice, career and leadership expert, for putting together these helpful and practical tips.

During your interview, you’ll likely be asked multiple behavioral questions. Interviewers ask these questions to predict how you’ll behave in the role. You can differentiate yourself from other candidates by using the STAR method: Situation, Task, Action, Result.

Often interviewers will ask specific questions like: “Tell me about a time you had to make a difficult decision. What did you do, how did you handle it, and what was the outcome?”

Others might ask hypothetical questions like: “How would you make a difficult decision if faced with one?” Hypotheticals are usually asked by less experienced interviewers because you could make up whatever you want, and it lacks the details of an actual experience. When faced with hypotheticals, answer with a specific example in a STAR format.

How to use the STAR format:

Question: “Tell me about a time you had to make a difficult decision.”

Answer: “I had to give difficult feedback to an employee. My task was to determine how and when I’d give it. I scheduled a conference room, gathered the documentation, and decided to do it first thing tomorrow instead of waiting a week. I let the person know and prepared my remarks so I’d know exactly what to say. The result was a 30-minute conversation that covered x, y, and z points. The employee gave me their part of the story. We decided on an action plan, moved forward, and that situation didn’t happen again. I’m glad I took care of it immediately rather than dragging my feet.”

Don’t give too many details, especially when you’re describing the situation, or you’ll lose the interviewer. Give just enough detail to show the results. If you’re asked follow-up questions for details about what happened, what you did, or what you learned, that means you missed the Results part of STAR.

Use the word “I” and claim your work

Our society tends to mask our individual accomplishments as those of a collective. The employer wants to know what you, not your team did. Use “I” whenever appropriate.

Practice your answers

Print or save the job description and analyze it for possible questions. Match your experience with the requirements, then determine where you have skill gaps. You could say your answer out loud or write down examples for each experience factor or requirement.

Then consider likely challenges to doing the job. What ideas could you bring to the table?

About the Expert

Sharon Justice has worked for over 30 years in various industry sectors focused on strategically growing businesses while equipping leaders and individuals for success. She currently serves as a Leadership Faculty Member at East Carolina University.  She offers customized leadership development programs and strategic business consulting through Justice Leadership.