Do you remember how much fun Story Time was when you were younger? Most people typically love a good story. During a recent interview coaching session, I compared answering situational interview questions to the art of storytelling, but rather than starting with Once Upon a Time… your story will discuss an actual event that took place, challenges encountered, action steps you took, and the results. It may not have a happily ever after ending, but the goal is to share a relevant event that occurred in your work history where your actions had a (hopefully) positive consequence.
By using the STAR model for interviewing, it will help you provide enough details about the event, discuss them in a logical order, and be succinct in your summary.
Situation – Describe the specific situation. Include details regarding where you worked, what your job title was, details leading up to the event, and the specific challenge posed. Include all relevant details regarding numbers, facts, and figures related to the event.
Task – What was the specific task at hand? Describe the type of challenge and why it was so critical to the success or failure of the situation. This is where it’s helpful to include time sensitive deadlines, number of people involved, consequences of failure, and advantages of success. Help the interviewer feel, hear, taste, touch, and smell the stress and chaos.
Action – Describe 3-5 action steps that you took to step up to the challenge or resolve the problem or challenge. This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate creative thinking skills, strategic leadership skills, decision-making skills, communication skills, organizational abilities, team leadership, customer service, adaptability to a situation, and any other skills and training required to manage the situation. Your action steps are what will really impress the hiring manager so don’t skimp on the details.
Result – Leaving out this part is like serving someone a plain hotdog. A little mustard and ketchup is nice, but what’s really great is when you add some onion, chili and cheese, and/or perhaps some coleslaw. What I’m saying here is pile it on. Obviously, don’t over embellish the results or outcome by any means, but you definitely don’t want to leave the hiring manager hanging. You want the hiring manager to realize your leadership, creativity, and decision made a positive impact. Help the hiring manager understand that YOU were the person who made the difference in this situation.
Your stories should be engaging and paint a vivid picture. This is where you have the opportunity to connect with the hiring manager and help him/her relate to your actions and hopefully even visualize you managing a difficult situation in the new organization. Your story telling skills could be the difference between the next “You’re hired!” or “The End.”