How to Be a STAR in the Interview

posted by Brian Krueger under interview #interview #tips #mistakes #_homepage_

Candidate gives compelling answer in interview
Candidate gives compelling answer in interview

In my role as VP of Global Talent Acquisition at Amazon, I took the time to personally train our Amazon interviewers on how to behaviorally interview candidates. The foundation of behavioral interviewing is based upon probability statistics that show that past behaviors are the best predictors of future results.

The classic behavioral interview question begins with an open-ended question such as: “Give me an example of…” or “Tell me about a time when you…” The full question is upthen formulated based on the specific competency which the interviewer is responsible for assessing in the interview.

Seems pretty simple, right? Actually, it’s much more difficult than it appears. Just asking a behavioral question does not guarantee a behavioral answer. Many candidates will veer into scenarios, talk about what they might do in the future or provide vague answers.

So I used the STAR (S-T-A-R) acronym with our Amazon interviewers to train them on how to generate a fully complete behavioral answer. This acronym stands for the following three components:

  • S-T: the Situation or Task
  • A: the Action taken
  • R: the Results achieved

Without all three components of the S-T-A-R response, it is not a fully complete behavioral answer. So I trained our interviewers on how to drill down for each component, how to use practiced silence/pausing to wait for the interviewee to respond (and not bail them out or let them off the hook when they did not have a ready answer), how to further probe and eventually validate the answer. It is a practiced skill in which, unfortunately, very few interviewers are trained. Even fewer actively practice behavioral interviewing.

Yet you can turn the equation upside down and give a STAR response whether you have been asked a behavioral question or not. Here is a simple example of a STAR answer to a non-behavioral closed-ended question:

Interviewer: “Are you an organized person?”
You: “Yes, I am. Let me give you an example of my organizational skills…” and then you go on to give the situation or task you have completed specifically showcasing your organizational skills, the action you took and the results you achieved. You can reasonably give this very specific response in 2-3 minutes, leaving plenty of time for the interviewer to either probe further on your answer or go on to other questions. By the end of a standard 50-minute interview, you will have provided 12-15 (or more) different behavioral examples that will clearly set you apart as a STAR for the role.

So where do you get these behavioral examples? I will cover that answer in detail in my next blog entry.

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