While it's impossible to prepare for every question you may be asked during an interview, if you know what to look for, you can find clues for what some of the questions may be. Look at the job description and circle/highlight each word or phrase that describes what the employer is looking for in a candidate. Do they need someone with good communication skills? Problem solving? Teamwork? By identifying what they are looking for, you are creating the perfect place to begin your preparation.
Telling specific stories that show your experience & skills
The best candidates tell specific stories that show the interviewer how they have used and developed their skills. It's far more persuasive to tell a story about working on a team to solve a problem than simply saying, “I work well on teams and can solve problems.” The stories you tell are one way to “prove” that you have the skills and experience that you say you do. One of the most vital ways to prepare for an interview is to reflect on what stories you want to share about your experiences and how you want to tell them. Using the skills and important aspects of the job description, use the acronym STAR to develop strong examples that illustrate those skills.
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Keep in mind that the most powerful and persuasive STAR stories focus the majority of their time and attention on describing the Action and Results pieces.
- Situation - Give the context for the story you are telling. (Who/Where/Why)
- Task - Talk what you were asked to do or the problem you had to solve in this particular situation. (What/Why)
- Action - Describe what you actively did to complete the task and/or solve the problem.
- Result - Share how it all worked out. Be sure to pick stories that have positive results!
Remember, not all of your stories have to come from prior work experiences. Your experiences in student organizations, volunteer projects and the classroom are also valid examples to pull from. Let's look at some examples on how to use the STAR method to answer common interview questions.