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Using a Star to Become a Star Hire

A popular method used by organizations that prefer more formalized interview methods is a technique called the Behavioral Interview.  Also known as Targeted Selection, this approach is to extract specific experiences from the interviewee that would likely predict future behavior; a well-believed notion within the HR ranks.  You know you’re in the middle of such an interview when the interviewer asks: “Tell me about a time when _____________.  “Describe the issue, what you did and what the outcome was”.  They are looking for something that is known as a STAR.

Situation or


Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.
Action you took Describe the action you took and be sure to keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did — not the efforts of the team. Don’t tell what you might do, tell what you did.
Results you achieved What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn?


The major problem with using this technique for interviews is that it’s highly likely that the interviewee is nervous and very self conscience.  The typical candidate reaction is to instead share a hypothetical example with the interviewee which is deadly to the success of the interview.  The typical reaction of the interviewer is to assume that the interviewee is avoiding the question or simply never encountered this situation, knocking them out of the running. Still, interviewers consider this to be a very reliable and trusted method as well as very defendable in any discriminatory claim.

A recommendation that I like to share is to prepare for this interview as you would with others.   Many interviewees for some reason think interviews are closed book exams and you cannot bring notes.  This is simply not true.  I tell candidates to prepare a list of accomplishments, tough challenges, and even failures and bring them to the interview.  A bullet point list is the best format so you can quickly refer to it during the interview without searching all over the page which can be distracting to the interviewer.

You should categorize them into some kind of order and include not just professional, but personal stories.  Remember people love a story, so make it interesting by practicing telling it out loud.  Just make it concise and fulfill the STAR requirements.

By adequately preparing for the Behavioral Interview will also help with other types of interviews that include hypothetical situations, problem solving, or reaction types of questions.  By you being more prepared you’ll also be more confident at the interview and ready to impress your interviewer. -Rick

Rick Baron, SPHR, CPC is an Advisor, Teacher, Writer, and Career Strategist, specializing in Strategic Human Resources Management & Recruiting.  You can contact Rick at rick@rmbaron.net.