Tag Archives: interviews

Nailing the interview process, part 6: answering tough interview questions

Addressing employers’ three areas of concern.

You’ve been invited in for a face-to-face interview. You feel this job is great for you. You like the variety of responsibilities and have heard great things about the company. You’ve done everything right so far – and now it’s time to answer some tough interview questions.

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In order to do this, however, you’ll have to rely on the extensive research you’ve done on the company and position.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the interviewer is looking for three criteria in their next employee: Can you do the job? Will you do the job? And will you fit in?

Given this framework, you should be able to predict some of the questions that will be asked in the interview. Let’s address the three criteria:

Can You Do the Job?

Many employers consider this factor the most important of the three. Do you have the skills, experience, education, and/or licenses to handle the responsibilities of the position? Can you hit the ground running?

Questions related to this criterion can be quite challenging. One question you’re likely to receive will be delivered in the form of a directive: “Tell us about yourself.” To answer this effectively, you’ll need to share your elevator pitch.

You may be asked a situational question like, “How would you develop a social media campaign for our company?” Answering this type of question requires knowledge of the needs of the company, as well as some role-relevant technical knowledge (in this case, the functions and uses of various social media platforms.)

Will You Do the Job?

This component speaks to your motivation and enthusiasm, two traits that are necessary to overcome obstacles on the job. Employers feel those who are motivated will be the highest achievers in the future.

You may get a situational question such as, “How would you approach a project that is a week behind schedule?” Here, the interviewer is interested in the steps you can take to get the project up to speed, not necessarily your success in finishing the project.

More difficult are the behavioral questions, which ask you to recount scenarios from previous roles. For example, a behavioral version of the previous example question would be, “Tell us about a time when your team was a week or more behind in finishing a project. What measures did you take to get the project up to speed? What was the result of your team’s actions?”

Here, the interviewer is looking for a story, so you should use the STAR formula: situation, task, action, and result. (More on this below.)

Will You Fit In?

In addition to your ability to do the job, employers also want to know if you will be a fit for the company culture. They want to know that you will work well with others, particularly your potential supervisor.

This is where emotional intelligence (EQ) becomes critical. Defined as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others,” EQ may account for as much as 75 percent of job success, according to some sources.

Savvy interviewers will use behavioral-based questions to determine your “cultural fit,” which ultimately depends on your EQ. Sometimes, interviewers will specifically look for certain soft skills commonly mentioned in job postings, such as written and oral communication, teamwork, social skills, creativity, and/or integrity.

You’ll need to prepare for questions that address these soft skills and others. The best way to do that is practice your stories for behavioral interview questions like “Tell us about a time when you won back the trust of a customer.”

To answer the question, you’d use the same STAR formula I mentioned earlier.

A Primer on STAR Answers

If you’re not totally sure how STAR answers work, let’s take a look at an example.

If an interviewer asked you to describe a time you needed to win back the trust of a customer, your STAR answer might look like this:

1. Situation

One of our longstanding customers had left us prior to my arrival at Company X. I had heard the customer was unhappy to the point where he decided he no longer needed our services.

2. Task

My vice president wanted me to persuade the customer to return. As the new manager of a group of five furnace technicians, it was my mission to win back this customer.

3. Action

To begin, I first had to understand what made our customer unhappy, so I asked one of my subordinates who was close to the situation. He told me it was because the person who previously worked on his furnace did shoddy work and wasn’t responsive.

Armed with this information, I called our customer to introduce myself as a new manager of the company and to ask him why he was unhappy with our service. At first he was justifiably angry, telling me he would never use us again. He revealed that his furnace was never cleaned and that it still smoked.

This was going to be a tough one, based on the tone in his voice. I listened to what he said and told him I really couldn’t blame him for being upset. I agreed with him that he wasn’t treated properly. I was going to make it right.

“Too late,” he told me. He was going to go with a competitor of ours. He hung up before I had the chance to talk with him further.

I decided to go unannounced to his house to introduce myself. I was met with, “Boy, you’re persistent.”

I apologized for coming without warning and asked him if I could look at his furnace. He didn’t seem to mind and told me to go to the basement through the back.

“But I ain’t paying for nothing,” he told me.

“Fair enough,” I told him. “We want to regain your trust, and if I can’t fix what’s broken, I wish you the best.”

I am still sharp with my technical skills, so I was sure I could fix his furnace and win back his business. I spent two hours fixing what was broken – namely, the exhaust pipe was full of soot, which required vacuuming. In addition, the oil pump had to be replaced. This was not news our customer wanted to hear, but he was happy I was honest with him, and he appreciated the work I had done. He also said the former technician didn’t catch these problems – or didn’t care.

When he asked what he owed me, I told him there was no charge. I just wanted to be assured that he’d stay with our company.

4. Result

The customer told me that I had regained his trust. He also said he appreciated my honesty and my concern that his furnace would be fixed right the first time. He returned to our company.


In the above story, you see how the job candidate proves his ability to provide customer service. Of course, the interviewer will ask more questions about customer service, and further questions will likely explore both positive and negative outcomes.

Remember that it’s not only the technical skills you have to focus on. You must also think about times you’ve demonstrated motivation, teamwork, and other soft skills.

Check back part seven, when we’ll be discussing how to follow up after an interview.

This post originally appeared in Recruiter.com.

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Nailing the interview process, part 4: practice, practice, practice

To be an excellent baseball player or pianist, you need to practice, practice, and practice. You wouldn’t expect to hit home runs effortlessly or play at Carnegie Hall with no practice. The same principle applies to interview success.

Mock Interview

At this point, you’ve come to understand the feelings of despondency caused by losing your job. You’ve learned about yourself by using a SWOT analysis. You’ve researched the position, company, industry, and the interviewers themselves.

Now, it’s time to practice.

Job candidates often walk into interviews without practicing first. They think they can just “wing it.” They’re overconfident, and they’re making a mistake.

Instead, do the following things to practice before every interview:

Practice by Yourself

It might seem unnatural, but practicing by yourself will make you less self-conscious. Use a mirror to practice answering questions. Observe your facial expressions and body language.

When I was out of work, I practiced for interviews on my daily walks. Sure, people would occasionally overhear me reciting my elevator pitch. They would catch me answering potential questions. They would see me gesticulate with my hands as I practiced refining my body language.

You might feel more comfortable practicing by yourself while driving. This is perfectly fine, but expect to get some weird looks from other motorists.

Practice With a friend

This takes more courage than practicing by yourself, but it is also more useful because it gives you the chance to get feedback on your answers and body language. The friends you chose to help you should be objective and somewhat critical, but not discouraging.

Having done your research, you can predict (up to a certain point) the types of questions that will be asked. Write these on a note card and have your friend pose them to you. Practice answering the questions with confidence, proper body language, and accurate content.

Mock Interview

A proper mock interview is perhaps the best way to practice. However, they’re not easy to come by, especially if they are done properly.

Most mock interviews are conducted by career advisors who use digital cameras to record the interviews. When the recording of your interview is played, you can observe your body language and hear the content of your answers.

Are you fidgeting with your fingers? Are you maintaining eye content? Are you answering the questions directly? Are there too many “ums” and “ahs”?

A trained career advisor will point out your body language and comment on your content. Most importantly, they’ll let you see and hear your mistakes. You’ll leave with the video on a flash drive so you can rewatch the session in the days before the interview.

What does practicing do for you? Ultimately it prepares you better for the interview, which gives you more confidence. Coupled with the research you’ve done on the company and position, practicing answering the questions you predict interviewers will ask you will be the key to your success.


As mentioned above, you can’t expect to perform well in sports or music without practice. Treat the interviews you attend with the same mindset. Confidence comes from research and practicing beforehand.

Check out part five, where we talk about making a good first impression.

This post originally appeared in Recruiter.com.

Photo: Flickr, Green Dot Public Schools

6 reasons why older job candidates shouldn’t discriminate against younger interviewers

Amy, a colleague of mine who looks no older than 30, came to me to tell me of a meeting she just had with a job seeker. In her excited, rapid voice, she told me that an older male treated her as though she were a child. She was outraged and rightfully so.

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Amy is well revered by the staff at our career center and respected by the customers with whom she meets. She knows a great deal about the job search and training, so being disrespected by this man rubbed her the wrong way.

We sat and talked about her meeting with him and wondered aloud if this is how he presents himself in interviews to interviewers younger than him. And if he does, what his chance of success in this job market is. Slim to none, we concurred.

Eventually she calmed down.

Her advice to me was to bring up in my Mature Worker workshop this attitude toward younger interviewers . (She told me three times.) I totally agreed with her and immediately made a change to the presentation slide: “Treat younger interviewers the way you would like to be treated.”

We career advisors often come to the defense of older workers who experience age discrimination; but we don’t talk as much about reverse age discrimination, such as what Amy experienced.

We are reluctant to tell people who are unemployed how the interviewer might feel about this type of rude behavior. But this is wrong of us. (Read 10 ways you can kill your job search with a negative attitude.)

This is the message I would impart. Think about if you were younger and on the opposite side of the table interviewing people for a position, where personality fit is as important as technical abilities.

How would you react if an older job candidate looked at you with disdain and without saying it, called you inexperienced and beneath his level? Further, what would you think if you were going to be his immediate supervisor?

Hiring him would not be a marriage made in heaven. You, as the younger hiring manager, would have to prove yourself to the, albeit highly qualified, candidate on a regular basis.

He would question your every decision and tell you how he would do things. Any effort you would make to correct his actions or even reprimand him would be met with resistance. You would feel powerless. You finally reason that hiring him would be crazy.

The large majority of older workers have a great deal of value to offer employers. They’re knowledgeable in their work and possess life experience that younger workers do not. They want to work and are flexible with their schedule. They’re dependable, able to mentor others, and are great role models. These are but a few qualities of the older worker.

But there are a few older workers who think they’re all that or who have a chip on their shoulder. They are convinced that they’ll experience age discrimination at every interview. In other words, they have lost the job before the interview begins.

Susan Jepson, who directed the National Senior Network, wrote an article addressing reverse age discrimination practiced by older workers. She believes that sometimes it’s not intentional. She writes:

Without intending to, or without knowing it, mature workers can come across as arrogant, condescending; that behavior can invite rejection. Examine your beliefs and assumptions and work hard to be open and communicative with your interviewer, without prejudice of any kind.

Susan Jepson is a mature worker, so she speaks objectively.

If you happen to be one who intentionally discriminates against younger interviewers, remember that the person sitting across from you deserves as much respect as you do. Also keep in mind that your livelihood might depend on how much they value you as a potential employee. More specifically, remember:

1. She earned her job. Whether she has less experience on the job than you is irrelevant. Someone in the company determined that she was the most capable to manage a group of people. And yes, they could have been wrong.

2. Her job is to hire the best person. You are the best person, but if you show contempt or even hint to your superiority, she won’t see your talent through the less-than-desirable attitude you demonstrate.

3. She will appreciate your points of view. Once assured you’re not after her job, she may see you as a mentor and role model. Younger colleagues like the approval of older workers. Take it from someone who supervised someone 20 years my senior; her approval meant a lot to me.

4, She might have some growing to do. And if you want to succeed, you’ll realize that people of all ages have some growing to do, including you. You can help her through this process by building her self-esteem and confidence. It’s a wonderful thing to see someone grow under your tutelage.

5. She might fear that you’re after her job. So put her fears to rest by NOT talking about you would eventually want to assume a position like hers, or her position specifically. Rather, assure her that your career goal begins with doing the best possible work at the position in question. Ultimately you want to help the company succeed.

6. Whether you like it or not, she will be your boss. What are your options right now? Enough said.

You may arrive at interviews where age discrimination is blatant due to no fault of yours. This is the time when you are the bigger man/woman and leave with your pride intact, your head held high.


In the end, my colleague, Amy, told her customer that his behavior was unacceptable and it would do him more harm than good. He apologized, admitting his error. We are never too old to learn valuable lessons.

If you enjoy this post, read why younger interviewers shouldn’t discriminate against older workers.

7 ways managers can improve the hiring process

For you hiring managers, you might have taken notice upon seeing the title of this post. While it’s true that job seekers can benefit from advice on their job-search techniques, there’s something to be said about how you can improve the process.

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You can make the hiring process a better experience for job candidates. This is within your power, as you are usually the one making the hiring decision. Your goals is to hire the best possible candidates; it’s to your company’s benefit.

Read this article by FastCompany.com about some mistakes hiring managers have made.

Are there hiring managers who interview well? Absolutely. They have mastered the process and hire great candidates. But for those who don’t, here are seven things to consider.

1. Get trained on how to interview properly. Smart companies send their hiring managers to training on how to interview properly. Hiring managers are taught about which questions to ask and how to conduct an interview that draws the best attributes out of job candidates.

“I’ve been managing people for years, and I was never trained how to interview candidates,” one of my workshop attendees said after I made the bold statement that some hiring managers are not the best interviewers.

The statement from my workshop attendee did not surprise me; training can be expensive and time intensive. The Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) provides training for hiring managers. Among the various techniques SHRM teaches is which questions to stay away from, namely illegal ones.

2. Don’t ask illegal questions. One of my clients told me he went to an interview and the second question the hiring manager asked was, “How old are you?” I asked him to repeat his statement. I was so shocked by this blatantly illegal question.

Although it’s hard to prove, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 candidates 40-years and older are protected by age discrimination. But age is not the only topic hiring managers should stay away from. Questions about nationality, marital status, gender identity, race, disability, political preference, and religion are taboo.

3. Don’t discount the value of the mature worker. Related to the previous reason, some hiring managers—young and older alike—discriminate against age. They are subtle about it, or quite obvious. Many of my clients, who average 53-years of age, tell me about times when they could see this on the hiring manager’s face.

This is not only illegal, it’s bad practice. Mature workers add value, through their job experience, maturity, great problem-solving skills, dependability, and more. Am I saying that mature workers don’t lack some skills younger workers do? No. Every age group has strengths and weaknesses.

4. Hiring the best candidate is a priority. Probably the last thing hiring managers want to do is interview someone for—as an example—an office manager, when she has multiple projects to oversee. Here’s the thing, the hiring manager needs someone who can run the office and make her life easier. She needs a problem solver.

Yes, overseeing the projects is important, but finding the right administrative assistant should take priority. Rushing through the process could lead to a wrong hire which doesn’t relieve the problem and can be expensive (approximately 30% of the candidates first annual salary).

5. Be willing to interview strangers. The preferred method of hiring a candidate is through a referral because candidates come with a mark of approval. But sometimes the best candidate is not known someone who works in the company or someone who knows someone who works in the company.

Herein lies the rub: hiring managers need to go through the process of reading résumés from strangers and interviewing them. As unpleasant as it may be, if they want the true problem solver they seek, the right person might not be a referral.

6. Work with your recruiters and HR. A complaint I often hear from recruiters and HR is that they need to play a bigger role in the process. They want to do more than conduct phone interviews to determine a candidate’s salary  and experience.

Recruiters and HR want to be business partners and know hiring managers’ thoughts before approaching potential applicants. They should not go into screening candidates without a full understanding of what hiring managers are looking for in terms of: “the must haves vs. the nice to haves,” the interview layout, etc. Read this article from the Muse.

7. Stop looking for the purple squirrel. This is a common term meaning the candidates must be perfect. Candidates must be able to hit the ground running, a fit for the work environment, and liked by the hiring manager.

A candidate who has the required experience and  is compatible with his colleagues and the hiring manager is essential; but some hiring managers want a clone of themselves and someone they would want to go out for drinks with. What’s most important is that the candidates possesses high EQ.


This last point is why many of my clients are frustrated by the time it takes employers to hire them. Three, four, five rounds of interviews. According to SHRM, the average time it takes employers to hire job seekers is 26 days. This figure seems low to me, as I’ve seen some of my clients wait two or three months for employers to pull the trigger.

Coupled with poor hiring methods and a long process, job seekers are frustrated. Do you blame them? I don’t.

Photo: Flickr, Kristof Ramon 

 

So you didn’t get the job; ask yourself 3 questions

So you didn’t get the job you wanted. You nailed the phone interview, had great rapport with the recruiter, he loved you and said you’re in consideration for the face-to-face. But you don’t hear back from him. Crickets.

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In my Interview workshops I ask people if they’ve had a telephone interview lately. Some raise their hand, so I ask them how the interviews went. Their typical response, “Not so well. I didn’t get to the next step.”

They were probably right for the job but didn’t have one of the three components employers’ look for—they didn’t meet the technical requirements for the job. Having the other two components, willing to do the job and being a good fit, just didn’t cut it.

Let’s face it, recruiters, are foremost concerned about your ability to handle the task assigned to you. The other two components are important, but the first priority is meeting the job specifics. Their job is to determine if you have the technical skills.

This is wrong according to Mike Michalowicz ‘s article in WSJ.com called The Best Recruits May Not Be Who You Think, but many employers don’t realize the value of the variable. He writes:

“When hiring new employees, most recruiters consider qualifications first – and last. They’re looking for someone with the best education, the most experience and the most impressive skills. This is a mistake because you can teach employees what you want them to know, you can give them the experience you want them to have, but you can’t change who they are on a fundamental level. Their attitude, values, willingness and work ethic are all ingrained in them.”

Let’s take a marketing specialist position that lists the following requirements:

  1. Familiarity with data storage software.
  2. Write copy for direct mail and electronic distribution, including web content.
  3. Manage relations with appropriate departments.
  4. Coordinate projects with outside vendors.
  5. Speaking with media, partners, and customers.
  6. Research competitors’ websites and reporting activity.
  7. Coordinate trade shows.
  8. Photo shoots/animation development, webinars, product launch planning.
  9. Willingness to travel 25%.
  10. Plus a Master’s Degree in Marketing preferred.

Now, if the other candidates have all the technical ingredients for the job, and you’re lacking webinar production experience and coordinating projects with outside vendors, have limited experience speaking with the media; the decision of whether you advance to the next round may be based on your lack of experience.

You may be perceived as someone who is motivated to work at the company, because you express enthusiasm for the duties and challenges presented; and come across as a great personality fit, because you demonstrate adaptability to any environment and management style. But these components usually aren’t weighed as heavily by recruiters.

The fact is that most recruiters must be assured that you can hit the ground running. They want to hire someone who has 80%-100% of the requirements under their belt. You can’t beat yourself up for not getting the job, despite shining in every other way.

CareerCenterToolBox.com published an article called 5 Things You Need to do After the Interview, in which one of the things suggested was to evaluate your performance. It says: “Right after the interview, recall what happened. You need to start by asking yourself these three vital questions:

  1. What went wrong?
  2. What went right?
  3. What can be improved?

As I tell my workshop attendees, “What went wrong?” was probably the fact that another candidate presented herself as more qualified for the position based on her experience. Or there are other reasons that were out of your control.

Read about 10 reasons you’re not a fit for the job.

What went right? You stood up to the pressure of an interview and presented an articulate, thoughtful, and personable candidate. You answered all their questions with confidence and poise, maintained eye contact.

When asked about direct experience, you highlighted transferable skills that would make the transition seamless. You learned more about what is expected at an interview.

What can improve? Ideally you’ll apply for jobs where you have 80%-100% of the job-related requirements; but don’t shy away from jobs where you only meet 75% of the requirements, because occasionally employers see other qualities in you other than the alphabet soup. Please don’t throw in the towel yet. Keep fighting the good fight!

Photo: Flickr, Sheila Janssen

4 qualifications job candidates must demonstrate during the interview

It’s no secret that job seekers must satisfy three requirements to land a job:

  1. They can do the job.
  2. They will do the job.
  3. They will fit in.

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These three requirements are the foundation of a complete candidate.

There’s also a fourth piece to the puzzle. It is often overlooked, but some companies place more importance on it than any of the other requirements. This fourth requirement is the cause of much consternation for many a job seeker. Can you guess what it is?

Let’s take a look at these three requirements every candidate must satisfy – and the mysterious fourth one as well:

1. Can You Do the Job?

Of course interviewers won’t ask the question so directly. Rather, they’ll pose more indirect questions, like:

“What skills and experience do you see being necessary to do the job?”

“Tell me about a time when you handled problem X.”

“What kind of experience do you have in the area of Y?”

And you should always be prepared to answer the “Tell me about yourself” question.

For many employers, this is the most important requirement for any potential employee to meet – but the following three cannot be overlooked.

2. Will You Do the job?

Employers want to know how motivated you are. They’ll want to know if you’ll enjoy the responsibilities and support the mission of the organization. Will you work until the job is finished?

You may have to field a question like, “Why do you want to work for this company?” Think about it: Would you, as an employer, want to hire someone who isn’t totally into working for your company? Probably not.

Or, “Tell us which responsibilities of the job you will enjoy taking on. And why?”

“Tell us about a time when you took on a challenge you thought was insurmountable.”

How can you prove your desire to take on the responsibilities of the position or work for the company? Stories using the situation-task-action-result (STAR) formula are a great way to demonstrate your motivation and passion for the job.

3. Will You Fit?

Showing that you’ll be a good fit is tough to do, but it’s a concern many employers have. It’s all about your personality. They don’t want to hire someone who won’t get along with coworkers.

In this area, you’re likely to face behavioral questions, such as, “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an irate colleague.”

Or, “What’s your definition of a team, and how have you been a team player in the past?”

To some employers, your cultural fit will be even more important than your technical skills. Technical skills can be learned, but it can be difficult – if not impossible – to learn new personality traits.

Can you train someone to become more sensitive? What about teaching a talkative person to become a listener? Can you improve the attitude of someone who has difficulty interacting with other departments? The answer to all these questions is probably “no.”

4. The Final Requirement: Are You Affordable?

dollar-signAs stated above, some employers stress this requirement even more than the others – especially when landing a candidate who costs less is a priority. Sure, a candidate who meets the other three requirements would be ideal, but not always necessary.

During an interview, the first question out of the recruiter’s mouth might be related to salary: “What do you expect for salary?” or “What did you make at your last company?” These salary questions could come during the phone or in-person interview, so make sure you’re prepared to answer in a way that doesn’t cause you to lose out on the salary you deserve.

Don’t be surprised if you’re out of this employer’s price range – it can happen.

Salary negotiation makes some people’s skin crawl because they see it as a confrontation. In fact, it’s a straightforward affair. Companies don’t want to pay you too little because it can lead to resentment. However, this is business, so employers aren’t going to give away the farm, either.


Being able to address the three most obvious concerns employers have is what gets you to the fourth concern – can they afford you? If you do a great job meeting the first three requirements, the last one should go smoothly – as long as you’re reasonable.

This article appeared in Recruiter.com.

 

4 steps necessary to prepare for behavioral-based questions

During our career center orientation, I ask the participants if they’ve been asked behavioral-based questions. Then I say, “If you find this type of question difficult to answer, keep your hands up.” Almost all hands are still raised.

Future2

I’m not surprised when job seekers in my orientation admit that behavioral-based questions are difficult to answer, given the fact that this type of question is meant to get to the core of the applicant.

Surprisingly, not enough interviewers ask behavioral-based questions. Instead they fall back on traditional questions that lack creativity and can be answered with rehearsed replies. “What are your two greatest weaknesses?” or “Why should I hire you?” are two examples of predictable traditional questions that are easy to prepare for.

In addition, traditional questions  can be answered theoretically—in other words, the candidate hasn’t performed, or failed to perform, the desired competencies successfully. The candidate can essentially tell the interviewer whatever he/she wants to hear.

What is difficult about answering behavioral-based questions is that they demand the candidates to address specific times when they’ve performed certain skills and then tell stories about those times. To be successful, candidates need to do the following:

1. Understand the requirements of the job

In order to prepare for a behavioral interview, it requires acute knowledge of the position’s requirements. If you are able to identify eight or more competencies required for the position, you can predict, within reason, the types of questions that will be asked.

For example, if the job ad calls for someone who is organized, demonstrates excellent verbal and written communications, is a leader, etc., you can expect questions such as:

“Tell us about a time when your organization skills resulted in a smooth delivery of services.”

“Give me an example of when your verbal communications skills made it possible for you to solve a conflict between colleagues.”

“Tell me about a time when your leadership faltered and resulted in a conflict between a subordinate and you. What did you learn from your error?”

2. Write the stories for each question

Questions like these will require you to tell a compelling story for each of these skills. How you tell your stories is important. They will consist of a beginning, middle, and end. You should write your stories because you will remember what we’ve written better than by simply trying to remember them.

When you write the stories, use the S.T.A.R. formula. The beginning is the Situation and (your) Task, the middle consist the Actions taken to meet the situation, and the end is the positive, or negative, Result.

Following is an example of an answer for a behavioral-based question. The question is, “Tell me about a time when you collaborated on a successful project.”


Situation: As part of a three-member team, we were charged with writing a report necessary to continue operating an outside program funded by the Department of Labor.

Task: I was given the task writing a detailed report of our participants’ training experience and the jobs they secured with the assistance of a dedicated job placement specialist.

Actions: I started with noting how I recruited 80 participants for the training program, a number I’m happy to say exceeded previous expectations of 50 participants. This required outreach to junior colleges, vocational schools, and career centers.

Step two involved writing detailed descriptions of their training, which included Lean Six Sigma, Project Management, and Agile. Then explaining how this training would help the participants secure employment in their targeted careers.

Next, I interviewed each participant to determine their learning level and satisfaction with the program. All but one was extremely satisfied. The person who was not satisfied felt the training was too difficult but wanted to repeat the training.

As well, I tracked each participant over a period of four months to determine their job placement. Jobs were hard to come by, so at times I took it upon myself to approach various manufacturing companies in the area in order to place 40 of our participants.

Finally I took the lead on writing a five-page report on what the members of the team and I had accomplished in the course of  three months. Other members of the team were of great help in editing the report and making sure it was delivered on time to Boston.

The result: The result was that we delivered the report with time to spare and were able to keep funding for the project for three more years. In addition, the DoL told our director that our report was the best one they’ve received.


3. Rehearse your stories

The story above, as written, takes approximately two minutes to read. This is stretching it in terms of time, so you’ll want to rehearse your stories to the point where they’re more concise, yet maintain their value.

You can talk about them in front of a mirror or deliver them to a live audience, like your friend, neighbor, or family member. The latter is probably the best method to use, as you will not only speak them aloud; you’ll speak them aloud to someone who may make you a tad bit nervous.

Do not try to memorize every little detail of each story. You may fumble with your stories during an interview. Also, you will forget some of the smaller details, but don’t get down on yourself when this happens. Just make sure you hit the major points.

4. Be prepared for zingers

In the interview, you may face questions that take you off guard. Perhaps the stories for which you prepared and rehearsed only end with positive results.

Keep in mind that not all questions will call for a positive results; some interviewers will ask about a time when you failed. Obviously you don’t want to elaborate on these situations.

And don’t answer negative questions with stories that describe the downfall of your company. Therefore, it’s important to write brief stories that end with negative results. A popular question is: “Tell us about a mistake you made and how you rebounded from the mistake.

Interviewers who ask negative questions are smart. Would it make sense to you to learn only about the positive side of the candidates? No. Smart interviewers need to know the good, bad, and  ugly.


How many stories are necessary?

One wonderful thing about stories is that they often reveal more skills than the interviewer originally asked for. For example, the story I provided above reveals the following skills: coordination, outreach, interviewing, interpersonal, initiative, writing, and more.

Photo: Flickr, cthoma27