Be a STAR in Your Next Interview
by Karen Squibb (09-02-05)
To succeed in today's interviews, being prepared is an absolute MUST.
Most good interviewers these days use Behavioural Interviewing techniques. To "shine" in these types of interviews, you need to do your homework. The good news is, if you do the homework before one interview, it won't need to be repeated for subsequent interviews.
Behaviour based interviewing applies the idea that: "The best predictor of FUTURE performance is PAST Performance."
In other words, the assumption is that how you have handled previous situations is most likely how you will choose to behave in a similar future scenario. The interviewer will probe to find out how you have behaved in situations that will likely take place in their unique environment and company culture. Hence, rather than giving you scenarios and asking you "hypothetically" to tell them how you would react, they will ask you to give specific examples from your work and school experiences that demonstrate how you have previously performed under similar circumstances.
For example, an interviewer may ask a question like: "Give us an example of a time you encountered conflict with a co-worker (or client etc), and tell us how you handled the situation"
What they are typically looking for is a summary in the STARI format:
|S: Situation||You are "setting the stage" here. This should be a brief and concise overview of the situation. Be careful to include enough of an overview so that the interviewer can picture the scenario, but DON'T overwhelm them with unnecessary technical or company specific details. The later parts of your response are more important. The interviewer can probe for details about the situation if they need them.|
|T: Task||Give a brief overview of the tasks you needed to accomplish.|
|A: Actions||Outline what actions YOU took to impact the outcome of the situation. Be very careful here! The interviewer will be looking for "I" statements not "WE" statements. You must be able to tell them YOUR specific actions. They aren't interested in what others did. It's YOUR behaviour they want to hear about.|
|R: Results||Describe the results of your actions. Did you learn anything?|
|I: Impact||How did your actions impact (improve) the overall progress, performance and outcome in the given situation?|
Because of the depth that Behavioural Interviews go to, it can be very difficult to remember scenarios you have experienced under the time pressure of an interview. The best defence therefore is a good offence. You need to prepare in advance before the questions start to come at you quickly.
Before attending any interview, I recommend that you build a list of examples of situations that demonstrate your best performance in various areas. As a start, search your memory for examples / scenarios from your various jobs, volunteer experiences, and school projects that can demonstrate your performance in such areas as:
|Leadership||Meeting Difficult Deadlines|
|Ownership||Innovation or Process Improvement|
|Working Independently||Handling Conflict|
|Dealing with Stress||Technical Savvy|
Create a list of the examples and update it periodically as you think of or gain experiences in these areas, or as you find a new subject that the interviewers cover.
Review the list before each interview, to bring the examples to mind, so you can access them more readily when needed.
Don't worry if you can't think of an example in each area. If you don't have an example, it's best to be open with the interviewer. Just simply let them know you haven't encountered such a situation.
To get you started, let's walk through a possible '"STARI" answer to the sample question above: "Give us an example of a time you encountered conflict with a co-worker and tell us how you handled the situation".
|S: Situation||At Company XYZ, we were conducting a post-mortem review after the conclusion of our previous testing project. We had all been asked to collect feedback from the developers we worked most closely with. One of the developers I worked with indicated concern that one of the high priority bugs should have been found earlier in the testing cycle.|
|T: Task||I was responsible for preparing and running the test case that uncovered the defect the developer had highlighted as an issue. I had reported the defect as soon as I found it.|
|A: Actions||When I received the developer's feedback about the defect, I called him and asked him if we could meet to discuss his feedback and work together to agree on how we could improve the process for the next project. He agreed to meet. I prepared a list of ideas and alternatives on how we could have found the bug earlier, including having the developers assist us with prioritizing test cases based on their knowledge of the code changes in critical modules. He liked the idea and agreed to help us prioritize test areas for the next project. I followed up our meeting by documenting what we agreed in an email to him and asked him to confirm what we agreed.|
|R: Results||The developer was pleased that I had been responsive to his feedback and worked with him on agreeing on a solution. He copied my manager and his on his reply to my confirmation email. In his response, he complimented me on being proactive and coming prepared with alternatives. He suggested to both of our managers that the process we agreed on be put in place as part of our test planning methodology.|
|I: Impact||Our managers liked our joint solution, so on subsequent projects we included a developers review and prioritization of test cases as part of the test planning phase. It made everyone more accountable for ensuring the right tests were being run at the right time in the project. The developer I worked with on this solution, asked for me to be his tester on the next project.|
If you are interested in seeing a list of typical interview questions, you can go to: http://www.quintcareers.com
Karen Squibb is a management, operations, administration, QA and HR professional with 15+ years of experience managing teams responsible for software testing, training, documentation and user support in a variety of domains including mobile phones, games, websites, HR, banking and more.