Behavior interviewing, according to Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), is considered by many to be the most effective type of interviewing technique in nearly any type of organization. It focuses on a candidate’s past experiences by asking candidates to provide specific examples of how they have demonstrated certain behaviors, knowledge, skills and abilities. Answers to behavioral interview questions should provide verifiable, concrete evidence as to how a candidate has dealt with issues in the past. This information often reveals a candidate’s actual level of experience and his or her potential to handle similar situations in your organization. Behavioral interview questions tend to be pointed, probing and specific (A Guide to Conducting Behavioral Interviews with Early Career Job Candidates, SHRM.org).
Answering behavioral questions is not an easy task, but preparing beforehand will greatly help you answering them successfully. Using the S.T.A.R method will help you construct, organize and structure your answers to these kinds of questions.
What does S.T.A.R. method means?
Think of a situation where you were involved that had positive outcome.
What are the tasks involved in this situation? What goal(s) should be achieved?
What are the actions you performed to complete the task(s) and achieve the goal(s)? You may also consider these questions: (1) How did you use your strengths in this situation? (2) How did your strengths together with your team worked together to achieve the results?
What is the outcome of your actions in relation to the goal(s)?
So now, what are the thing you need to consider when preparing your S.T.A.R. stories?
Know the position that you are applying to. Conduct your research as well of the company.
Assess yourself and identify the skills that you have that is related to the position you are applying to. It can be skills or experiences that you gained in your university projects and classes, internship, work, leadership positions, volunteer works and other related activities.
Identify your top 3 selling points. These are the skills or experiences that you have that set you apart from other candidates.
Come up with your S.T.A.R. stories relevant to the position you are applying to. Refer to below for the targeted competencies that you can consider. Be specific but concise. Also come up with some stories which results are not as expected and how you dealt with these situations.
Practice your stories. Be yourself, don’t memorize. The interviewers can sense if you are just memorizing what you are saying.
Here are the targeted competencies based on SHRM’s A Guide to Conducting Behavioral Interviews with Early Career Job Candidates that you may use as basis to come up with your S.T.A.R. stories. Note that not all interviewers might use these but at least, these will give you some insights on what interviewers, in general, ask. Analyze the position you are applying to identify the necessary competencies which might be included in your interview.
The interviewer might asks you to describe situation(s) based on your awareness of ethics law, standards, legislation and trends, adherence to organization policies, confidentiality, conflict of interest, handling mistakes or reporting unethical behaviors.
Leadership & Navigation
The interviewer might asks you to describe your role and contribution to a team you worked before; describe the situation(s) on how you familiarize yourself to the processes, policies and standards; handled colleagues’ concerns; adapted to changing priorities, supported management programs and initiatives; built credibility with stakeholders; made decisions that had organizational impact; or resolved issues in the team or organization.
The interviewer’s goal for this competency is to know your ability to understand and apply information to contribute to the organization’s strategies. Some questions that might be asked are: information/data/source you used to resolved an issue you and your team encountered, steps you did or data you used to come up with a decision, how did you analyze and interpret information or data collection techniques that you used.
The interviewer might asks you to describe how you managed your time on a multi-project environment, describe a situation on which you consulted someone to assist you in coming up a decision or developed a solution to a problem. The goal is for the interviewer to know how you consult experts to assist you in making a decision outside of your competencies or how you can provide guidance to your stakeholders.
Critical evaluation is the ability to interpret information to make business decisions and recommendations (SHRM.org). The questions that might be asked are combination of Consultation and Business Acumen for the interview to assess how you evaluate or interpret information or how you come up with information to support your decisions.
In project management, communication is a key skill that a project manager should have. In any position, conveying proper, accurate, complete and concise information to your stakeholders is one of the critical factors towards success. Interviewers might ask you to describe situation(s) on which you successfully communicated information to your stakeholders, responded to concerns, notifying upper management on some issues requiring their attention or handled sensitive information.
Global & Cultural Effectiveness
Global and cultural effectiveness is the ability to value and consider the perspectives and backgrounds of all parties (SHRM.org). The interviewer might ask you to describe situation(s) on which you are part of a diverse team and how you responded in the cultural differences, how you responded on ideas different from your own and how you were able to reconcile differences to come up with decisions acceptable by all parties.
Relationship management is the ability to manage interactions to provide service and to support the organization (SHRM.org). Questions about this might involve situation(s) on how you handled employee questions, when your listening skills helped in resolving a problem, how you handled difficult interactions and conflicts, handled differences or how you developed relationship in your organization.
Knowing your strengths as well can give you an edge as it increases your self-awareness, helping you to identify S.T.A.R. stories more effective that others.
Here is one example of a S.T.A.R. story:
In 2018, there was a regulatory mandate to transition from GST (Goods & Services Tax) to SST (Sales & Services Tax). We only have 3 months to implement these changes to our insurance system.
As the Project Manager, I need to come up with a strategy and manage the project from requirements gathering until go live within the 3 months period involving multiple stakeholders.
I managed multiple stakeholders – development, testing, business analyst and support team and brainstormed on the strategy that we will use to ensure we will be able to deliver ahead of the deadline set by the regulatory. We managed to secure additional resources for our development and business analyst teams and kicked-off our requirements analysis with our client. Workshops were setup to ensure alignment of the requirements. We came up with multiple scenarios in handling the SST calculation to ensure everything was covered. I, together with the other team leads, closely monitor our schedule and flag possible risks as early as possible to avoid impact to our delivery timeline. Weekly progress report is being sent out as well as other forms of communication to ensure all stakeholders are in sync with the overall project status.
With the synergy of the multiple teams, we were able to complete the requirements analysis ahead of time and implement the changes in the system. There were few hiccups during the testing but the team was able to manage and complete the testing on time. The project was signed-off and we went live 3 days before the deadline.
How about you? What is your S.T.A.R. story?
For more information regarding behavioral interviewing and sample questions on targeted competencies, you can refer to https://www.shrm.org/LearningAndCareer/learning/Documents/Behavioral%20Interviewing%20Guide%20for%20Early%20Career%20Candidates.pdf