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How to 10x the STAR method for Job Interview Success

STAR method falls short. Use STAR and Story to get hired. Three things are different in the STAR and Story example.
How to 10x the STAR method for Job Interview Success
How to 10x the STAR method for Job Interview Success. Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com / Unsplash

You may have heard of the STAR method, you use it for behavioral questions like "Tell me about a time when..."

Did you know that you can 10x your chance of interview success by using STAR in combination with another method?

Mary was reading up on interview best practices and she asked me...

For job interviews, should I use the STAR method or should I tell a story?

Bingo, a story. That's how you can 10x your chance of interview success. Let's talk about how you can do that.

If you've heard of the STAR method, you know that it's used for behavioral interview questions that start with:

  • Tell me about a time when…
  • What do you do when…
  • Have you ever…
  • Give me an example of…
  • Describe a…

Why did Mary ask me that question, because she was in Week 3 of my storytelling class.  We just learned the 6 narratives of Hollywood that we use in business storytelling. With an interview coming up, Mary wanted to know “Can I use narratives to answer the “Tell me about a time when...” type questions?”  Mary had also read about the STAR method, and wanted to know what to do.  This is what I told Mary.

💡
You should use both. Use STAR and Story to ace your interview.

First, let’s recap what the STAR method is.

What is the STAR method?

STAR stands for:

  • Situation: Set the scene and give the necessary details of your example.
  • Task: Describe what your responsibility was in that situation.
  • Action: Explain exactly what steps you took to address it.
  • Result: Share what outcomes your actions achieved.

The idea is to make sure you state each of these as part of your answer to a behavioral question.

Let’s take an example interview question and answer.

Question:

What do you do when your project does not meet milestone goals?

Answer, STAR-only method:

Project Bravo did not meet our MAU goal of 5,000 in our first 3 months (task). The CEO wanted to cut the project (situation). I talked to her. After some convincing we decided to fund the project for 3 more months with specific changes in go to market (action). I was able to get additional funding for this project that otherwise did not meet goals.  We hit our MAU goals in the following 3 months (result).

Are you impressed by this answer?

It contains all elements required by STAR. Are you moved? If you were the hiring manager, are you ready to hire this person?

If not, read on.

Why does the STAR method fall short?

If you’re not impressed, I know how you feel.

It’s because the storytelling element is missing. The facts from STAR are all there, but it’s not in a format that really invites attention.

In today’s noisy world, making yourself stand out requires a forethought, planning and yes, storytelling. Storytelling is proven to get you noticed, get you interviews and get you offers.  Why?

It’s because when you tell a story, you put your listener into your shoes. They listen, they feel and they put their judgement aside.

They listen because stories are in the format of memory. People don’t remember checklists or tables of data, we remember in characters, plot and climax.  By telling a story, your future manager will be listening.

They feel because if you tell a good story, you are supposed to make them feel. Maya Angelou once famously said that “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Make them feel and your future manager will remember you.

They put their judgement aside because when they’re in the character’s shoes, they cannot be another person at the same time. That’s cognitive dissonance and cognitive dissonance is uncomfortable. Put them in your shoes and your future manager will set their judgement aside as they listen to you.

So how do you get your future manager to listen, feel and put their judgement aside?

You need to combine your STAR method with a story.

Use STAR and Story to get hired

What would it look like if we took STAR and turned it into a story?

Let’s look at the example again.

Question:

What do you do when your project does not meet milestone goals?

Answer STAR and Story:

In 2020, I went into CEO Jane’s office and pitched a new project. Project Bravo will bring a new revenue stream to Acme Co. I was given a team and 3 months of runway, can you imagine how excited we were?  Fast forward 3 months and we did not meet our MAU goal of 5,000. We were devastated. The CEO wanted to cut the project. So I went and talked to her. We were 80% to our goal, Project Bravo was the only bet that Acme Co. was making in R&D. And after some discussion, I was able to re-ignite our CEO’s faith in the project, and she agreed to give us 3 more months.We wanted to knock it out of the park this time. I worked with my team overnight to make some key changes to our GTM. The result?  We hit our MAU goals in the following 3 months. Project Bravo lives.

Are you impressed by this answer?

So what is different here? Three things are different in the STAR and Story example.

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