Are you good at telling stories? Do you get right to the point and include all the relevant details? Or do you maybe tend to forget to mention some key context or have a tendency to ramble? What if you add the stress of a job interview? Is it still easy for you to relay a well-structured story about your past work experience in response to an interview question—you know, the ones that start with “Tell me about a time when…”?
Yeah, that’s a bit tougher. Especially if you’re struggling to think of an example that answers the question and then have to jump straight into telling it as an easy-to-follow anecdote with a clear takeaway.
First of all, take comfort in the fact that we’ve all been there. Second of all, there’s a strategy you can use to come up with way more impressive answers to these dreaded questions: the STAR interview method.
The STAR method is an interview technique that gives you a straightforward format you can use to tell a story by laying out the Situation, Task, Action, and Result.
By using these four components to shape your anecdote, it’s much easier to share a focused answer, providing the interviewer with “a digestible but compelling narrative of what a candidate did,” says Muse Career Coach Al Dea, founder of CareerSchooled. “They can follow along, but also determine based on the answer how well that candidate might fit with the job.”
Prepare smart questions in advance
Remember how you reviewed the job description and researched the company? That particular prep work is about to help prove that you’re interested in this specific position for this exact company — not just someone who stumbled in on a random and indiscriminate job hunt.
At some point during the interview, you’ll most likely be invited to ask your own questions and this is an opportunity that you shouldn’t pass up. Demonstrate that you’re eager to learn, interested in the position and the company, and have a general understanding of what they need and what they do through a series of thoughtful questions. Consider questions like:
Is your interview remote? Check your equipment and find a quiet place
Phone or video interviews often precede in-person interviews lately. Although everyone is familiar with the frustration of technical difficulties, a bad connection, dim lighting, or a noisy background can distract from the great impression you’re hoping to make.
Ace an interview (even from a distance) with the following remote interview tips:
Confidence is key to crushing an interview. It may feel silly at first, but the best way to work on your interview skills is by rehearsing. Ask a friend or family member to play the role of interviewer or hiring manager and set up a video call or meeting.
Introduce yourself, summarize your work history, answer the questions they ask, and practice asking your own questions.
Work on not only what you say, but also how you say it. Do you sound nervous? What message is your body language conveying?
Are you talking too fast or rambling? Make sure your faux interviewer understands that critical feedback is essential to your success. Ask them open-ended questions about what went well and how you could improve.
There are a few aspects of the interview process that you have almost complete control over, and one of those is punctuality. Err on the side of being way too early, especially if it’s an in-person interview and traffic could become a factor — you never know when an accident or detour could become an obstacle.
If it’s a remote interview, be fully dressed and set up to test your equipment well before the interview starts.
How Would Your Current Manager Describe You?
This question gives you the opportunity to show off your strengths and what your boss appreciates about what you bring to the table. You want to focus on the positive traits that your boss likes and how it helps you in your role.
What you do not want to do is sprinkle in the things your boss doesn’t think as highly of. Don’t say something like my boss would describe me as a focused worker, at least on the days I make it into the office.