Written by Julia Churan
Jessica Pierce, CEO and Founder of Career Connectors, opened the July 23 event by welcoming everyone to the event with positive encouragement and an explanation of the change in format for the day. It was a unique workshop-style format that allowed job seekers an opportunity to learn a strategy for shining at their next interview and also put that strategy into practice with the assistance of HR professionals.
Ted Robison – “Mr Link-Me-In”, Speaker, Retired Engineer and LinkedIn Coach
For years Andersen Consulting, DDI and other leadership consulting firms have taught Targeted Selection as a method of evaluating candidates’ competencies based on past behavior to hire the right people for a given job. Today this is the most widely used hiring approach in corporate America. Recruiters and hiring managers are able to collect and evaluate job-relevant data, while removing bias, in a legally defensible way. Since past performance can be a good predictor of the future, interviewers ask open-ended questions to determine whether candidates have the skills and experiences required to excel in the job:
- Tell me about a situation when…
- Describe a time when you had to … What did you do?
- Give me an example of a time when you …
The STAR approach was designed to answer these types of questions and help an interviewer communicate specific and clear thoughts to others. It forces the candidate to stay focused, avoid rambling and over-communicating.
What is STAR?
The STAR format is a template for formulating “Power Stories”:
S – Situation
T – Task
A – Action
R – Result / Solution
Ted presented a video by CITY CV to demonstrate tips and an example of using the method. YouTube is a great resource for other examples and techniques to review when preparing for a job search.
- Describe the situation.
- Give the context of Where? and When?
- Be brief and specific – approximately one line.
- Short description of the challenges and/or expectations
- What? and Why?
- This is How? The steps you took to accomplish the task.
- Use “I” rather than “We” when answering.
- Avoid too much detail.
- This should be 60% of your answer.
- This is where you describe the outcome or impact to the company: cost-savings, time-savings, efficiencies, etc.
- Briefly show how you were the hero.
Watch Your Time
The entire response should to 45 – 90 secs. This will keep the interviewer from getting bored or regretting they asked the question. It also gives them a pause to ask questions. You can always offer more detail if they ask questions.
Prior to interview
Do your homework and looked prepared.
- Research the Company – use the company’s website, LinkedIn, personal contacts tied to the organization, and news wires.
- Research the Culture – Informational interviews with contacts that are tied to the organization are often your best source and may lead to more. Glassdoor.com is another great source of feedback both good and bad. Resources like BestCompaniesAZ and Forbes honors are other good indicators of culture strengths.
- Research the Interviewers – Do some social medial sleuthing. Start with your connections on LinkedIn. Know their alma mater and any personal aspects like volunteering and past experience. Look for mutual contacts. You can also search Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to find out if you have common interests like sports, music, etc. Don’t come across like a stalker, but you can avoid or transition into specific topics if you see a commonality.
- Compare your background to the Job Requirements – create a grid or make notes to touch on your strengths and accolades that directly tie to their needs.
Prepare as though walking into any important meeting – bring extra resumes, a pen, notepad, reference list, questions, STAR story reminders.
Practice Your Body Language
- Show confidence through your attire, posture, and direct eye contact
- Practice looking in the mirror
- Assume the “Superman pose” (hands on hips, chest forward, head high) prior to entering the office, or getting on the telephone.
- Smile and slow deep breaths – this will release tension and come across in a positive way through your voice.
Know Your Value Proposition to the Company
You are not only bringing the requested skills to the organization, but you have a wealth of experience and silent assets that you bring to the company. They are assuming things like integrity or hard worker. Be prepared with “Bitable” examples and skills – great problem solver, mentor to staff, contingency planning, poised under pressure situations, organized planner, etc. Show they would be getting more than they asked for and than other candidates may bring.
- Have a list prepared of open-ended questions that show you have given thought to your meeting.
- Make them personal so the interviewer talks about their experiences and opinions – What has been your secret to success for so many years? What is the biggest challenge you see in this role? Where do you see the greatest opportunities for the company (or role) in the next 3-5 years?
- Ask about company/dept culture – Tell me what you like best about working here? Describe your management style or describe the management style of the VP.
- Ask for advice of success in the role & company- What do you feel is most important to someone succeeding in this role?
- Avoid asking salary and vacation questions – the time will come soon enough and this shouldn’t appear your primary concern.
Participants were broken into groups with a professional HR coach guiding them through an exercise in writing their own STAR stories on different topics. “Candidates” were asked mock interview questions and given a chance to practice the STAR method to respond.
Download the practice worksheet here.
Download Common Interview Questions and guide here.
Workshop Lessons Learned
- The process needs to sound organic.
- The response doesn’t necessarily always follow STAR sequence. It might be a SATR or (ST)AR
The “Salary Question”
Do not be the first to bring up salary/vacation ever.
Turn that question around and ask, “What is the range for this position?”
One of the Hiring Company coaches suggested softening the question to something like “I’m looking at the entire opportunity. Salary is one piece of it, but I’m also looking at the role, the organization and the overall package.” Then ask the question about salary range.
FFN is a debt relief organization that is expanding into the personal lending and mortgage lending arenas. These and other expansion plans will offer new opportunities in Phoenix and Tempe.
One of the core values of the organization is the caring attitude for customers and employees. This is why FFN has been named a Best Company to Work for in Phoenix for several years in a row.
- Sales – phone
- Payment Processing
- Product/Project Managers
Ron Mack – Community Awareness Partner
Mission – Through the goodwill of others, we create the pathway to a better future for all by helping those who desire self-sufficiency.
The Goodwill Career Centers offer free career coaching, assistance with resumes, mock interviewing, employment support and digital skills training. They specialize in providing on-going support for the professional job seeker. Goodwill delivers community awareness of local employment events through onsite career centers and through the recent launch of mycareeradvisor.com (live chat available). The services are free of charge and available to all.
Jessica introduced the many resources available at no charge to seekers who attend Career Connectors events: LinkedIn and Resume assistance, Professional Photos, DISC assessments, Career and Financial Coaching. These and all Career Connectors events and services would not be available without the many hands of Staff, Volunteers, Sponsor Companies and Resource Partners. Also, a huge thank you to the Central Christian Church for hosting today’s Gilbert event. Attendees were encouraged to network and take advantage of the many services available. There are many exciting upcoming events across the Valley in the next month. Be sure to visit the Events Page for more details.