I recently asked OpenAI ChatGPT how to find an entry level job. What I received back were some very basic steps about identifying skills and interests, creating a resume, networking, using job search websites, applying for jobs and following up. Good basic information.
Did you notice what was missing?
Yep, interviewing. As if all you have to do is apply and follow up.
And it's not just missing information about interviewing, but about how to interview successfully. Because I don't care about your college, your degree, your grades, your extracurriculars, none of it matters if you are not able to interview successfully. And most of what you learned in college is not actual prep for being successful in the interview.
I'm going to give you a very simple formula that, if you follow it, will greatly increase your success in interviewing. Today, tomorrow and throughout your career. When I was at Amazon, I trained our top interviewers in Competency-based Behavioral Interviewing. In my training, we practiced a very specific interviewing technique. It's called the S-T-A-R technique. It's used both for developing behavioral-based questions as well as for drilling down on those questions within the interview. S stands for Situation; T stands for Task; A stands for Action taken and R stands for Results achieved. Using this STAR formula is how we would turn non-behavioral questions into STAR behavioral questions and how we would turn non-behavioral answers into STAR behavioral answers in the interview.
So now I'm going to flip the tables on this approach and show candidates how to apply this technique as well. Not as the interviewer. But as the person being interviewed. From the candidate side of the desk.
First, let's talk about the employer side. In my training, I would help interviewers to formulate basic behavioral questions. Most interviewers initially struggle with coming up with solid behavioral questions, yet it's really quite simple. When you hear "Can you give me an example of that?" the interviewer is asking a behavioral question. "Tell me about a time when…" or "Explain a situation in which…" or "Give me an example of…" are all leading into behavioral questions. Then add the specific role-based competency and you have a competency-based behavioral question.
So to give you an example, let's say one of the identified specific competencies for a role is attention to detail. How can I evaluate that specific competency in the interview? Well, I could say something as simple as: "Do you have good attention to detail?" That's a closed-ended, non-behavioral question. Technically, a yes or a no would be a valid answer. And with little guidance, most candidates would start talking about a factitious scenario and how they would handle it. Not behavioral. But a better question, a behavioral question, would be something like: "Can you give me an example of your attention to detail?" And an even better behavioral question would be time bound: "Can you give me an example of a project you have worked on in the past three months which showed your level of attention to detail?"
The behavioral interviewer has three checkboxes: The first two, S and T are combined. Did the candidate describe the Situation or Task? What is it? Most candidates do, by the way. But that's also where they often get stuck. The next checkbox is A: Did the candidate describe the Action they personally took? This usually requires some prompting, especially when it comes to a group or team activity. What did the candidate individually and personally do? And the hardest is the third checkbox, R: Did the candidate describe the Results they achieved?
Most candidates do not go here without prompting, digging and drilling down. It can produce some uncomfortable moments and uncomfortable silence in the interview. I trained our interviewers to not bail out the candidate, no matter how uncomfortable the silence might be. Keep drilling down. Keep asking for specifics. Keep validating the details. Keep waiting for the answers.
And then the modification step: rework the question by asking for a second example and time bound it tighter. For example: Can you give me a second example of a project which showed your attention to detail, but this time give me an example from the last two weeks.
Think about it. Could you answer that question right now? What would you say?
Tough interview questions. And by using these questions we would break through the candidate's interviewing veneer to learn about the real person on the other side of the desk.
But here's the kicker from the candidate side. Most interviewers are not actually trained to perform a competency-based behavioral interview. You will run into some tough interviewers like I just described, but they are usually highly practiced interviewers, such as a Recruiter or HR. But with the actual hiring manager? Much less likely, even at a company like Amazon. I trained hundreds, but we had thousands of people interviewing at Amazon. Most of whom had not been trained in competency-based behavioral interviewing.
So here is what you need to learn to do: answer every interview question, whether it is a behavioral question or not, with a behavioral answer. For the experienced behavioral interviewer, you are that interviewer's dream candidate. You are giving a real-life example of the competency, the situation or task, the action you took and the results you achieved. No drilling down necessary. Check all three boxes. And for the non-behavioral interviewer, you're even more of an interviewer's dream candidate. Because you are giving these amazing, in-depth answers that empower the interviewer with the detailed data they need to make a decision. And with each interview, whether mock interview or real interview, you are further building out your story library of behavioral examples that you can use in future interviews.
ChatGPT doesn't even mention interviewing, much less how to interview successfully. Apply the STAR technique to behaviorally interview to become a star in your interview.
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