STAR Interview Tip

If an interviewer asks you a question like, “Tell me about a time when you evaluated a new technology to solve an old problem,” be sure to use the STAR Model to help yourself give a satisfying answer.

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. It’s great for answering all sorts of questions about your past performance. (Google “STAR answer”.)

For example, an answer to that, “evaluating new technology,” question might sound like this:

Situation: “I was a junior developer at company X last year. We had a site for selling a product with a lot of options that could all be toggled on and off. This updated the product preview.”

Task: “We had to add some more options and I noticed that several relevant frameworks had become popular since we first wrote it. I thought one might be a better fit than our entirely custom code.”

Action: “Over a few days I used spare time to pick three frameworks. I implemented dummy options in all three. I took notes on which ones were easiest to use. I did simple performance tests of my examples and collected some online benchmark data. I picked the one I thought balanced performance and ease of use and presented a recommendation and my notes to my supervisor.”

Result: “My supervisor agreed with my pick but said it was a bad time to add a framework.  We wrote a story about adding the framework and prioritized it in the backlog.  After a couple of weeks we played the story and added the framework. It took some getting used to for a couple of team mates.  After a couple more weeks we agreed it had been a good move.”

I just timed myself giving that answer in a normal, unhurried tone. It takes less than a minute.

Don’t get into the weeds in your initial answer. Giving a STAR answer first and letting the interviewer probe for details allows you to focus on a complete and brief answer.

Behavioral Interviewing

By the way, that kind of interview question is from a “behavioral interview.” The premise of behavioral interviewing is that, while imperfect, past performance is the best indicator of future performance. (Google “behavioral interview”)

Rather than ask a brain teaser, or hypothetical question about what you might do in a situation, behavioral interviews ask you what you did do in a certain kind of situation.

If you are just getting into a certain job market (like web development) then still answer behavioral interview questions using your past experiences.  You may be asked, “How did you evaluate a new technology for an old problem?” and your answer doesn’t have to be about web development.

Bonus Tip: Put the “I” in Team

Remember that the interviewer is going to hire you and not your team. So make sure it is clear what your contribution was.

Also remember that you are being hired to work on a team. So don’t sound like a glory hound.

Accidental Jerk Still Equals Jerk

When my future wife, Ann, first met me in 10th grade she thought I was a “pompous jerk.” (She didn’t tell me that for years, though.)

It was because of how I talked. Now she says that, after she got to know me, she realized that was just the way I spoke.

She is too kind.

I was a jerk. But I didn’t know it.

I Am Blinded by What I Think I’m Doing

Our intention creates our reality. — Wayne Dyer

I didn’t intend to sound pompous — to sound like a jerk. (Most don’t.) So, of course, I didn’t see myself being a jerk.

Let me say that again in more detail.

Most of the time the words I choose come from habit. I expect that’s true for most people.

When I did consciously choose my words it was often to score points with authority: the teacher.  I knew I would get along better with the teachers (and get better marks) when I addressed my efforts to them.

In effect I tended to have a dry sense of humor. (It’s always better to tell a joke that only the teacher gets and everyone else doesn’t even realize was a joke.) I tended to use five-dollar words. (“Metacognition,” anyone? How about a dash of “epicurean?”) And I tended to have the right answer as often as possible. (You know, I was an annoying puke.)

Maybe in my mind I was “precise,” or funny, or just talking. I couldn’t see myself alienating others. That didn’t match my intent. It wasn’t in my reality.

Unintended Consequences: They Exist

In physics every action has an “equal and opposite reaction.” With people reactions are rarely so straightforward.

I developed a habit of speech to score points with one group (teachers). I did score those points. But reactions don’t end where you intend them to.

My habits carried over into conversations with my peers. I didn’t think about how it affected them. I didn’t consider that it alienated class mates.

I did it out of habit for getting something I cared about. I didn’t do it to make others feel bad. But it did. It had unintended consequences.

I Am Responsible for Outcomes

Condescending speech is alienating and ineffective. It breaks up relationships.

I didn’t intend to make Ann feel bad.  But it happened anyway. Unintentional jerk still equals jerk.

Intention may make your reality but it doesn’t control outcomes. And it is outcomes that you are judged by. Good or ill.

God “looketh upon the heart“, but the rest of us are poorer judges of others’ intentions — and that’s when we bother to try. Most of the time I’m too wrapped up in my own needs to care if that guy who cut me off in traffic was actually rushing to the emergency room.

People may cut you some slack when you cause them unintentional pain. But you still caused pain, and you have to own that.

Take A Regular Step Back — Self 360 Assessment

Be sure to regularly check, “Are my actions creating the outcomes I intended to create?  What unintended downsides am I blind to?”

If I had asked myself that question in 10th grade — better yet, if I had involved an honest friend in asking that question of myself — then I might have made more friends and given more happiness years earlier than I ultimately did.

What bad habits have you picked up that put off others?

I Have Returned

I’m back from my mountain-top experience. Almost a week, now.

The training made a bigger impact on me than the material itself could do.  The caliber of the instructors and attendees, along with the unique setting built up an experience that exceeds the models and thoughts of the course author.

A very good experience. I recommend it. (NOTE: BSA programs are a significant portion of the instruction so keep that in mind before signing up.)

I’ve taken it easy reintegrating with my life.  I’m not listening to as many news articles and books, yet.

I’m trying to make room for a piece of the mountaintop to take hold in my Salt Lake Valley life-style.

It feels good to hold back a bit on all my habits this week. Too often I encounter something inspiring and rush on to the next thing.

We must create patterns of delivery in our lives. But life’s richness comes from the experiences that make you pause.