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.

Are You Being Wooed?

An interesting and short article went over the predictable labor shortage caused by the difference between the sizes of the Baby Boomer and Gen X population groups. It talked about Employment Branding.

The technical term is “Employment Branding,” and it’s how companies woo top talent. They showcase their company culture, values, benefits, perks, executive team, staff members, business mission, and anything else that will make a great candidate want to work for them instead of their competitor.

… Google, Zappos, Amazon, and Facebook aren’t the only hot employers on our planet. They’re just the ones that embraced Employment Branding when others didn’t. But soon, we’ll be seeing companies of all shapes and sizes strutting their stuff in hopes of catching our eyes. It’s going to be a great year!

Has this been true for you? I know I talk up our unique workplace — especially for top candidates. How prominently has “Employment Branding” featured in your recent job interviews?

Would You Hire Me if I Didn’t Have a Degree

Any hiring manager has to decide how she feels about college degrees. Is it a must? Nice to have? Irrelevant? It comes up in conversation. You have to decide whether it influences your hiring decisions.

Applicants want to know, too. Should I stick it out in college? Should I change my degree from psychology to CS? (I know an intern now facing that kind of question.)

I interviewed an applicant a couple of weeks ago on a university campus and he wrote to ask me about college degrees.

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