But what if the interviewer asks me a question about myself?

by Bradley Woodruff, Head Editor, INALJ Wisconsin

But what if the interviewer asks me a question about myself?

bradleywoodruffGive an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it.
Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.
Have you ever made a mistake? How did you handle it?
How do you handle a challenge? Give an example.

You’ve seen these before; they’re behavioral interview questions. Since you’re an avid INALJ reader, I don’t have to remind you that Roselle Pendergrast, Head Editor for INALJ Minnesota, touched on these in her recent post, “Darn those Tough Interview Questions!” She cited one of the most effective ways to approach these questions: the STAR method (or SOAR, if flying is more your thing).

The acronym above (we love acronyms, right?) is a formula for how to structure your response to a behavioral question. It stands for Situation, Task/Objective, Action, Results.

Briefly paint the scene for your interviewer. Give an overview of the situation and relevant background information. Be specific. Be succinct.

Describe the task you were trying to achieve in the situation. Give specifics, not a generalized overview.

Tell the interviewer(s) the action you took to achieve the goal. Make sure you talk about yourself, and what you did. If you’re talking about work you did as part of a group, stay away from “we” as much as possible. Your group is not applying for the job. Do talk about how your work fit in with the work of the rest of the team though.

This final, crucial piece is often forgotten. People share what actions they did and forget to talk about what happened as a result of those actions. Don’t be shy about taking credit for your behavior here, and include multiple positive results if you can.

How you can SOAR and be a STAR (yes, I went there).
As you prepare for your interview, practice putting together a few answers in this format. You’ll get accustomed to formulating this type of response, plus you’ll have a few rehearsed answers in your arsenal that you can call upon in an interview. Want to SOAR higher and get a gold STAR? Share your response with a friend or colleague. Ask them what impression they think your response gives and see if it aligns with the image you thought your answer portrayed.

You want an example? Ok. Here is one. This is not my own, but stolen from someone I know.

Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it.
While I was a student in my MLIS program, I was involved with (insert student group here). Our program had a large number of students who lived far from campus. Our group wanted to increase attendance of our regular meetings by finding a way to include distance students. I suggested we create a new position, Digital Liaison, and volunteered to fill the role. I researched teleconferencing software, coordinated live webcasts of all our meetings, and distributed a survey to online attendees to learn how we could improve. By the end of the school year, we had seven distance students regularly attending the webcasts. Our group benefited from the increase in member presence and I think distance students appreciated that we made an extra effort to include them in our programs. The next year, two other student groups copied our model.

It’s all about good storytelling. Set the stage, introduce a problem, throw in some action, and bring us the resolution.

Hopefully you are now ready to SOAR into a STAR position, because I’m running out of space as well as corny ways to use these acronyms.

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