How to prepare for an interview using the STAR method

Congratulations!  You’ve been selected as a candidate for that perfect job and now it’s time to prepare for the interview.  Piece of cake! Not really. You’d be surprised.

Over the course of my corporate and nonprofit career, I’ve had the opportunity to interview hundreds of candidates, from individual contributors to Executive Directors. Leading the recruitment activities on behalf of our Harvest Development Group clients, I’ve seen stellar resumes and had great conversations with candidates. But when it came to the actual interview either with me or the client’s recruitment team, I’ve seen great candidates unravel in front of my eyes.  Their anxiety comes across in the interview, both in person and over a video call. One way to reduce the anxiety is to anticipate what may be asked of you and being prepared. So, where to start?

Start with a review of the job description to anticipate questions. If one of the job requirements is experience in creating and leading a strategic plan, you can almost be guaranteed there will be a question about it.

During the interview, listen to the question.  I’ve seen candidates who were asked a question, for example, on how to create a strategy with metrics and respond by sharing their experience with event planning. Or, they may be answering the specific question and with their years of experience, are trying to cram as much information as they can into their response. Why?  Perhaps they fear they won’t be asked a specific question about their other skills and value they can bring to the organization. Or they start with a response that goes on and on and on and can’t quite remember what was asked or when to put the period at the end of the sentence.  Being prepared is essential. That’s where reviewing the job description, anticipating questions, and using the STAR interview method can help prepare you for your interview. The STAR method, SITUATION, TACTICS, ACTIONS and RESULTS, allows you to draw upon specific examples of your experiences.

Start by describing the SITUATION, describing what occurred or a brief outline to create the scenario for the listener. Who was the audience, when did it happen, and what caused the situation to occur are a few examples to include. What was the need or what did you hope to achieve as a result of the situation?

Next, describe the TACTICS or tasks you used to address the situation. Include, for example, how you identified gaps, challenges or opportunities that presented themselves in the situation you described.

Then move onto the ACTIONS you took as a result of the tactics you identified and your role in the process. This is where you have the opportunity to describe the “what” and “how” you accomplished the tasks and where you can demonstrate your skills relative to the situation.

And lastly, the RESULTS. What outcomes were achieved? What were your contributions to the outcomes? How were results implemented or used as a result of your actions?

The STAR method is one that is most often recommended to candidates preparing for an interview because it works! Using this method will showcase your talents to be the STAR candidate in your career endeavors.

Looking for more information? Join Careers Blossom powered by Harvest Development Group, a community of nonprofit professionals advancing their careers and where you’ll find articles and recommendations on becoming a STAR candidate and more as you navigate through your career journey.


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