There are four basic steps in solving a problem:
☛ Defining the problem.
☛ Generating alternatives.
☛ Evaluating and selecting alternatives.
☛ Implementing solutions.
☛ Monitoring the outcome of the action taken.
☛ Reviewing the problem and problem-solving process to avoid similar situations in future.
Of course, you must also keep your story concise. It is easy to wander off into extraneous details if you have not prepared your stories in advance. The goal is to find a nice balance between interesting detail and conciseness. The beauty of the STAR format is that it keeps you focused.
If you are a regular reader, you know how we feel about practice. Over several years working with thousands of job seekers, I have seen the magic of practicing for the job interview, especially when it comes to answering behavioral questions.
I know that practice interviewing can feel awkward but please do not skip this step. It really does make a difference. Academic studies and my own experience consistently show that the candidates who practice land more job offers. Practice makes you more eloquent and more confident and will considerably increase your odds of getting hired.
Reminder, the star format is not about scripting and memorizing stories (and it is certainly not about fiction writing). The example above is more scripted than you want or need. We did it this way to illustrate how the final delivery might sound.
When preparing your own STAR stories, it is not necessary to write complete sentences with clean transitions. Just jot down the rough bullet points for each section. You want to create a framework that ensures you hit your key points but your delivery will likely be a little bit different each time.
To stand out from the crowd, you need to provide enough detail to give a sense of who you are and how you think. Many of my coaching clients have made the mistake of rushing through their stories and leaving out the most interesting and memorable details. Good stories offer an opportunity to connect with your interviewer. Give them some details that they can relate to.
☛ To stand out from the crowd
☛ You must also keep your story concise
☛ Reminder the star format
☛ Choose an example that truly demonstrates your problem solving skills at their best. Do not settle for a lame or boring problem or one that makes you look bad.
☛ Go with examples that are relevant for the job description. If you are interviewing for a job with a project management component, choose a time when you overcame an obstacle on an important project. If the posting stresses analytic skills, go with that time you used your Excel macro skills to save the day.
☛ Do not try to skate by with generalities like, I consider myself a great problem solver. I solve problems every day in my job. You are not answering the question. Pick an example to illustrate your point.
☛ Avoid raising red flags by talking about problems that you caused or negatively contributed to. Remember that you want to be the hero in your interview stories whenever possible (we will talk about responding to behavioral questions about negative experiences in a future post).
Here are some tips for handling behavioral questions about problem solving:
☛ Select a strong example
☛ Be specific about your actions
The interviewer is likely looking for a general problem solving orientation to your personality. For many jobs, the hiring manager is also looking for a proven track record in addressing the types of challenges that are common in the role.