The STAR interview model is one of the most commonly used behavioral interview methods. STAR stands for Situation or Task, Action, and Results. Even if your interviewer does not specifically use this framework, she will ask questions that can be answered with the framework. Regardless of the question, using this framework will ensure that your answers are thorough, detailed, results-oriented, and well structured.
Situation or Task
Example 1: Give an example of when you had to collaborate with cross-functional stakeholders to deliver a project.
Situation: We were working with engineering, finance, and marketing teams to create and deploy a new cloud-based software to change the way people handled their personal finances. This software was an app that could seamlessly integrate with your bank, stock, credit card, and retirement accounts and run a variety of analytics on that data. I was the lead project manager and had to create a working version within a 6-month timeline.
Action: I set up weekly meetings to interact with our engineering, finance, and marketing leads. I worked hand-in-hand with engineering to make sure they understood the specifications given by our marketing teams (they did in-depth research on what the consumer was looking for). On a weekly basis, I met with our finance team in order to make sure we were within budget and could meet all anticipated financial needs. We used an enterprise-wide project management tool to manage our work flows. I used this tool to assign tasks to the different teams while making sure we were hitting our milestones. I also used this tool to build out our project plan along with all the milestones, schedules, costs, and resources.
The main challenge we ran into was the lack of understanding between engineering and marketing. The two groups had drastically different cultures and workstyles, which led to them constantly butting heads. I had to mediate between the two groups so that everyone was on the same page. This effort took a lot of hand holding and reassurance.
Results: The project was completed and delivered on time, within budget, and within scope. It met the specifications set by our marketing execs. The marketing team did an excellent job of understanding the consumers. Our sales team was able to grow product sales to $10M in the first year.
Looking back, I think we could have established better communication flows between marketing and engineering. We could have better used our project management software to make sure that both teams were constantly in sync.
Example 2: Give an example when you had to deal with a tough client.
Situation: I was the account manager for a large healthcare client. Our company delivered a variety of patient services at various hospital locations. This client was extremely demanding, and did not trust our work. The reason they did not trust our work was because the previous person managing the account was unresponsive to phone calls, missed multiple deadlines, and constantly misunderstood the client’s needs. As a result, the client did not trust me when I was first hired on.
Action: I knew that I needed to gain the client’s trust by being extremely responsible, flexible, and understanding. I had to over communicate just to be safe. I spoke with my manager and we discussed the problems that the client had with us to get a better understanding. The key actions I took were to make sure I addressed every email and phone call in a timely manner. I made sure I understood the purpose and spirit of every request. I made sure all deliverables were flawless by double and triple checking. I always made sure to ask the client if he had any questions or if anything was unclear at the end of our meetings.
Result: I believe that I eventually gained the client’s trust. After about two months, the client became less compulsive and started trusting my work. He even thanked me for my responsiveness and commitment to customer service. On the latest survey that we give the clients, our client service score increased 50%.
Other potential questions you may be asked include:
I recommend thinking about each of these questions before hand. Think of a few proud accomplishments you have at work or other activities, and try to “fit” each of these accomplishments as a response to the variety of questions. For example, the time that you handled a tough client and gained his trust could involve taking leadership, thinking outside the box, and working extremely hard. Be sure to use the STAR framework to ensure that your response is rigorous, complete, and organized.
For more interview advice, be sure to read my post on nonverbal communication, interview advice, and phone interviews.
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