Unsure About the Length of an Answer in the Job Interview? One Acronym to Help


Answering questions in a job interview is a fine art that can quickly become a challenge if you’re not prepared. You can’t make your answers too short or you risk not giving enough information to the decision maker. But you also can’t make your answers too long or you may talk yourself right out of a job. If you’re wondering how to make sure you provide enough detail but don’t drone on and lose their interest, you may want to keep the STAR method in mind. Each letter standing in for a concept, you can use it to formulate your answer and hit all the right notes for the hiring manager.


When your interviewer starts a question with, “tell me about a time when,” here is your chance to shine. Begin by describing the situation that is related to their line of questioning. For example, if they say “tell me about a time when you had to deal with a disgruntled customer.” You can begin by setting the scene for them.


The next step is to describe the task at hand. What was your role in the situation? “I knew that I needed to deflect the anger and defuse the situation quickly before it blew up.” This is where you will describe your thought process for the resolution of the situation at hand and will share your critical thinking skills.


After that, what did you do? “While the customer was yelling, I knew I couldn’t yell back and they wouldn’t let me interject. So, I stepped back and allowed them to vent. I knew I couldn’t take what they said personally, so I tried to listen to the underlying meaning in what they were saying so I could repeat back their concerns when they were done. I was gentle when responding and let them know I had been listening to what they said and wanted to resolve the issue.”


Make sure you finish your answer by communicating the outcome. “I was able to give them the time and space to calm down. Once they knew I heard and understood their complaint and was willing to work with them, we could have a conversation about what we could do for them.” The results will communicate with the interviewer that you have what it takes to follow through on your actions.

You can apply the STAR method to any situation within your career and it will give you the roadmap to answer a question without taking too much time.

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