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“Tell me about a time when you….” or “What is your experience doing ….?”  I have seen many smart, articulate marketers and business leaders absolutely freeze with simple questions like these.  Or worse yet, they give 15-minute-long answers that don’t answer the question and completely lose the interviewer.

When prepping my candidates for interviews, and yes, I prep every candidate I present for interviews, I go back to this simple tool learned in business schools everywhere, STAR responses.  Situation, Task, Action, Result or STAR responses are often used for behavior-based interview questions.  I find that this format is applicable across many different interview questions where the interviewer wants to not only know if you did something but wants to know how you did it and what resulted from your actions.

You probably are saying “Chris, that is a ton of information to pile into a single response.”  Of course, you are correct.  That is why I tell all my candidates to use this model.  Two sentences each on the situation, task, and action.  One, maybe two sentences on the result.  If you can do this, the interviewer will not only be impressed with your experience and accomplishments, they will also see you as a strong communicator.

Here is an example:

Interviewer:  What is your experience helping companies move into new lines of business?

Candidate: (This assumes that you understand what the interviewer is asking.  For more on that see Interviewing Tip #2: Clarifying Questions)

(Situation) I was brought into ABC company to help them build out new businesses as their core products were being obsoleted due to technology.  If the company did not find new lines of business, they would either go out of business or be a shadow of their former self.

(Task) I quickly conducted research into potential adjacent businesses and their strategic fit.  I then conducted market research to determine the potential customer demand which was used to build the business case in collaboration with my cross-functional partners.

(Action) After receiving approval from senior leadership, I then lined up needed external partners to bring the project to life while minimizing the company’s investment.  Next, I quickly put together a cross-functional project team to execute the plan.

(Result) As a result the product was in market in a record 90 days from when it was approved and exceeded both year 1 and year 2 sales goals within 60 days!

Of course, there is a lot packed into this example and you can always ask the interviewer a validating question such as “Is there any part of my response you would like me to dive more deeply into?  I just gave you the highlights to not bore you to tears.”


The Takeaway:  When prepping for an interview look at the job responsibilities in the job description.  Create a STAR response or two using the above model for each of those responsibilities.  Practice saying them to a spouse, your dog or whoever will listen.  By doing so you will be a STAR during your interview.