People like to listen to stories – especially if they are captivating and have a good ending.  When you are in an interview there is no difference. Interviewers want to hear your stories about the challenges you have faced and how you have acted to solve those challenges.  They are hoping you can bring that same problem-solving capability to their company.

However, they want to hear a lot of your stories, instead of one long one.  Therefore, you need to be proficient in telling short stories that effectively communicate your ability to problem-solve and take action.

To become more accomplished at this, we suggest practicing by developing a pool of short stories to common interview questions using the S.T.A.R Method.

Effective storytelling is direct, logical, meaningful, and personalized.

The STAR Method will help you to communicate the foundation of your story and then elaborate further on what the situation taught you and how those lessons could potentially relate to the position for which you are applying.

The S.T.A.R. Method:

  1. Prepare – Listen, Think, Plan – It’s OK to take a moment to develop a concise answer.
  2. Summarize – Restate the question.
  3. S. – Situation – Provide some background.
  4. T. – Task – What was the task or problem you had to address?
  5. A. – Action – What action did you take?
  6. R. – Result – What was the result of your action?


“Please explain to me a time that you demonstrated an ability to innovate.”

S:  I was part of the Customer Service team. We experienced poor customer satisfaction and several customer complaints due to the inconsistency of the level of service.

T:  Being one of the most senior team members, I was asked to propose ideas on how to improve the situation.

A:  First, I analyzed the customer surveys and identified 5 key areas of dissatisfaction. Then, I called a meeting with my peers and conducted a brainstorming exercise on how we could address these 5 key areas.  From this session, I developed a new training program with periodic refresher courses every 90 days centering around 3 key principles – Empathy, Courtesy, and Timeliness.

R:  In the month following the implementation, the number of complaints decreased by 20%  , and after 3 months they were reduced by 50%.

If your story appropriately answers the question, keep to it.  Do not think of new details as you answer. Say what you had planned and let the interviewer ask another question so you can tell another story.

If you spend the time practicing how you would answer common interview questions, your answers will become more concise and your confidence will be evident in how you communicate your stories.

Here is a list of great behavior-based questions to help you develop some impactful stories using the STAR Method.  Some of your STAR stories will cover multiple questions, therefore, this will help you create a pool of stories you can pull from based on a wide variety of questions that may be asked.

With proper preparation, you don’t need good luck to do well in an interview.   Therefore, I wish you all the best in your interview preparation.

Below are other Job Hunting Resources:

Job hunting is a full-time job itself and companies are hiring.  Within these articles, you will find ways to be more strategic and productive, than just applying on-line.  We hope you find this helpful.  Your diligence and technique will outperform your luck.  Good hunting.

About Tim Howard

Tim Howard is the founder of 5 technology firms including Fortify Experts which helps companies create higher-performing teams through People (Executive Search and vCISO/Advisory consulting), Process (NIST-based 3rd party security assessments and Leadership Coaching), and Technology (security simplifying solutions).

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