You got an interview with a fantastic health system. You meet all of their qualifications. Then you get to the interview, and the HR representative asks, “Describe how you resolved a problem at work.”
And you freeze!
Even experienced professionals have difficulty with the interview process. In fact, people with great credentials often do not know where to begin with open-ended behavioral questions.
Many organizations use behavioral interviewing (or behavior-based interviewing) to find out how you handled specific problems in the past and what personality traits you bring to your job. Hospitals and clinics want to reduce the risk of a bad hire; therefore, they ask questions about more than just your skills. They probe to discover whether you will manage challenges professionally.
These questions often follow a format of “Tell me about…” to elicit details about your past experiences. There are two methods available to interviewees to help them stand out with employers.
Use STAR to Shine
STAR refers to Situation, Task, Action, and Result. In these cases, you
- Describe the situation in about one sentence
- Tell the listener your goal
- State the action you initiated
- Explain the result
“Tell me what accomplishment you’re proudest of on your resume and why” is a great time to use a STAR story. If you are a Registered Nurse interviewing for your first professional position, you might say: My degree is my proudest accomplishment. I am the first in my family to graduate from college so I saved money from part-time jobs, studied hard, and found a mentor through my college. I achieved my goal through these steps.
PAR Distinguishes You from the Average
PAR stands for Problem, Action, and Result. This technique is useful when interviewers ask about specific traits. You need to tell a concise story about how you solved a problem.
For instance, “Tell me about your biggest weakness” is one of the most common (and nerve-wracking) interview questions. The key to a successful PAR story that answers this question is to:
- Identify a real professional development needed
- The actions you took to address it
- The positive result
Here is a sample answer: When I took my current position, I had no management experience. I took professional development courses on leadership. I improved my listening and communication skills. My team achieved higher patient satisfaction ratings after I applied these new strategies.
Practice Makes Perfect
Talented, qualified people fail to convince hiring managers to extend them an offer because they are unprepared for the interview. How you market your accomplishments determines whether your interview is a success. Just like a sales person practices a presentation ahead of time, it is important that you develop STAR and PAR stories before the interview so you sound confident and prepared.
These stories help you answer common interview questions such as:
- Telling interviewers about yourself
- Describing how you resolved a workplace conflict
- Detailing how you moved into a leadership role
- Talking about how you developed strengths and improved weaknesses
STAR and PAR stories enable you to show concrete examples of how you apply your personality to the workplace. By preparing these stories in advance, you increase your odds of winning a great job offer.