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Q&A with Melissa Hooven: Why Every Successful Job Interview Should Follow the STAR Method

Cornerstone Editors

When interviewing potential candidates, what’s the best way to evaluate whether the candidate will be a good fit with the company? Using past behavior to predict future behavior, says Melissa Hooven, Senior Director of Talent Acquisition at Cornerstone OnDemand. Hooven puts this method into action with STAR (standing for situation, task, action, results) — a behavioral interviewing technique where interviewers ask the candidates questions by talking about a situation or task, the action and the results. With STAR, hiring managers can analyze how a candidate deals with specific workplace situations. Here, Hooven explains how to guide interviewees through behavioral interviewing and how to customize STAR to specific departments.

How does the STAR method compare to other interviewing techniques?

The best thing about this method is that it creates a common language that allows managers to internally speak to each other about a candidate. It’s universal, so every department, regardless of what they’re hiring for, can use this methodology. There are methods out there that are specific to recruitment in technology, sales, to finance recruitment. Along with a being a great interview guide, The STAR methodology is another way to listen and gather information. STAR is also a great framework for providing feedback about a candidate to a department manager.

How can companies tweak the STAR method to be specific to each department?

Companies can take a basic STAR methodology and tailor it for departmental recruitment. For example, for finance, technical and product roles, there are a set of technical skills to assess, as well as how they react or problem solve in situations. We do a lot of situational interviewing where we walk them through a normal situation they’d encounter and ask them to talk about a time where this has happened before. I ask them to explain the situation, the task list the created to get through the situation and the outcome of it- whether good or bad. You can tailor the STAR methodology across any job opening.

Interviewees often fail to give a complete answer and scenario, what can the interviewer do when he’s not getting the whole situation?

If someone’s not giving me a complete answer, I try to help them by telling them how I want them to respond. So if I say, "Tell me a time when you’ve been behind deadline and have to get a story out," and the interviewee says, "It was really frustrating." I would then prompt him by asking, "What was the situation?", "What was the deadline?", "How did you prioritize?" and "Where did you fall short and where did you excel?" If it’s clear that an interviewee is always answering with incomplete STARs, it’s clear that he’s not going to be a good candidate — or employee.

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