Hosted By

Isaiah Hankel, PhD
Isaiah Hankel, PhD
Chief Executive Officer Cheeky Scientist

Join Isaiah as he introduces PhDs to the STAR Method, a foolproof formula that helps answer the toughest interview questions

In this week’s episode…

  • First, Isaiah introduces PhDs to the STAR Method, an acronym that stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result
  • Next, he breaks down what employers want to hear in each part of your STAR Method-guided answer
  • Finally, Isaiah reminds PhDs that interviewing is a skill that should be practiced and perfected

The STAR Method Provides Guidelines For Answering Open-Ended Interview Questions

There are too many moving parts in your job search to trust that, when the time comes, you’ll just innately know what to say. 

And yet I talk to PhDs every day who tell me that their plan is to have no plan. To just wing it.

Some things just do not come naturally to people. 

When it comes to PhDs especially, finding a way to take credit for your accomplishments and to do it succinctly, in a way others can digest, is a challenge. 

That’s why I recommend that, long before you even have an interview on the books, you start practicing how to answer behavioral questions using the STAR method. 

Start Every Answer By Concisely Describing The Situation You Dealt With

You may have heard me talk about it before, but this is the secret to nailing these types of questions. 

STAR stands for situation, task, action, and result. 

This acronym is meant to help you remember the info you need to provide an informative answer and the order you need to do it in. 

The situation is the set-up to your answer. 

You’ll start by describing a previous situation relevant to the question. 

Describe a specific situation. 

Before you interview, take time to consider a few times you were able to meet a particular challenge to you or where you exceeded expectations. 

Do it now, while there’s no pressure on you, and you can then add detail over time. 

This will make it easier to tweak your response to make it most relevant to the company or the role you’re interviewing for when the time comes. 

You want to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand what was involved, but do it in no more than two sentences. 

Consider The Skills Required For The Position You’re Applying To When You Describe The Actions You Took

Then comes T – the task at hand. 

What was your role in this task? 

What were you supposed to do, and what was the problem? 

Why couldn’t it be done – what was the challenge? 

Maybe you had a time-sensitive problem. Or maybe the authority you’re supposed to defer to wasn’t there and someone had to make a decision. 

No matter what the task was, there needs to be a challenge. Otherwise, the meat of your answer won’t be very compelling. 

Action is the third part of the methodology. It’s here that you’ll explain the actions you took to fix the problem. 

Provide a thorough description that acknowledges your thought process, how you reached your conclusions, and what your role was in the resolution. 

That sounds like a lot of information. But the detail you provide will showcase your real-life experience executing the skills your target role is looking for. 

Action is the most interesting and important part of your answer as far as the recruiter is concerned.

** For the full podcast, check out the audio player above.

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