As the Global Head of Talent Acquisition for Amazon, I trained our interviewers in behavioral interviewing techniques. I taught them techniques to use to always seek a full STAR (Situation or Task, Action and Result) answer. Most interviewers, even in large companies such as Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook, simply wing the interview instead of using structured competency-based questions to evaluate behavioral results from the candidate. Only a small percentage of interviewers at Amazon had been through the interview training. A larger percentage than most employers, yet still with many untrained interviewers thrown into the role. So there is a large amount of variability on the interviewing side.
Yet most candidates, especially those at the entry level, are even less proficient at delivering the right type of answers and often need to be coached, led, even directly prompted into providing a full STAR answer.
But it doesn't have to be that way for you. You can deliver STAR results by simply remembering the two most powerful words to use in your interview:
It doesn't matter what the question is, whether it is behavioral or not, you can turn your interview answer into a STAR answer simply by using "For example…" then going on to describe the situation or task, the action you took and the results you achieved.
This may seem relatively easy, since it's merely leading with two simple words. Yet in practice it is much more difficult. It requires advanced preparation to think about your full portfolio of compelling stories and how they can be applied to different types of questions.
Which is why it's important to review and practice your answers to tough interview questions in advance of your interview. Don't just read over the interview question and think to yourself, "I know the answer to that one." Practice. Out loud. Listen to yourself and listen to how you answer. Better, have a friend or relative help out by asking you the questions in a random order, then giving you their personal feedback after the interview. Best, do a formal mock interview with a video of you answering the questions so that you can see later how you performed. And don't worry if you mess up in the mock interview, that's what it's for. Every practice session gets you closer to being your best in the actual interview.
"For example…" can be a powerful tool for you to direct your interview answers to behavioral answers. This technique works equally well for behavioral questions as well as non-behavioral. In some cases, it works even better for non-behavioral questions from an unpracticed interviewer, since your answers will clearly differentiate you from the others being interviewed.
Even if you don't start your answer with "For example…" you can still use it within your answer to give a broader and more complete response. And, in doing so, you will be a STAR in your interview!