Telling your story: Be an Interviewing All-STAR!

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Nikki Smith
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By Nikki Smith, Assistant Director, Duke University Career Center

“I’ve got a great story to tell you!” When your best friend begins a conversation with that exclamation, you lean in to listen (Right after you think, “Where was I when this cool thing occurred?), right? Well, if your friend’s story turned out to be a thought along the lines of, “I think that education policy should be decided by the teachers and staff who work directly with students,” you might notice that she wasn’t telling you a tale with a beginning, middle and end, but instead was sharing her philosophy. How can you help your bestie turn her ideas into a compelling narrative?

What if your friend instead told you about the 30-year educator she met while developing a video project at her summer internship with a policy institute? The story becomes richer when your friend provides details and context, and talks about how she formed her ideas about the best approach to education reform. When you hear about the skills she gained in video editing, the knowledge she built by researching regional attitudes toward education legislation, and the way she can now apply this information to a classroom project, you know she’s telling the fuller version of a story that is based on awareness learned through experience.

In an interview, an employer wants to hear the details of how you (or your best friend) obtained the know-how to execute a project. In constructing a response, using the STAR method will cover the important information to demonstrate that you’ve reflected on your experience and you can communicate what you learned from it. In behavioral interviews, questions focus on your storytelling abilities. You want to be able to provide the elements of the story that give it meaning and demonstrate that you see your skills and experience fitting what the employer seeks.

To be an interview all-STAR, follow this formula to build the language of your story.
S= Situation: Share what the context or environment was for your example.
T=Task: Talk about the assignment or task you were given.
A=Action: Discuss what actions YOU specifically took.
R=Result: Tell what the results of your actions were. Conveying what the conclusion of your story was may be the most important piece of the STAR method.

When you practice the way you tell your story, you will be ready to speak authentically about your personal narrative. So go on, share your great story! And while you’re at it, send this blog to your best friend. It sounds like she might be able to use it.

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