Placement Interviews: Story Telling like a STAR

With the Summer Internship placements round the corner and the Final placement hysteria a few months away, B-Schools are buzzing with the ‘expectations and anxiety’. Having been a part of the process as a candidate last year and as a recruiter now, I am sharing some tips on placement interviews.

While preparing for the technical bit of an interview is hygiene factor (hence not covered in this article), the other more important but about the art of storytelling is covered here.

When recruiters visit a campus, two of the most common forms of interviews conducted are Behavioural Event Interviews and Competency based interviews (Read up more on these). To put it in layman terms, the interviewer is trying to probe for a set of qualities or competencies in the responses. Accordingly, the best suited answers here are situations/events where they have been demonstrated. It also gives a window to your thought process.

Ex. ‘Tell me a situation when you ………’

Recruiters usually come across students who have comparable calibre (which is why they made it to the same B-School and received a shortlist by this company in this very slot). Storytelling not only projects an individual as interesting, but can act as the differentiator while picking the first amongst equals.

It’s a simple concept, instead of answering the questions and averring the qualities through an obvious monologue, wrap it up in a story. Keep the interviewer interested and hanging closely on every word and lead him on.

Ex. ‘How would you make the transition from IT to Corporate?’ Is a commonly asked question. The answers could be:  ‘because I am open to Learning’, ‘I like Challenges’, ‘My mother once had a dream that I was sitting in a cabin’ and so on… A friend of mine gave the following answer (and bagged the offer)

When I was 16 I quit a career in Cricket after playing for the state, and started from scratch in Football. I found it enticing to relate my previous learnings to what I was exploring. When I found myself excelling at it, I tried my hand at Tennis, and was again fascinated by how my previous learnings facilitated an easier shift in a totally unrelated venture. Guess it’s the same in my transition from IT to Management

Because he had prepared the answer for ‘What would you bring on the table from your IT Background’, he subtly led the interviewer to ask him that as the follow-up question.

Remember: The interviewer only has limited time because of the prevailing ‘War for Talent’ and Placement Committee coercing to release candidates for the next interviews. Hence, time spent wisely on desired questions makes it a lot easier.

  

THE STAR FRAMEWORK:

Model your stories on the STAR Format:

 

Situation: Context of the story.

Important to make it interesting and ‘of consequence’ to generate interest in rest of the story. Try and give both Micro and Macro perspectives

–          ‘When I was in the second year of college, one of the TT players got injured right before the qualifier of the prestigious intercollege Tournament

 

Task: What were the challenges and constraints faced and their significance.

–          ‘With no replacement available, a team member less would mean disqualification of the entire contingent

 

Action: What did you do to overcome these?

This is where you highlight your qualities and competencies. Try not to state the qualities using obvious words, but let them be deciphered from the story.

Ex. Instead of saying you showed ‘Leadership skills’ just say you came forward and took the group along with you, which the interviewer would decipher as ‘Leadership’ and ‘Initiative seeking’

–          ‘Although I had never played Table Tennis before, I came forward and volunteered as a substitute player to prevent the contingent from disqualification

 

Result: The Happy ending to your story. Remember to keep the result as quantifiable as possible, and also show how its impact lasted in the long term.

–          ‘With my first match being 2 days away, I tried to learn the game by practicing hard. The efforts paid reward and we qualified till the 3rd round. However, this ignited a fire of winning the tournament, and instilled a passion for the game in me. We practiced the entire year to eventually win the next 3 titles on a row.

 

Remember: Keeping the story crisp shows ‘clarity of thought’ and the ability to express, while a verbose story is usually a turn off. Structuring the story is one of the most important factors towards successful storytelling.

 

So is how you can go about preparing for Storytelling?

–          On an excel sheet create partitions like School-College-Work preferably or Childhood-Teenage-Youth or however you feel comfortable

–          Write events and achievements under each event in a Chronological order and make an exhaustive list

–          For each event prepare an interesting short story of around 4-5 Lines in the STAR Format. Assess the points and qualities that you are conveying through it.

–          For each of these stories, think of possible interview situations where you can use it. For ex. As your strength, or as a challenge, hurdle etc.

–          Mark 3-4 of these as your bailout points, these are generic points that can be used when stuck on a question.

–          Though not easy, try linking these stories to each other as it will help in keeping the interview on track.

–          Now prioritize some of these as your best answers

 

–          Once you are done with your life events it is time for the most important piece of paper in your life, Your CV. Repeat the process with every single point in your CV. Even if it is scoring 84% in 10th board, have a story for it.

 

I now leave you to try some of these techniques, and my next article would cover a few more tips on preparing for Campus interviews.

– Amit

 

Amit Sharma is a 2014 alumnus of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences Mumbai, currently working as a Corporate Management Trainee with Reliance Industries Limited. He was also the Admissions Committee member at TISS Mumbai

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