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Winning Candidates are Good Storytellers

The Pietrack Press

“Winning Candidates are Good Storytellers” 

In Mastering the Phone Interview we discussed the keys to fitting into three areas that interviewers are assessing: Motivational Fit, Functional Fit, and Cultural Fit. One of the keys to mastering the in-person interview is handling Behavioral Based Interview (BBI) questions.  Sometimes BBI questions are called “situational questions,” “Targeted Selection,” or “STAR questions”.

In the Pharma Industry many are trained to interview in the BBI style.  Once this trend was recognized, a way of answering these questions was quickly developed, and that model is called the STAR model.  I’m not sure who came up with it, so I can’t give them appropriate credit.  I’m certainly not trying to take credit for the model.

STAR stands for S-Situation T-Task A-Action R-Result.  I’ve read that other interview coaches have tweaked the STAR model, and one I encourage people to use is a similar model called SOAR, S-Situation O-Obstacle A-Action R-Result.  So much of what makes us the winning candidate is not doing a task but overcoming an obstacle.  The reason this STAR/SOAR model was created was to give the interviewee an easy way to keep their answers efficient.  Remember, no one hires a rambling generalist.

Winning candidates are good storytellers and can do it succinctly.  Imagine how effective your interview would be if for every BBI question they asked you, you could pull up a video clip of you in that situation.  Essentially by using this model you can create that video with words.  Great interviewers can create images in the interviewers mind, and the interviewer can actually picture them in the job.

Here is some coaching on the STAR/SOAR Model:

-S-stands for situation.   Explain briefly the situation you were in.  Also, let the S remind you to be specific and succinct.

-T/O-stands for task or obstacle.  They want to know that you can handle the curveballs that are thrown at you on a daily basis.  In my experience, I don’t see many interviewers asking a bunch of task oriented questions, and that is why I chose to take out the T and replace it with an O in most cases.  So, briefly talk about the obstacle that you were presented with, and demonstrate that you are someone who can overcome obstacles.

-A-stands for action.   Transition into describing the action you took in overcoming the obstacle.  Again, stay brief and positive.  Remember, good storytellers get the job.  The actions of the story are what create the images in the interviews mind.  They are asking BBI questions to find out what you DO in situations.  In the action section, you are explaining what you do, so do a great job here.  Try using phrases like: “So, what I did was”, “My strategy for overcoming that was”, etc.

-R-stands for result.  This is where you talk about the result of your action, and we are looking for a positive outcome.    This is a key part because so many candidates don’t know how to put a bow on their story and wrap it up.  Try using phrases like: “So, what happened was…”, “The result was….”,  etc.

Other keys to success in answering BBI questions:

-Keep your answer succinct

-Give only one example

-Use “I” statements.  They are not hiring your last company, so avoid saying, “We did.”  They want to hire you, so say “I did.”

-Never use hypotheticals, like “What I would do is.”  They don’t want to hire someone who could hypothetically do this job; they will hire someone who has successfully done this job.  Finding out if that is YOU or not, is the whole reason these questions exist.

What questions might be asked?  BBI questions usually fall into 6 categories:

Overcoming Adversity, so they may ask you to tell them about a time where you were in a fairly standard adverse situation that commonly happens in your job.

Problem Solving, so they may ask you to tell them about a time when you have to come up with a solution to a problem.  Be strategy oriented.  Don’t say, “I’m an out-of-the-box thinker.”  Show it!

Functional Specific, so they may ask you situational questions that are specific to your functional job, like how to you manage your travel schedule or how you handle tough customers.

Taking Initiative, they want to make sure you can show examples of times you have taken it upon yourself to go above and beyond your job description.  Other ideas to keep in mind were times you were proactive.

Technical Learning, so they may ask you to give specific examples of times you learned new, highly-technical things quickly.  Every company has their eye on shortening the runway and ramp-up time for new employees.

-Teamwork, this is a big one, and you’ll see a variety of questions regarding teamwork.  You may be asked about working within teams, getting along with teammates, working with matrix decision making environments, conflict resolution, etc.

I hope this quick tutorial about how to use the STAR/SOAR Model to answer BBI questions has been helpful.  Remember to think of these stories long before the interview, so you don’t have to think so much on the fly.  If you can handle these BBI Questions by being a succinct storyteller, there is little doubt that you will be seeing an offer soon.

See You at The Top!

Michael Pietrack

About the Author: Michael Pietrack is a leading executive recruiter in a the Pharmaceutical Industry and arguably the top recruiter in the Medical Affairs space. His specific expertise is recruiting in Field Medical Affairs placing Medical Science Liaisons, and therefore, he has been dubbed “The MSL Recruiter” (www.TheMSLRecruiter.com).

What is TMAC Direct?: TMAC Direct is an executive search agency that serves the Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Industries. This boutique firm fills critical staffing needs on a retained, partially retained, or contingency basis. TMAC Direct is the direct-hire recruiting division of The Medical Affairs Company, commonly known as TMAC. Together TMAC and TMAC Direct, provide an unmatched staffing service in the Medical Technology arena, whether the hiring needs are on a permanent placement or outsourcing basis.

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