Hello future lawyers! Well you’ve made it to law school. You’ve come far. You’ve nailed some subjects and done pretty well in others. You’ve volunteered. You’ve stuffed that resume full of brilliance and it’s looking good. So good in fact you got a call back. You down that double piccolo and you’re pumped. You’re in the interview chair. This is it. You’re sitting across from your future boss. You’re ready to tell the interview about that 7 you got in Consti but instead they ask you ­–

Tell me about a time when you had to take the initiative?

Uh oh. You start talking. And talking. You’re trying to answer the question but you’ve forgotten what the question was. Your mouth is dry. Mom’s spaghetti. That double piccolo was a bad idea. You’re still talking. The interviewer’s eyes are glazing over. The job is slipping away…

These are typical interview questions. They are called behavioral based interview questions. The purpose of which is twofold. Of course your interviewer is interested to hear about the time you took the initiative, but they are also looking at how well you respond to pretty broad questions. As law students, it’s easy to waffle. We have a propensity for verbosity you could say. A passion for discussion. An inclination for dissemination. Why answer a question in a sentence, when you can canvass your vast intellectual wares and offer your interviewer impenetrable word vomit and forget your point while doing it? But brief you must be, canvass you must not.

Enter S-T-A-R.

For both its name and for what it’ll make you, the star technique is the interviewee’s best friend. It’ll help you keep your response to the behavioral based interview questions short, concise and clear.

Situation Task Action Result

Situation
Set the scene. Where were you? Who were you with? Set the limits. This will help you frame your answer and keep you on track.

Task
What was the task that you were required to do? Or perhaps more specifically, what course of action was the group taking? When asked an initiative question or a question about your leadership in a group, it is important to state here were what exactly the group was doing, or what the usual way of doing things is, in order to contrast it with the action that you took.

Action
This is the money maker. You’ve set the scene. You’ve told the interviewer what the standard practice is. Now you blow them away with what you did well or what you did differently that resulted in your success.

Result
Now it’s time to wrap it up. Finish with a neat little insight. What did you learn from this situation? How did you benefit from it? Insert the key thing you want to drive home to the interviewer.

Now let’s try one out shall we?

Interviewer

Tell me about a time when you had to analyse information and make a recommendation?


You

[Reclining back with your hands behind your head]

That’s a great question Susan, and thank you for asking. Well one time when I was….

 

NB– I’m joking don’t do that.

Interviewer

Tell me about a time when you had to analyse information and make a recommendation?

 

You

[Situation] I was supervising the building of the footpath and landscaping at a new building. [Task] One day, the concrete trucks were onsite and we were just about to start pumping. [Action] I checked the receipt and it was not the type specified in the plans. So I sent the trucks away and the correct concrete came, [Result] saving my company a lot of time and money.

People will often tell you not to make jokes in an interview situation. But a joke can be a fantastic end to your STAR response. Often the interview is so awkward and stuffy that any attempt at levity can be met with, at the least, a forced laugh. There’s no shame in eliciting the forced laugh either. A forced or fake laugh can be your first step to building rapport with your interviewer, as it offers a stepping stone to engage outside the formal questioning. It’s easy to overdo it though, so best stick to generalities or ground already covered by the interviewer. Say for example your interviewer made a joke about that mornings traffic or a sport team’s performance over the weekend or safe material.[1]

Any way here’s some more examples to get practicing. Enjoy!

Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem.

Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker.

What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.

Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish and failed.

or the dreaded…

Why law?

 

 

By James Aird

 

[1] A thorough discussion of what’s funny is beyond the scope of this Article. See generally: Austin Powers movies, Ace Ventura 1 & 2 or the work of Adam Sandler pre-2011.

 

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