Written by Jesse Sannicandro
Job interviews aren’t always easy. They can be nerve-wracking and you may draw a blank when asked a simple question. But they don’t have to be difficult, you just have to be prepared.
I recently took part in a mock interview as part of the Suitable Solutions Professionalism Program. Though I made a good impression, I drew a blank when I was asked a certain question.
“Tell me about a mistake you’ve made.”
I went silent. I hadn’t prepared an answer to this question. I immediately could think of several mistakes, but none of these would be appropriate responses in an interview. I knew that a good reply would cover certain criteria. The interviewer only asked about a mistake I made, but of course, I would have to make a positive experience out of it. It would have to show that I understand when I’m facing a problem and am able to solve it. Not only this, but that I am able to learn from the mistake. The best way to do this is mention a specific anecdote with concrete evidence by using the STAR approach.
STAR is an easy to remember acronym with four basic steps: situation, what happened; task, what the goal was; action, what I did; and result, what happened after.
After several days of mulling this question over, I think I was able to come up with a good response.
“My first year at Framingham State, I was automatically dropped from Oceanography because there was an error with my account. By the time I got my PIN so I could register again, the class had filled up.”
“I hadn’t paid close enough attention to my bill, I thought that everything was taken care of, but things can always go wrong. The class was a requirement for me to graduate. I had to contact the professor to see if there was any way that I would still be able to get into the class.”
“I emailed the professor for the class. He said he understood and could sympathize with my situation. He told me that he would sign an override form for me so I could take the class, even though it was at maximum enrollment.”
“I got into the course after I submitted the override form to the registrar’s office. I completed the class and I was able to get the necessary credits. Though I was able to fix the problem with effective communication, it was something that could have been prevented. I should have paid more attention to my student account to make sure that everything was taken care of. From this experience, I learned that it always pays to pay attention.”
The STAR approach is useful for many interview questions. You can use it whenever a question asks for a specific situation. The best response will recall a difficult situation you had to deal with. I understand the STAR approach and was able to use it to answer several other questions.
I made a mistake once in a mock interview. I couldn’t give a good answer when I was asked something quite simple. I explained that I couldn’t think of anything to say so I told him as much. I realized that this is a question that potential employers may ask, and you’ve got to be able to think on the fly if you get a question that you’re not ready for.