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Using The STAR Method in a Job Interview

Responding to behavioral questions during an interview may be one of the biggest challenges you will face. Behavioral interviews require you to share your skills by telling the hiring team about a time when you exhibited those traits. How you tell those stories will help land the job. But concise, compelling storytelling is a difficult thing to master. Fortunately, there is the STAR approach to help you nail the interview.

What is the STAR Job Interview Technique?

The STAR interview format can help guide your response to behavioral questions during the interview process. Following this framework will help you illustrate your skills by telling a real-life story about your work or life. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. When telling a story in response to an interview question, try to lay it out in the following manner:

  • Set the situation with the details of the work environment, team size, and responsibilities. Share the complexities of the scenario and the challenges your team faced.
  • Describe the tasks you were required to accomplish versus what your team handled. Be careful not to touch upon too much detail, or you’ll lose your audience.
  • Explain the action you took to change the course of the project. What steps did you take to achieve your goals or solve the problem?
  • Describe the result of your action, what you learned, and what outcomes occurred. How did the actions you took affect the overall outcomes of the project, your team, and the organization as a whole?

While you won’t be able to anticipate the interviewer’s exact question, think about some of your biggest accomplishments and the skills they illustrate. Have a few of these go-to responses in your back pocket in preparation for your next interview.

It’s very easy to go into a rambling monologue when asked a behavioral question. The STAR method helps you organize your thoughts and your response to an interviewer concisely and effectively.

When To Use STAR

Using STAR in response to behavioral questions is a great way to nail even the most challenging interview questions. You can spot these questions easily because they often follow a specific format that invites you to tell your story. For example:

  • Tell me about a time when you…
  • Describe a…
  • What do you do when…
  • Have you ever…
  • Can you give me an example of…

The last thing you want to do is get caught during the stress of an interview with no idea how to answer behavioral questions. The STAR method can help you practice your response before the interview so you can perform well under pressure.

Practicing the STAR Technique

Before going to your next interview, it’s a good idea to look at the company values if they’re posted on their website. Those values may be the kinds of examples you’ll need to answer questions during the interview. You can also think about the job you’re applying for and consider the kinds of skills you’ll need to exhibit to do the job well. Then use the STAR method to come up with a few concise stories that will illustrate you have the skills it takes to do the job well.

The best way to practice STAR is to get out there and interview. Top Stack can help you land your next interview. Contact our team today to explore your options.

Learn How to Answer the Interview Question “Tell Me About a Time You Demonstrated Leadership Skills”

Interviewing is always hard, but it’s the behavioral questions that are probably the most challenging. Behavioral questions usually start with “Tell me about a time,” and they require you to tell your story to illustrate a relevant job skill. One of the most common behavioral questions is ones that require you to discuss past behaviors that illustrated leadership skills. Here’s how to answer these types of questions, even if you haven’t been a manager in a prior role.

How to Illustrate Leadership in an Interview

It’s difficult to answer the question, “Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership skills,” if you haven’t been in an official leadership position. However, no matter the job, you can demonstrate leadership skills. The trick is to recognize these skills in yourself and concisely find a story to share that shows when you took the initiative to help your team. But where do you start sifting through all of your work experiences to find the best story to share with an employer?

  • Step 1 — Define what leadership is to you.
    Leadership means different things to different people, so start by trying to figure out what it means to you. There are all kinds of ways to illustrate leadership. You can show that you’re a leader by decisively determining what skills you think a leader has. Do this by reflecting on what you admire in leaders and what qualities you embody that is similar. Try to make a list of those characteristics and then move to step two: Roadmap a situation from a prior role where you illustrated those qualities.
  • Step 2 — Roadmap the right story.
    When considering what leadership story to share, try thinking about the role itself and the company. Are there leadership skills that would be more important to the job? Does the project require working with cross-functional teams? In past jobs, have you lead these teams or help facilitate communication between different employees? Maybe you took the initiative somewhere other than work, perhaps at a volunteer event or other function. The point here is that you don’t need to have “leader” in your job title to be one.
  • Step 3 — Structure and practice your answer.
    Once you’ve figured out which story to share in answer to the question, “Tell Me About a Time You Demonstrated Leadership Skills,” you can use the STAR model to help guide your response:

    • Situation — What was the situation you were in when you illustrated leadership skills. Outline the details as clearly and concisely as possible.
    • Task — What was your responsibility during this situation?
    • Action — What did you do to make the result happen? What action did you take?
    • Results — Finally, what happened? What were the results of your actions? What did you learn as a result?

Questions about leadership skills are almost inevitable in every job interview. It’s very common because organizations tend to gravitate toward employees that illustrate these traits. Preparing now for these types of questions can help you succeed. Contact Top Stack today to find the best opportunities to suit your skills.

These Are The Qualities You Need to Be an Amazing Leader

Companies are looking for leaders. You don’t need to be a CEO to exhibit leadership qualities that make you stand out to future employers. What are the qualities that employers look for in their future leaders and how do you measure up?

Top Leadership Qualities for 2020

What makes a leader? We believe that the workplace can hone leadership skills and that tomorrow’s leaders are within the ranks of today’s front line employees. Employers know this, too; that’s why top employers are always on the hunt for employees that they can count on to lead teams. But how can you know if you have the leadership skills that make you stand out to these employers?

Some of the best qualities include:

  • Empathy
    Understanding your coworkers and doing things that help them succeed is one way that empathy manifests in the workplace. Being a good listener and taking time to understand the needs of your boss and coworkers makes you empathetic and understanding.
  • Focus
    Having the single-minded focus to achieve a vision or even a set of tasks is an important skill that leaders exhibit. If you can see the prize, chart a path toward it, and then work hard to achieve it – it’s the kind of focus employers look for in future leaders.
  • Integrity
    Real leaders have integrity in their dealings with people and Integrity means that you try to always do the right thing and are respectful of others in the workplace and even in your life.
  • Mentorship
    How much time do you spend helping others? That quality of mentorship is a kind of give-back to your coworkers, but also to your friends and family as you make your way through life.
  • Presence
    Do people gravitate toward you? That presence is a quality evident in some of the greatest leaders of all time, and it means that your coworkers trust and will follow your lead.
  • Self-Improvement
    If you’re the kind of employee that always has goals to improve yourself or those around you, employers want to hear about it. The best leaders look around constantly to improve the organization and those within it. The best bosses work hard to support their team in growing and learning new skills.
  • Support
    Positivity in the workplace is an amazing skill set that can change the course of business. The best leaders lift others, supporting them in a goal or mission. It can inspire those around us to work harder to achieve goals and create change that can ripple across an organization.
  • Transparency
    Honesty is the human quality that translates to transparency in the workplace. It’s a form of credibility that takes responsibility and ownership for mistakes. Transparency is sincere, consistent, and it lets others know they can trust you.
  • Vision
    Leaders often have a clear-sighted view of what’s ahead and how to get there. They can communicate this vision and have a passion for the execution.

Leadership is crucial to every job, and employers always have their eyes out for individuals that exhibit these skills. If you believe you exemplify these characteristics, Top Stack, and the employers we represent, would like to speak with you. Contact us today.

How to Properly Use Social Media to Help Your Career

Most people probably recognize that social media can both help and harm your career choices. These days most recruiters will track you down on social media and look for inappropriate postings that could disqualify you for a job. But social media can be a tool for good when it comes to your career. How can you use Internet social tools to improve your chances of landing a job?

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Find Out What it Means on Social Media

Building a positive social media presence requires exercising caution in what you post and what you respond to. Always be respectful in your dealings with other people. Be professional and consider if what you’re trying to say could be used against you in a job search. The most basic rule of thumb for social posts is never to use profanity or post something offensive. But beyond that, don’t take any controversial stance on social media that could hurt your career. Certainly, don’t post memes about how terrible your current role is.

LinkedIn is Your Friend

If you’re not on LinkedIn, now is the time. Make sure you have a professional headshot and a complete profile. Don’t use a selfie picture of you at a party or Disney World. Instead, keep it warmly professional and concise. Make sure if you post, you consider how it would look to an employer. It should be obvious that you don’t use the venue to trash your current employer. The benefit of LinkedIn, however, is that it’s a very active platform for recruiters. There is even a privacy setting on the platform that allows you to let recruiters know you’re looking for a position.

Speaking of Privacy Settings

You can certainly use social media like Instagram or Facebook to share your personal opinions. Still, you should always take advantage of their privacy settings, which allows you to lock down your settings. You can also change your profile name to a nickname or your first and middle names to keep things on the down-low.

Another way to keep things on the down-low is to be careful never to post during the workday. Certainly, don’t post any sensitive information about your company or the work you do. That’s a huge flag for potential employers. If you speak badly about your current company, many employers may wonder what you’ll say about them if you get the job.

Social Media for Job Seekers

The general rule for social media today is to post as if everyone is watching. Be respectful of others, and don’t post on controversial topics. Have a professionally polished presence on LinkedIn, and make sure your privacy settings for your personal, non-work accounts have the appropriate settings to keep these pages more private.

 

Talk with Top Stack for more helpful job search hints. Our team is here to help you find your next career opportunity.

How to Advance Your Career in 2020

If you’re like most Americans, you made personal or professional New Year’s resolutions. One of them may be to advance your career in 2020. It’s a good goal that can lead to a better title, more responsibilities, and perhaps more money. If you’re seeking to advance your career, we have some tips that might help you reach your goals.

Expanding Your Skills

Advancement usually comes at the price of hard work. If you’re seeking a better job or increased career responsibilities, it makes send to expand your skillset in your chosen or targeted field. There are tons of free and paid online training tools, many of which come with credentials that can add to your resume. Some good ones include:

There are also hundreds of podcasts that will expand your skills, including:

With the Internet at your fingertips, learning is just a click away. Expanding your skills just takes time and effort, but it’s always worth it.

Seek Mentoring

Seeking out a mentor is an important way to move forward in your job in the New Year. Look for a mentor that already has the skills you’re seeking or a job you’d like to work toward. A mentor can give you objective advice on your career and motivate you in new ways. You can look for mentors in your current or a former workplace or seek out a colleague from your social network. Do you have a former college professor that you look up to? Or, does a friend have a connection with a business colleague that could help your career? The key to learning new skills is to make a connection with someone you trust and respect that can give you honest and authentic advice to move your career forward.

Network

Networking is extremely important for advancing your career. In fact, about 70% of new jobs are found through networking. LinkedIn is a good place to start this process; having an updated professional social profile is a crucial first step toward building a network. You can use a tool like LinkedIn to follow companies or professionals that have advanced in their career to where you want to go. It might help you connect with a mentor, as well. You can also attend networking events in your community to reach more people or join a professional organization. There are all kinds of social and professional organizations out there, from Girls Who Code to Toastmasters. There are also dozens of MeetUp groups happening in cities and towns all over the country. Each of these opportunities exposes you to new ways to learn and grow.

One of the best networking partnerships you can form is with a recruiter. Recruiters know people and companies, so taking the time to network with these professionals will help advance your career in new ways.

At TopStack, we believe in your goal of self-improvement. Contact the recruiters at Top Stack when you’re ready to meet your New Year’s career advancement goals.

 

4 Tips For How to Improve Your Interpersonal Skills

In 2020, it’s all about soft skills. Soft skills are the interpersonal traits that help people collaborate and work well with others on tasks and goals. Interpersonal skills are increasingly important in most fields, but particularly in careers where big teams must work together toward a common aim.

Here are four tips on how to improve these important interpersonal skills in 2020.

All About Interpersonal Skills

Some of the best and most in-demand skills for 2020 are interpersonal skills such as:

  • Active listening
  • Motivation
  • Communication
  • Conflict management
  • Empathy
  • Patience
  • Leadership

No matter the job, we can all agree that some of the skills necessary for getting along with others in the workplace. Having these skills can mean the difference between completing a team-driven set of tasks and failing to meet goals. Having or not having interpersonal skills can also strongly affect your career advancement—and new employers are always on the lookout for these traits.

Since these skills are so important, how can you improve them?

Tip 1 – Increase Your Confidence

Having a balance between humility and confidence will help you quietly command a team. Shyness has no place in collaborative environments, so building your confidence will allow you to advance your career. In a job, having confidence can come with experience but also subject matter expertise. But if you feel like you lack the self-confidence needed, sit down and write up your strengths. This is especially helpful if you’re going into a big meeting and feel nervous. Take that list into the meeting and glance at it to shore up your confidence.

Tip 2 – Ask for Feedback

If you want to have confidence in your skills, ask the people around you for feedback. Tell them you’re trying to improve your interpersonal skills and ask if they’d share how you come across in meetings. Are you a good listener? Does the person feel like you’re working well as part of the team? How can you improve? The positive feedback will give you a confidence boost. Anything negative will be like a roadmap for your self-improvement.

Tip 3 – Listen and Ask

Listening is just as important as talking. Everyone knows this, but far too many people forget to hone their listening skills. Asking questions and listening to the answers is an important way to hone your interpersonal skills. It’s a selfless way to engage with others. Practicing these skills is important when working in a team environment.

Tip 4 – Gain Perspective

Put yourself in other people’s shoes. Gaining the perspective of another person’s approach to problem solving or communication will help you gain patience. Before responding to a team member, try imagining their perspective on things. Then try to adapt your response to their unique situation and perspective.

Employers increasingly seek out workers with solid interpersonal skills. In today’s increasingly collaborative environments, it is these skills that help organizations come together as teams to get the job done.

Top Stack offers the kinds of opportunities where collaboration and communication are just as important as hard job skills. Make the connection. Contact our team about your options today.

4 Great Ways to Stay Motivated at Work

Most Americans are disengaged at work. It’s a sad state of affairs that many people in every field lack the motivation to do more than the bare minimum at work. While this may not always be the case, sometimes work can get boring and monotonous, and people can struggle to stay motivated. This is true in every job and every field. Some days there are exciting projects to work on and other days—not so much.

This article will give you four ways to stay motivated even when you’re feeling “blah” on the job. You’ll be surprised by how a few changes to your attitude will improve the motivation of everyone around you.

  1. Put Your Work in Context

Not every task can be glamorous. This is especially true on particularly complicated projects like building a software product. But everyone on the team plays a crucial role in the build, so recognizing the bigger context of your work is important for staying motivated. Say you’re a finance manager trying to balance the books in a non-profit organization. The task of cleaning up a ledger may feel like watching paint dry, but how are you helping the mission of the non-profit organization by completing these tasks? No matter how mundane or small the task, everyone has a role to play toward achieving the organizational mission.

  1. Avoid Procrastination by Breaking Down

By “breaking down,” we don’t mean having a tantrum or weeping uncontrollably. Sometimes you lose motivation and overwhelmed by how large the job is. All books start one page at a time. All presentations start with an outline. All projects start with a task list. Every closed deal starts with that first phone call.

Try replacing the huge project jamming up your motivational gears with a series of smaller tasks. As each task is accomplished, celebrate the small win to keep motivating yourself. You can try this approach with a team or across a department to keep everyone moving forward. Something is satisfying about crossing a task off a list as you move toward a goal.

  1. Step Outside the Box

Is your lack of motivation stemming from being underutilized? Are you simply bored? Breaking out of your funk means breaking away from your comfort zone. Are there skills you want to apply somewhere else but don’t feel you have the chance? Are you just not feeling challenged? Why don’t you speak with your supervisor about taking on a new project outside the box you’ve found yourself in? Breaking up your routine could require additional training or helping with a new project. It could even be a physical rut; are you sitting at your desk all day? Should you get up at lunch and take a brisk walk to improve your mood? The point is that you need to shake yourself out of the rut you’re in by doing something different to remotivate and inspire yourself.

  1. Push Yourself By Setting More Deadlines, Not Less

Snap yourself out of routine by setting daily goals and deadlines for yourself. This works well if you have a big project that you’ve broken into increments. Every day try writing down your tasks and set one big goal to go after. It’s okay to share what you’re doing with others on the team. Make it a contest to see who can hit their goals fastest. The power of the team will create some competitiveness, which could push all of you to hit deadlines and reengage in the tasks you’re doing.

If you’re still not motivated in 2020, maybe it’s time for a change of venue. Top Stack has a variety of roles. Contact us about jump-starting your career.

How to Set Personal Development Goals

To set personal development goals, it’s important to build emotional intelligence, feel confident in your talents, grow your motivation, and become more mindful.

If you stop growing in your life or career, it’s a detriment to you and the options you have down the road. Personal growth is a worthy goal, and it can lead to big career advancements, more salary, and generally more opportunities. The personal goals we set can sometimes be different from professional goals. However, there is so much overlap between the soft skills you use at work and your personality, that it’s safe to assume your personal development goals should influence your career.

Here’s how to set personal development goals and then leverage them to improve your professional career.

Understanding Personal Growth

Personal development is the growth of you as a person. Improving yourself, your skills, and your life are all personal development. Growth in this area means that you become stronger, more confident, and more effective as a person. Personal development improves how you interact with other people and see yourself and your future. Personal growth and development could affect your emotional intelligence, communication skills, decision-making, or even the positivity you bring to your life and your work.

All of these skills have an impact at work, affecting everything from how you handle stress to how you work on teams. As you improve yourself, you will naturally begin to affect others around you in new and more positive ways. Here are a few personal goals that will have a big impact at work and possibly improve your career:

  • Living in the moment or mindfulness is a practice that could calmly center your emotions and help improve your work/life balance. Practicing the art of mindfulness allows you to compartmentalize stresses and focus more intently on what’s happening in the moment instead of worrying about the past or future.
  • This practice can also help you with situational awareness of yourself and those around you. Understanding how your actions affect others is an important way to navigate tricky political waters at work. It can help you manage a fractious team or a difficult boss. It’s also crucial to the possibility of promotion or career advancement.
  • Learning better organizational skills is a crucial work best practice, so the overlap for this personal goal is clear. If you struggle each day to accomplish tasks, teaching yourself how to set goals and then complete them will increase your productivity at work. This is extremely important if you’re hoping for a promotion at some point.
  • Build your emotional intelligence and see how much better your working relationship is with your peers and managers at work. It can also improve your interactions with customers, which will strengthen your reputation at work. Learning how to deal with crucial conversations, stress, or other conflicts at the office is a vital management skill. If you can achieve this as a personal goal, the work-related reward will be high.

Many of these personal development goals can be achieved and benefit your work. As you start to achieve these personal goals, you will naturally become more self-confident in your abilities. You will carry this confidence forward into the work world, whether it was an intended side effect of the personal goal or not. Top employers look for all of these personal skills and hire and promote leaders that have taken the time to develop themselves as people, as managers, and as employees.

Contact Top Stack about how you can apply your personal and professional skills this year. We can help you grow.

Tips For Answering the Interview Question “What Are You Passionate About?”

If you’ve been in the job market for a long time, you’ve probably been asked, “What are you passionate about?” more than once. It’s one of these standard questions similar to, “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses?” that is almost inevitable in any interview process.

However, the question could be awkward; who wants to share what they’re truly passionate about (“My spouse.”) (“My paycheck.”) with a total stranger? Too, if you’re working to live and not living to work, it may feel like the words “passion” and “job” don’t fit together. While you probably don’t want to lie and run the risk of the recruiter sensing it, you should give a professional answer. But what should it be? How should you answer the question, “What are you passionate about?”

First, Understand Why They’re Probably Asking

Remember that interviewers do want to get to know you both personally and professionally. Chances are, you’re going to spend a lot of time at their office, so the hiring manager just wants to get a sense of who you are and if you’ll fit the culture of the organization. When you think of it this way, the question doesn’t seem intrusive, but a fair way to assess what interests you.

Next, Consider How To Answer Professionally

The answer should reflect well on your professionalism, energy, and general strengths as a candidate for the job. Think about the job itself and the tasks you’ll likely do every day. Is there one that you’d particularly enjoy? Does the job do something to help the social good in some way? Maybe it would allow you to learn a new skill.

In these cases, you could tailor the answer to make your skills stand out as a good fit for the job. Above all, be real with your response while still being professional. Here are some good examples of how you can respond to, “What are you passionate about?”

  • Do you have a side project that relates to your profession? Say you’re a software engineer interested in innovation and start-up businesses. Do you volunteer for hack-a-thons or go to meetups? Maybe you’re a gamer and like to play with friends from all over the work on the weekends.
  • Maybe you’re a project manager that has a great love for organizing. Do you volunteer to organize events for your church on the side? Or maybe you help out at a non-profit by organizing their books?
  • Or, perhaps you’re a content writer that just started a blog. That’s certainly an appropriate passion to share if you’re going after a marketing or content writing job.

But What if Your Passion Isn’t Work-Related?

Truly this is okay. In figuring out how to answer this question, you may realize there are crossover skills from work that you use in your off-the-job passion project. Or, maybe that passion taught you skills that you apply on the job. Or, perhaps that passion is simply a way to decompress after a hard day’s work. There’s nothing wrong with that.

At Top Stack, our passion happens to be matching candidates to their perfect job. We can help you meld your work and personal passions in a new career in 2010. Contact us today.

 

4 Important Networking Tips When Looking For a Job

When networking, it’s important to know how to make your pitch, keep track of your contacts, and always be open to opportunities.

Today, professional networking is one of the most important things you can do for your career. Building professional contacts can lead to your next job or help you land a sale. Networking can also find mentors or business connections that can help you grow your skills. It’s a type of exposure that always pays you back in opportunities. But if you’re looking for a job, there is no better way to make connections. LinkedIn says 80% of professionals say networking is still the most important thing you can do to land a new job or grow your career. But they also say most people don’t know what to say when they’re networking or how to use these connections. Here are some tips to help you improve your networking efforts.

Practice Your Pitch

The first step toward knowing how to network is to understand why you’re networking. What is your goal? What is your pitch? Try to break it down concisely but share your skills and how you plan on using them. You can introduce yourself as “I’m an entrepreneur with ten years in technology.” Or, “I’ve been a finance manager for a top firm for the past five years.” But you should also come up with two or three conversations starters that can be as simple as “What is it that you do?” or “Why are you here today?” or “Tell me more about your company?” As the conversation progresses, you can let them know you’re open to new opportunities, and you’d like to call on them to network further in the future.

Keep Track and Follow Up

Keep a list of the people you meet, any referrals they give you, and where you met them. If you get a business card, always follow up by connecting on LinkedIn and then sending them an email after your visit. You may even want to schedule a coffee with them down the road to strengthen the connection.

Who and Where Will You Meet These Connections?

From business events to the kid’s soccer games, there are all kinds of ways to start networking. Neighbors, alumni organization, professional or personal groups, or other activities all give you opportunities to meet people. You just have to take advantage of these contacts.

Be Ready for New Opportunities

Before you get serious about networking, consider your LinkedIn profile along with your resume. Take time to do any updating necessary. You may want to have small cards with your name and contact information to leave with the person you just met. Always ask them for their card and if you may reach out to them to network in the future.

Networking your way to a new career will get you out and noticed by professionals. It’s important to always stay open to new opportunities as they arise. Make an effort to get to know people and then follow up with them to see who they know. You should also reach out to the team at Top Stack for a confidential assessment of your resume. We can add it to our database, so as jobs come up, we can alert you to who’s hiring and connect you with new employers. Contact us in the New Year. We can help.