7 ways to plug your emotions into star technique stories and win the behavioral job interview :-)

Behavioral Job Interview Emotions

You can turn emotions to your advantage when answering questions with star-technique framed narratives.

When it comes to behavioral interview questions like “tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult situation” or “…you had to take a critical decision”, you may want to tell stories on how you have dealt with emotions.

Organisations today recognize emotions as an inseparable part of everyday life.

They want you to be able to understand and label your and other people’s emotions and also regulate them: it’s called “emotional intelligence” or “emotional agility”.

Those who can master such skill are believed to perform better in the workplace.

Why? Emotions affect your thinking and so your performance at work. They can lead to cognitive biases.

For example, if you are in a bad mood, this is probably going to affect your perception of clients and co-workers and, in turn, your behavior.

So, it would be a bonus point to mention in your storied job interview answers how you have recognized your and other people’s feelings and how you went about managing them in a work situation.

Here’s what you need to plug emotional words into job interview stories.

1) Build your vocabulary

Emotions Job Interview

First, you need some vocabulary in order to describe your feelings as well as the triggers that fired them.

The emotions lineup from the image above is a good start.

For a comprehensive directory of emotions, The Atlas of Emotions comes to the rescue. It boils down the human sentiments into five broad categories of emotions — anger, fear, disgust, sadness, and enjoyment — including triggers, actions, and moods. The Atlas of Emotions was commissioned by Dalai Lama to Paul Ekman — a psychologist who helped advise the creators of Pixar’s “Inside Out”.

2) Focus on the organization’s accepted emotions for the role

Emotions Workplace

Some organizations set the rules of accepted emotions within their boundaries.

For example, a McDonald’s training manual says: employees “must display traits such as sincerity, enthusiasm, confidence, and a sense of humor”.

However, personal qualities and cultural background affect how people experience specific emotions.

Stanford’s researchers found that ego-focused (e.g., happiness, pride) emotions are more persuasive for members of collectivist cultures (e.g., China) while other-focused (e.g., empathy, peacefulness) emotions persuade more members of individualistic cultures (e.g., American). Also, some cultures disapprove public displays of emotions (e.g., Anglo-Saxon), while others are more open to that (e.g., French). Likewise, when you go for an English-speaking job interview, modesty is never a virtue: “you’re expected to talk confidently about your strengths, not brag, not lie, but speak clearly with energy”.

In his Zero To One, Peter Thiel states: “all salesmen are actors: their priority is persuasion, not sincerity”. Similarly, if you work in customer service, regardless of your true feelings, you need to smile and appear friendly even in front of a disgruntled client.

According to Goleman, to be emotionally intelligent, you need to master three aspects of empathy:

  • take another’s perspective (intellectual empathy);
  • feel what others are feeling (emotional empathy);
  • cultivate rapport with a broad diversity of people (building rapport).

3) Own your emotions

Emotion job interview

You must be able to tell the story of how you detached yourself, accepted and took control of your emotions in tense moments.

Joseph Grenny recommends giving a name to the stories you go through:

  • Victim story — one that emphasizes your virtues and absolves you of responsibility for what is happening
  • Villain story — one that exaggerates the faults of others and attributes what’s happening to their evil motives?
  • Helpless story — one that convinces you that any healthy course of action (like listening humbly, speaking up honestly) is pointless.

When in front of a dilemma (e.g., spending more time with your family vs working 80 hours a week) Susan David encourages leaders to unhook themselves from difficult thoughts and emotions and align with their values by asking themselves:

  • Is my response going to serve me and my organization in the long term as well as the short term?
  • Will it help me steer others in a direction that furthers my collective purpose?
  • Am I taking a step toward being the leader I most want to be and living the life I most want to live?

4) Understand when they start and when they finish

Emotions Job Interview

Emotions are triggered by events that change your state of mind.

You may experience positive emotions when you end up in the desired state. Otherwise, your new situation may produce negative emotions.

Project failures, missing targets, criticisms, disagreements, interruptions, foul emails, impending deadlines, reprimands, undesired assignments, and dealing with underperforming co-workers are examples of events that may trigger anger and stress.

Contrarily to moods, emotions do not last very long.

According to researchers, you can even regulate their duration by using specific strategies, e.g., cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression.

The cognitive reappraisal technique is used before the emotion is triggered. Think about going to a job interview with the goal of learning more about the position instead of focusing on the recruiter’s judgment of you. The interview will likely be less nerve wracking.

Inhibiting your emotions is another way to tame your feelings (e.g., by concealing your anger during a confrontation). You can also learn this skill from anger-management programs.

5) Use storytelling techniques

Storytelling Job Interview Funny

By inducing specific hormones into your audience’s brain you can win their attention, trust and become more memorable.

David JP Phillips calls it the angel’s cocktail — watch his Ted’s talk: you need to mix dopamine (5:33), oxytocin (9:15), and endorphin (11:45).

The STAR technique narrative, including the use of suspense, cliffhanger, the rule of three, tension, and humor are some storytelling techniques you can rely on.

6) Test your emotions


Emotion-enable your job interview rehearsal in real time by using Affectiva’s AffdexMe app. The app draws on your iPhone camera to track metrics of emotions of your choice.

If you want to test if your thoughts and emotions are emotionally agile take the Emotional Agility Quiz instead.

7) Start journaling


Log your positive and negative emotions in a journal. You can track your feelings when learning new things, receiving compliments and advises from colleagues or clients, reaching or missing your target goals.

Keel’s Simple Diary (Taschen’s best seller) makes it easy to wonder about your logs of thoughts and helps you expand your emotional vocabulary.

Now it’s your turn.

Are you going to plug your emotions into star technique stories at your behavioral interview?

Discuss. Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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