You’ve researched the organisation. You understand the roles within it. And you’ve sorted your wardrobe for the big day. But if you want to deliver a star performance at your job interview, the hard works not over yet. During a job interview tripping over shoelaces is ok, but tripping over your tongue isn’t. So to traverse the terrible trappings of tongue twisters, take some interview tips from a tried and tested source - yours truly.
Job interviews are packed with a variety of different questions, all designed to understand more about you and your skills and experience, but also to help identify any evidence that hiring you might hinder - rather than help - organisational growth. Interview questions fall into several categories, including:
General questions: Tell me about yourself.
Strength based questions: What are you good at?
Hypothetical questions: What would you change if you worked here?
But it’s behavioural and competency based interview questions that are the biggest bugbears for most wannabe employees. So if you can’t bear big bugs, then you wannabe squashing them with killer responses using a framework known as the STAR technique.
So, how does it work?
Giving your responses cohesion, the STAR technique allows you to answer competency and behavioural-based questions with specific, structured examples of your experiences, and also gives you the opportunity to sell yourself. This helps you to easily remember and more confidently communicate the kind of information would-be employers want to hear and helps improve your interview technique.
So what’s the structure of the STAR technique? Here’s an example:
Situation: (The context) “I was working at an ecommerce firm as an HR Administrator, when my manager suddenly had to leave for an urgent meeting”.
Task: (What was required of you) “A group of new employees were receiving induction training from my manager when she had to leave, so I had to take responsibility for the group”.
Action: (Which actions did you undertake) “I deputised for my manager by carrying out all of the aspects of the induction training that I was familiar with. When this was completed there was some additional spare time, so I created a quiz about our company for the employees in the induction group, and offered a prize of a branded company T-shirt to the winner”.
Result (What was the outcome of your actions) “I was able to manage the induction training in the absence of my manager, and during the parts of the training I couldn’t administer myself, my quiz was a fun way of continuing to engage the group and to inform them about our organisation as well. The group remained interested and engaged and I really felt that on this occasion I demonstrated not only my ability to deputise for my manager, but also a high degree of initiative. I received great feedback from the training group that I managed, and several employees said that my quiz was a really fun way of learning more about the company. Since then my manager has actually incorporated the quiz into our monthly induction training, so I feel that I’ve positively impacted on the content of the training. My manager also comes to me for my creative input more often, so I also benefit from a greater degree of involvement in HR”.
How can the STAR technique showcase your skills?
Employers want employees who can help them to make money, save money, improve systems or processes or help improve motivation, engagement and productivity in other employees – all of which can ‘add value’ to an organisation. The example above demonstrates how the STAR technique allows you to do this. Don’t worry about providing epic examples to illustrate these points (like making the company thousands of pounds) because even the smallest positive changes can demonstrate value-add (cost savings by negotiating a discount with a stationary supplier, for instance). Even an idea or suggestion that you have put forward which has been adopted by someone else can help demonstrate your capacity to add value. If you have made a positive contribution, be proud – and vocal – about it: “I think that on this occasion I demonstrated excellent communication skills” or “I think this example really demonstrates my understanding of the needs of the business” are powerful statements that show you have confidence in your own ability. Because, if you’re not confident in your own ability, how can you expect anyone else to be?
How long should STAR based responses be?
In terms of timing, there is no prescriptive right or wrong amount of time you should spend answering competency and behavioural-based interview questions. But remember this: Most interviews last around 60 minutes. Subtract time for introductions at the beginning and your questions at the end, and you have around 45 minutes left. Interviewers will be armed with a number of questions, so if you spend ten minutes responding to each, you will only allow your interviewer scope to ask you five questions (and therefore leave them with insufficient information to fully assess your capabilities). Conversely, a response to a behavioural or competency based question which is wrapped up in 60 seconds probably doesn’t have enough flesh on the bones. So, as a general rule, aim to have your responses wrapped up somewhere around the three-minute mark.
Where can I find out more about improving my interview technique?
Interview coaching specialists Clear Cut Selection offer a 15 minute free consultation call, so you can find out how interview training can boost your confidence and help you to get the job you want!