Tags: Career Guidance, blog

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The dawning of the New Year is a time of reflection and change, both on a personal and professional front. While the festive period is certainly best spent with loved ones sat around the dinner table sharing turkey and a bottle of Prosecco (or two), you're likely contemplating your career prospects for 2018.

Whether you’ve just entered the job market, or are looking to shift your career path, you might be wondering how to put your best foot forward to employers in order to stand out from other candidates who are vying for the same job opportunity.

As any job-seeker will agree, the interview process can be fraught with tricky questions that leave even the most self-assured of individuals fumbling and stumbling in the hopes that they will somehow make it through their moment on the hot seat unscathed…never mind land the job in the end.

In this blog, we show you how to be a wise candidate, answering the most daunting of competency-based questions and ultimately shining in your first job interview of 2018 by following the STAR technique!

But first, what is a competency-based interview?

Competency-based interviews are designed to make the job application process as objective as possible - removing any conscious or subconscious bias by the interviewer by asking each candidate the same questions. Some people feel this type of interview is more stilted, with less opportunity to build rapport. However, they are very common, especially in large organisations and the public sector, so it's worth refining your technique.

The questions will be driven by a competency framework that is required for the job. For example, a chief financial officer may require analytical skills, or a job in customer services may require conflict management skills.

The interview questions tend to start with a variation of, "Tell me about a time when…" This may sound simple but, in the heat of the interview, it's easy to give an unstructured answer, miss out specific details, or abruptly end the conversation without having provided an answer at all!

The STAR Technique

If you struggle to give concise answers to interview questions, and feel unsure about how to share your accomplishments during an interview, then it may be time to consider using the STAR interview response technique. This method of answering interview questions lets you provide concrete examples or proof that you possess the experience and skills for the job at hand.

STAR stands for – Situation, Task, Action and Result. Plotting your interview answers around that framework is particularly helpful when answering questions which zero in on your behaviour and attitude towards challenges you may have encountered in previous roles, as well as your specific achievements within them. Since past performance can be a good prediction of the future, interviewers ask these questions to see if candidates have the skills and experiences required for the job.

Examples of competency-based questions include:

  • Tell me about a time you had to complete a task under a tight deadline.

  • Have you ever gone above and beyond the call of duty?

  • What do you do when a team member refuses to complete his or her portion of the work?

STAR is an acronym for four key concepts. Each concept is a step the job candidate can take to answer a behavioural interview question. By completing all four steps, the job candidate provides a thorough answer. The concepts in the acronym include:

Situation: Describe the context within which you performed a job or faced a challenge at work. For example, perhaps you were working on a group project, or you had a conflict with a co-worker. This situation can be from a work experience, a volunteer position, or any other relevant event. Be as specific as possible.

Task: Next, describe your responsibility in that situation. Perhaps you had to help your group complete a project under a tight deadline, resolve a conflict with a co-worker, or hit a sales target.

Action: You then describe how you completed the task or endeavoured to meet the challenge. Focus on what you did, rather than what your team, boss, or co-worker did. (Tip: Instead of saying "We did xyz," say "I did xyz.")

Result: Finally, explain the outcomes or results generated by the action taken. You might emphasize what you accomplished, or what you learned.

How to prepare for an interview using the STAR framework

Although it’s impossible to know in advance what interviewing techniques your recruiter will be using, it is certainly worthwhile preparing several scenarios from the jobs you’ve held.

To start off, you can make a list of the skills and/or experiences required for the job. You might look at the job listing for suggestions. Once you have done the preliminary research into the vacancy you’re targeting, consider specific examples of times that you displayed those skills. For each example, name the situation, task, action, and result.

You can also take a look at common behavioural interview questions, and try answering each of them using the STAR technique. Remember to ensure that the examples you select are as closely as possible related to the job you’re interviewing for.

Looking for a job? We can help!

Whether you're looking to kick-start your career, or just simply contemplating a job switch, give us a call! At Search, we recruit for a wide range of roles within a variety of sectors which you can view and apply for today!