Shine at your next interview – How to prepare for success

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How are you at job interviews? Some people cope just fine, managing to stay calm and focused. Others feel terribly nervous, forget what they want to say, lose the plot, fall apart. Do you struggle to give concise answers at interviews? Are you worried about sounding too boastful or too self-effacing? The STAR interview response technique can help you shine by making the most of your experience and skills.

Here’s how to prepare yourself for your next interview so you don’t end up like a rabbit in the headlights, in a panic, unable to think straight or talk sense. Introducing you to a way that really works. Welcome to the STAR method.

What does this method do?

The STAR interview response technique is all about answering behavioural interview questions well. Because past performance is often a good indicator of what to expect in the future, interviewers like to ask behavioural questions. They delve deep into the way you’ve behaved in the past, about how you’ve dealt with specific situations at work.

The STAR method of interviewing is surprisingly powerful. It helps people, who feel less than confident at interview, to prepare well and put your nerves aside. It’s often used to help young people get their first job, one that offers them relevant career experience. It supports people who have been made redundant to feel more confident about what they can offer. It hewns up their interview skills. It connects people back to the things they’re good at, brings what they’ve been doing forwards, and clarifies the positive attributes they can offer to a new employer.

STAR works by helping you to use your interview preparation time wisely. Using STAR you can link your own past experiences to the new job’s requirements, and demonstrate the relevant things you’ve previously done. It actually reveals your predictor for success in the new role, showing how you’ll behave in future via what you’ve done before, the actions you took to produce great results.

The STAR method is a respected competency-based framework, widely known and used by people across every sector and discipline. But we think it’s most effective of all when used in a few specific circumstances.

4 situations when STAR is your best friend

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In our experience STAR has the most powerful impact under these circumstances.

  1. You haven’t had an interview for years and want to take stock.
  2. You’re just setting out on your career and need an effective way to talk about yourself and your interests.
  3. Because you’ve had a wide remit in your last job, you need to be both selective and to the point at interview, sifting through the role and highlighting the parts that showcase you at your very best.
  4. The second you’re in the hot seat, you clam up and freeze! When you plan your STAR answers in advance they’re there for you, helping you to gather yourself and falling back on a solid framework. Because you already have the answers at the back of your mind, waiting to come through, there’s no need to panic.

An easy-to-follow structure

The STAR method has a simple and very memorable structure. It cleverly creates a plot line and therefore a story that an interviewer can follow easily. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result, a structured, logical way to respond to interview questions by discussing the specific situation, the task at hand, the actions you took, and their results.

Situation: describe the situation you were in or the task you want to complete. Make it specific, an actual event or situation. Give enough detail so the interviewer understands. The situation could be one from a previous job, from a volunteer role, or any other event that’s relevant.

Task: what goal were you working to? Describe it in enough detail.

Action: tell the interviewer what you did to deal with the situation, revealing the specific steps you took and keeping the focus on yourself.What was your contribution?

Result: describe the outcome of your actions and make sure you give yourself the right amount of credit. What, exactly, happened? How did it end? What did you accomplish, learn, find out? Include as many positives in the ‘result’ as you can.

When you become fluent in STAR, the structure that sits behind it isn’t noticeable. All the interviewer notices is that you’re good at providing valuable, relevant responses supported by well-articulated examples. And when you actually generate a stash of answers in advance of an interview, specific to the post in question, rather than doing it all on your way to the interview, your answers will appear even more smooth and seamless. You will have a clear narrative.

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A good STAR example

Here’s an example of STAR in action.

  • Situation – My company was all set to give a presentation about our new product to 60 industry experts. But the main presenter’s train was delayed so I was on my own, left in the driving seat..
  • Task – There was nobody else around to help, and no time to waste, so I took responsibility for finding an alternative speaker so the company didn’t lose out.
  • Action – I called the office and explained the issue, arranging for a senior staff member to replace the person stuck on the platform. Then I called the venue and managed to buy us the extra half an hour we needed to get our new speaker there on time.
  • Result – The replacement’s presentation went really well, and the delegates didn’t mind the extra half hour wait because it meant they could do some networking. We sped up the presentation so it finished bang on time, in time for the all-important Q&A session afterwards. We actually received two solid orders straight away, based on the quality of our presentation and Q&A, which we didn’t really expect.

Top STAR tips

  • Always use I, not we, to make it crystal clear you were the one responsible.
  • Make sure you give your attention to every part of the method
  • A lot of people naturally tend to leave out the ‘results’ part – don’t do that!
  • Always be specific, but don’t ramble – keep it short and sweet
  • Leave out examples that paint you in a less than positive light
  • Bear in mind sometimes a negative result is actually a good thing. Say you lost a game. Losing in general isn’t great, but you can leverage it to provide an example of being a person who is strong and resilient in the face of disappointment

Would you like to ace your next interview?

Have you always struggled with job interviews? Are you dreading your next one? Have you never had a job you really want, determined to finally get a job that really suits you? Do you lack confidence at interview? If you’d like to be fluent in the STAR method, we’ll be delighted to help. Contact us