Some people are naturally very confident and are completely unphased but job interviews can be nerve-wracking experiences for many people and they can find it difficult to articulate their thoughts on the day and perhaps become a little tongue-tied. There are techniques that can be learned to make the interview process easier and we will be focusing on a particular one of these that has become popular in recent years.
Before we take a look at the STAR method, it is worth taking a look at some of the other techniques that people can use to improve their chances of success in job interview scenarios.
Research the Job
This sounds like quite a basic idea but actually there is an incredible amount of information to be gleaned about different job roles and companies online. You can even find out the names and positions of the people who are most likely to be interviewing you, in many cases by visiting LinkedIn and viewing their professional profiles. This is all information that they have made publicly available, so it is fair game to look at, even if it feels slightly illicit to be doing so.
Being able to research the company that you are applying for a job with can help you to understand the scope of what their wider purpose is and how your role may fit into that. If you are a press officer and you are looking at working for a large company which has branched out into many areas, you may have been aware that they made components for aircraft engines but hadn’t known that they made guidance systems for missiles and were a large military contractor.
This is obviously important information to know and will change your perception of the job role accordingly, as you now know that you may have to answer difficult questions from the press about their military activities.
Job Interview Role Play
Some people find it easier to practice some of the interview techniques by talking to another person and having them play the part of the job interviewer, asking them questions in relation to the role that they are applying for.
This can be a helpful course of action for many people as they don’t attend all that many job interviews so they are out of practice by the time they reach the job interview itself. It is possible to research a list of commonly asked questions and some of the best ways to answer them and we actually have another article called how to prepare for a job interview that references some of these for you.
You can incorporate the STAR method into practice job interviews as it is an excellent technique for structuring more in-depth responses to some of the questions that you will be asked.
What does STAR stand for?
S – Situation
T – Task
A – Action
R – Result
The STAR method is a way of framing an answer to a question like “ Can you think of a time when you used (a particular skill) in practice?”
It structures the answer into the form of a brief story that you can tell the interviewers.
The situation should be a very brief setting of the scene for the story about the skill that you used. “My managers were trying to figure out how to attract more diverse candidates to apply for our job vacancy” or “My line manager wanted to find out more about the range of transferable skills that our remote working staff had” or “My colleagues were discussing how best to manage skill sharing and upskilling resources within the company”.
The emphasis in the situational part of the story is to set the scene about who the main characters at play are and how they relate to you, are they your superiors at work, or are you demonstrating teamwork alongside your peers?
Explain a little about the task that you were set. “I was asked to research whether diversity training in the workplace would help us to attract people from more diverse backgrounds” or “I was asked to implement a skills audit specifically targeted at our work from home teams” or “I suggested that we should look at some of the skills gaps within the company and volunteered to present the findings to management”.
It is important that the interviewers understand the task, so that you can wrap it all up in a nice flourish in the next couple of steps by explaining the actions you took and the results that followed from them.
This is a succinct explanation of the actions that you took in order to move on to the results phase. Examples of this would be “I found that diversity training would help and I looked further into our overall recruitment process to find out why it was unattractive to people from diverse backgrounds”, or “I spoke to our work from home teams and was very impressed by the range of talent that we have on board. I believe that some of them could benefit from career progression within the company” or “I identified the places where I believe there are skills gaps within the company and the people who are outstanding in those areas and could share peer knowledge in a mastermind session in order to help us all to improve, and presented these to my line manager.”
Be sure that your actions accurately reflect your own contribution to the solution, as the interviewers won’t be happy if they later find you took credit for someone else’s work.
Explain the positive things that happened as a result of your intervention. For example: “I explained to my boss where the pain points were regarding diversity and six months down the line they have the beginnings of a much more diverse workplace with happy staff” or “Management were very impressed with the people I identified and how well they had performed while working from home. Several of them are now being considered for promotion” or “I delivered the information to my line manager and there are now monthly optional “mastermind sessions” on all kinds of topics, to address the skills gaps that were identified.
The STAR Method
It is essentially a way of telling a cohesive story in an interesting and informative way, without a lot of superfluous details that nobody is really interested in. It also gives the interviewers a jumping off point to ask more questions about the areas you have mentioned.