Don’t search for words at an interview – Follow (the) STAR

Working as a recruitment consultant myself I can tell you that we love behavioural interview questions. And we also know that they put applicants in a somewhat difficult situation. I recently read an article on a great method to deal with behavioural interviews and think it is a great tool for all of us to have.

So what are behavioural interviews?

In a behavioural interview the recruiter tries to find out how the applicant would react or did indeed react in the past in certain situations. Those situations are chosen to show a certain skill or behaviour needed for the position the applicant applies for. An example? An In-Home Child Carer needs to show the ability to assess potentially risky situations. Rather than asking you whether you can identify risky situations recruiters like to ask whether you have ever been in a risky situation with children and how you dealt with it.

Now you definitely don’t want to go into lengthy stories that are difficult to follow or lose your main point, your ability to assess and deal with risky situations, among all the details of your answer.

How can STAR help you?

STAR is an acronym that stands for Situation, Task, Activity and Result and gives you the outline of your answer.

Situation: You start off with a short description of the situation which refers to the question such as playing on a playground without fences or other boundaries that contain the children to an easy accessible area as example for a risky situation.

Task: The task is an added sentence or two in which you outline what exactly was required of you in this particular situation; think: to keep the children safe, near you and prevent accidents.

Activity: Once you have clearly communicated what the situation was and assessed which action is needed from you, you describe the action you took to deal with the specific situation. In our example, a possible activity could be to stay close to the children at all times and keep an eye on them so that you can reach them within seconds, should they decide to move too far away from the playground.

Result: Finally you summarise the outcome of your actions and how it affected the risky situation. In our example the outcome was that the children could still enjoy the playground while being safe and without having any accidents.

This approach shows the interviewer that you fully understand their question, that you can assess situations and relate them to the question and that you have the appropriate knowledge and skills to deal with the situation satisfactorily.

When using the STAR method ensure that you always use specific examples related to the position you are applying for. Take the time and sit down for 1 hour to prepare possible answers in advance so you won’t have to think about it for too long during the interview.

Do you have any strategies to answer all questions at interviews? Or did you already use the STAR method? Share your experiences in the comments.