When interviewing candidates for work, modern-day employers tend to favor competency-based questions that encourage individuals to draw on their personal experience. In fact, if you look at the top interview questions often posed by HR representatives, the vast majority require candidates to highlight practical experience through their answers.
While these questions are generally feared by interviewees, the answers that they prompt are extremely detailed in their nature and make a positive impact on employers. It therefore makes sense that you should respond to all questions with competency-based answers when possible, as this provides the best demonstration of your skills and suitability as a candidate for work.
The STAR and CAR Approaches: How to Respond to Interview Questions
One of the main challenges associated with interviews is responding effectively to employer questions, particularly those that are not competency-based and do not prompt respondents to actively draw on their experience. After all, while competency-based questions usually start by asking you to recall a specific time when you had to overcome a business challenge, those that are more general in their nature are often presented as hypothetical situations, which have no basis in reality.
The variable ways in which these questions are phrased has a direct impact on how interviewees respond, which is why you should develop a strategic approach that enables you to answer all queries as though they are competency-based. Below, we will discuss the STAR and CAR approaches,  which create a clear thought process that can direct and inform your answers.
The STAR and CAR Approaches: How Do They Work?
These approaches are extremely similar in their nature, but let’s start by looking at the STAR strategy for answering interview questions. This is an anacronym for Situation, Task, Action and Result, and it provides a generic structure for any question that a potential employer will ask you. Let’s assume that you are asked about a time when you have overcome a major obstacle in your life and the approach that you took to achieve your aims, and you wanted to respond by talking about problems you incurred while completing your dissertation at University.
Using the STAR approach, you would first set the scene by describing the scenario and creating a context for your answer (in this instance this would mean relaying the specific year of study and your subject of interest). You would then go on to present the challenges that you encountered while completing the dissertation, before describing the direct actions that you took to over come these. The last part is arguably the most important, as this shares the positive results of your efforts and completes a narrative that employers can engage with.
As you can see, this is a breathtakingly simple approach that can be used to answer almost any interview question, and the same can be said for the slightly more concise CAR approach. This translates into Context, Action and Result, and it is almost identical to the STAR strategy with the exception that it negates the need to describe the scenario and the challenge separately. This approach is ideal in instances when you need to go into greater detail while describing the actions that you took to overcome the challenge, as it enables you to answer the question in a quick but efficient manner.
How to Make the STAR and CAR Approaches Work for You
If this approach is to work for you, it is important to keep a couple of points in mind. The first is to ensure that you capitalise on its simplicity, as this ensures that you can apply it to any conceivable interview question and deliver structured and impactful answers. We would also recommend practicing the approach outside of an interview scenario, applying it to various, non-competency based questions that are likely to be asked by employers. It is also wise to adhere to one of the STAR or CAR approaches, as while they may be similar it is important to avoid confusion and maintain a clear, open mind.
If you follow these ideals, the STAR and CAR techniques can help you to deliver seamless and coherent answers that have a positive impact on employers. Make no mistake; the structure and guidance offered by these approaches can prove invaluable, so we would definitely recommend trying these when attending interviews.
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