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Want To Nail The Toughest Interview Like A Pro? You Need To Master This STAR Approach

Want To Nail The Toughest Interview Like A Pro? You Need To Master This STAR Approach

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,[1] 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.

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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, [2] which create a clear thought process that can direct and inform your answers.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Reference

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Published on January 28, 2020

How to Ace an Interview: Nailing the 10 Most Tricky Questions

How to Ace an Interview: Nailing the 10 Most Tricky Questions

As someone who has been in recruiting for over 10 years I can tell you the interview is vitally important to getting that new job you really want. During the interview process, there will most likely be at least 2 interviews, a phone interview and an in person interview. Both are important.

Companies can of course have different interviewing processes but in general, there is at least one phone interview, also known as a phone screen, and a live, in-person interview. The in-person interview can be with one person or it might be with a variety of people. While they are both important, the live interview is typically the one that will make or break you as a candidate for the position you are interviewing for.

Many of the interview questions we will review here will more likely come up during the live interview. But it’s a good idea to be prepared for them on the phone interview as well.

To illustrate how important the live interview is, I’ll tell you about my search that happened a year ago. I’d decided it was time to move on from the role I’d been in for a little over 6 years. As I started researching and looking for a new opportunity, I began down the path with 2 companies. With the one I landed with, I’d had 3 separate phone screens, each one an hour long. They must have thought they went well because I was asked to fly to the city where the corporate office is at and do an in-person interview. — with 8 people.

Yeah, it was a long day. The good news is I rocked the interviews across the board. I flew home that evening and the following day, I received a call with the job offer. That was less than 24 hours after I’d had the in person interview. This is how important the live interview is.

So how to ace an interview? We can dive right in to helping you nail the 10 most tricky interview questions:

1. What’s Your Biggest Weakness?

This is a personal favorite of mine. The primary reason for this question is not to actually find out what your biggest weakness is. Unless of course, you say something like “showing up to work on a regular basis,” then it’s probably going to get you kicked out of consideration for the role.

The main reason for someone asking you this question is to see if you are self-aware. That is if you know your weaknesses and are smart enough to account for them.

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The smart play here is to answer in a modest way. You want to be able to show that your biggest weakness actually has an upside. For instance, I usually say that mine is impatience. Which is true, I like to get things done. But what I ensure what I point out is that even though I am impatient, it’s because I like to crank and get a lot of work done.

2. Why Do You Want to Work Here?

Interestingly enough, a lot of people don’t have an answer to this question. It’s designed to find out if you’ve actually done research on the company and if you are excited about this position.

When I ask this question, many people have told me something like “because it looks like a good opportunity”. I mean, can you be any more generic?

The key to answering this is to show you’ve done research on the company and that you are enthusiastic about the actual position. Companies want people that are excited to work there, not just someone that shows up for a paycheck.

3. Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

Employers are asking you this question to see if you have somewhat of a plan for your career. It doesn’t have to be completely mapped out in a step by step manner but, a general overall plan is good to see. It means you are goal oriented and are working towards something.

Don’t worry about answering in a way that states you are planning on sticking with the company until you retire. Rather, focus more on how it’s important to you to continue to learn and get better and better at what you do. Companies like to hire self-motivated people.

4. Tell Me About a Time You Messed Up

Or tell me about a time something didn’t work out the way you planned. Similar in concept. The key here is to show that you take accountability for your actions and how you react to things going wrong.

Companies like to see that you are willing to accept responsibility for the things you oversee and own up when you are wrong. People that always find a way to blame their missteps on other people or circumstances typically don’t make good team mates.

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The other component here is things don’t always go as planned, how good are you at adapting and thinking on your feet.

5. Why Are You Looking to Leave Your Current Job?

This may seem like a place to launch into all the things you don’t like about your current job. Or to talk about what a terrible person your boss is. Don’t do it. That’s the path you do not want to go down. And that’s really what this question tends to prod out of many people.

If I am interviewing you and ask this question and you tell me all the ways your boss doesn’t appreciate you and your company has terrible leadership, I’m thinking what you’re going to be saying about me in a year when you are interviewing somewhere else.

Make sure you are framing your answer in a way that doesn’t shed bad light on your current or most recent employer. You want to focus on things like you’ve enjoyed working for the company but your growth options are limited there so you are exploring outside opportunities.

6. How Would Your Current Manager Describe You?

This question gives you the opportunity to show off your strengths and what your boss appreciates about what you bring to the table. You want to focus on the positive traits that your boss likes and how it helps you in your role.

What you do not want to do is sprinkle in the things your boss doesn’t think as highly of. Don’t say something like my boss would describe me as a focused worker, at least on the days I make it into the office.

7. Tell Me About a Time You Overcame an Obstacle

Another one of my favorite questions. Interviewers ask this question to see if you are able to deal with roadblocks.

Things don’t always go smoothly, so having people on the team who are able to solve problems has huge upside.

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Being able to overcome obstacles is a great trait to have. Make sure you have a few stories about how something didn’t go as planned that caused a challenge and how you were involved in solving the problem. It’s a way of turning a bad situation into a good one.

8. Why Should We Hire You?

If you are at the point of a live interview, you should be highly interested in the position.

By this point, you should have a pretty clear picture of what the role is and how your skills and experience will help you succeed. The reason this question is being asked is to see if you are the right candidate for this role.

This gives you a great opportunity to tell your interviewer how your expertise will positively impact the role. Right now, you are in the spotlight to clearly show that your experience is the perfect fit for the position and why. Shine on!

9. What’s Your Greatest Achievement?

Employers tend to ask this question to gain an understanding of what your big wins were. What are the really impactful things that have happened during your career and how you were the reason why they happened.

This is another great opportunity for you to toot your own horn. What you want to be conscious of is how you tell the story about your biggest achievement. You want to make sure you say why it was such a big achievement.

If possible, it’s always good to include your team as part of the big win. Employers love to hire people who can make things happen but, it’s also important they understand the importance of team work.

10. Do You Have Any Questions for Me?

You might be asking yourself why this is a tricky question. Honestly, it’s not a tricky question if you are prepared for it.

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What the interviewer is looking for here is how interested and excited you are for the position. You’d be surprised at how many people answer this question with a blank stare or have no questions prepared.

Again, if you are at a live interview, you should be highly interested in a position and the company. You will convey how interested you are in the opportunity with some well thought out questions to ask.

You don’t want to just ask one question like “How often is payday”? Have at least 4 to 5 questions prepared but don’t overwhelm your interviewer with dozens and dozens of questions. Show that you’ve given some serious thought to this position by coming prepared with solid questions to ask.

The Bottom Line

There you go, insight to nailing the 10 most tricky questions during the interview process. There are, of course, many other questions you might get asked during the interview process but, these tend to be the ones that trip most people up.

Remember to take your time and thoroughly prepare for the interview. You don’t have to memorize your answers or anything but having a good idea of how you’d answer these questions will help you ace the next interview.

Here’s to being career advancement ready!

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Featured photo credit: Romain V via unsplash.com

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