Great interview answers with the STAR response

Chances are that you have heard of the STAR response. But do you know how to use it without sounding like a robotic news reporter.

The STAR response

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Results. It’s a great template for answering those behavioural questions that start with “Give us an example of a time when you…”. What I really love about using the STAR response is that it’s more than just a template. The STAR response allows you to time to think so your answers sounds coherent – even if you’re freaking out!

Let’s practice this with a standard interview question: “Give us an example of a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer”.

If you’ve ever worked in any kind of customer service role you’ll be able to answer this easily!

Say the first employer that comes to mind. Start by explaining the challenging Situation and how your got there.

“My first job was at the counter of Budget Burgers. Sometime customers would be served the wrong meal or be overcharged and they would get angry.”

Next is your Task. What responsibility did you have to fix this situation?

“I would try to calm them down and find out what the problem was.”

The Action part is where you say specifically what you would do – what actions you would take – to complete your Task.

“I would listen to their complaint and I would try to understand what happened. If I could fix the problem, like a wrong order, I would fix it. If it was an overcharge or some other kind of issue I would offer an alternative or ask if they wanted to speak to my manager.”

Finally, it’s time to let the interviewers know about your great Results! Where your Actions successful, and what did you learn?

“I found that by calmly talking through the issue and showing understanding, the customer calmed down faster. Fixing it myself was the fastest solution and always worked well. But when I couldn’t fix it and I offered an alternative and the option to speak to my manager, the customer had choices and felt like they were in control and they were less likely to argue and more likely to want to offer solutions or accept one of mine. When I was a trainee I would call my manager over a lot, but I learned from watcher her way of dealing with the customers and I became better at it.”

That’s it! When the interviewers ask the question, don’t get overwhelmed, just think of each part of STAR one piece at a time and it will all come together. In your mind, you’ll be thinking “What was my task back then in that situation? What actions did I take? How did it all end?”. All the interviewer will hear is one coherent answer.

“My first job was at the counter of Budget Burgers. Sometime customers would be served the wrong meal or be overcharged and they would get angry. I would try to calm them down and find out what the problem was. I would listen to their complaint and I would try to understand what happened. If I could fix the problem, like a wrong order, I would fix it. If it was an overcharge or some other kind of issue I would offer an alternative or ask if they wanted to speak to my manager. “I found that by calmly talking through the issue and showing understanding, the customer calmed down faster. Fixing it myself was the fastest solution and always worked well. But when I couldn’t fix it and I offered an alternative and the option to speak to my manager, the customer had choices and felt like they were in control and they were less likely to argue and more likely to want to offer solutions or accept one of mine. When I was a trainee I would call my manager over a lot, but I learned from watcher her way of dealing with the customers and I became better at it.”

Recruitloop has a good list of different behavioural questions, such as “Give me an example of a time when you had to be quick in coming to a decision.” Have a go and if you want to share your answers, put them in the comments below.

 

Cover image from Pixabay. It has awesome cat pics.

3 Essential Things To Do Before an Interview With Your Mate’s Employer

You thought you had it made. A friend set you up with an interview at their workplace. Surely your success is guaranteed, right? After all, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, right?

But they still employed someone else. What happened?

I gave a friend’s CV to my employer once. I felt so good inside! I was going to help my friend get a job. I was going to help my boss find someone with the right demeanour for the role. I was sure my friend would fit in well, in fact I was very confident she’d hit it off with a few of the senior members. You can imagine our surprise when my pal ended up being second choice.

We both could have prepared much better!

3 things to consider before the interview

Here are the important things to consider if you get an interview through a friend, or any mutual connection:

  1. Are you the right fit? Cultural fit may be more important than you think. Depending on the team dynamic, your relationship with your connection could be either a positive or negative in the employer’s eyes.
  2. How well does your connection know you as an employee, or know your career goals? An employer will assess you based on your abilities and your potential. You connection probably knows your abilities, but are you both sending the same message about your potential?
  3. Are you ready to do your best – just like any other interview? Don’t take this opportunity for granted – show that employer that you really will do what it takes!
3 actions to take before the interview

So how should you prepare for such an interview?

  1. If there is a job description available, get a copy. If there isn’t, go online and find one. Then quiz your connection about how it matches the role and what elements would be best to highlight in the interview.
  2. Ask your connection to inspect your outfit choice. Just because the uniform includes jeans, that doesn’t mean you should wear them for the interview. Best to dress “at least one notch more formally” than the current employees.
  3. Ask yourself why you want the job? Would you still want this job if your connection wasn’t working there? If yes, that’s great! If not, this might be the time to politely withdraw.

Remember, it is an opportunity. It’s not a guarantee, in fact, it may not even be a good idea! Assess this opportunity like any other and take it if it’s worth it. I’ve had interviews via connections before which resulted in a job offer, how about you? When has it worked for you, or when did it become a disaster?

 

Cover image from Pixabay. It has awesome cat pics.

 

The Basics of Transferrable Skills

On the hunt for job hunting advice (am I going in circles?), you will find the phrase “transferrable skills“. Do you know what they are, and do you have any? Well done if you do. But even then, do you know how to sell those skills?

I was working with the Queensland Government, in Australia when they brought in the Capability and Leadership Framework (CLF). The concept, as I overheard at the time, was that all job descriptions would have essentially the same key criteria. At first, it sounded quite strange, and all I understood came from vague conversation and eavesdropping on colleagues. But it’s actually an excellent framework for analysing your transferable skills, and the website even has checklists to help you assess yourself. Okay, it all looks very governmental and is written as such, but the key points to focus on are there:

  • Supports strategic direction / Shapes strategic thinking
  • Achieves results
  • Supports/Cultivates productive working relationships
  • Displays/Exemplifies personal drive and integrity
  • Communicates with influence

Thinking about it this way makes it really easy to assess yourself for transferrable skills. How well do you understand your role in the context over the overall organisation? What are your greatest achievements, and what planning do you do to ensure you succeed? What networks do you have? What motivates you? How to you promote your ideas?

Notice how none of these questions are job-specific? That’s how you think about transferrable skills. If you’re thinking to yourself “I can’t get a job in recruitment, I’m just a volunteer at an animal shelter (or any other example that comes to mind)”, think about how what you do now affects those around you.

Do you have great conversations with suppliers/visitors/peers? Have you ever found a solution to a problem? Do you take pride in what you do? Then you have transferrable skills.

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Cover image from Pixabay. It has awesome cat pics.

The revenge relationship that will haunt you (and your CV)

Even adults can be wooed by the stranger with candy…

Amidst the festivities of Rakhi, my husband and I helped a friend realise that going all the way with a new going employer was going to result in a morning-after that would last for years.

This dear friend of ours recently contacted us to review his CV, because “it should look good, just in case I need it, and I want to update my LinkedIn profile”. This seemed fair enough. A little while later, he told us that he had been headhunted by a very large international company and he was in discussions with their HR contact about potential roles. Very flattering and exciting! He sent me the job descriptions, which only covered the essentials, but appeared to be standard roles in the industry. More money, bigger company, new experiences. He accepted an interview and was keen to meet hubby and I to prepare and practise.

We prepped him, all right. We prepared him to grill the company reps, to be the interviewer (not the interviewee) and to be strong enough to say “No”.

As much as I like to boss people around, I promise there was no malice here. I don’t like to crush dreams, demotivate others or put people down to make myself feel better. But I also don’t like seeing my friends make bad decisions and, as enticing as such as offer may sound, you should always look at opportunities in context.

Our friend is very good at what he does and already works for a massive international company.  He likes this company.  He likes most of the people he works with.  He loves the location, the salary is good, he’s become great friends with some of his colleagues and the company provides lots of support for employees.

There was really only one reason he was looking to move – fear of being trapped.

To get a promotion in his current work area, he would need to stay there for another two years. If he took a secondment, he would probably have to wait three years. Three years isn’t that long if you enjoy what you’re doing. The added problem was that although he knew his current area wasn’t for him, he wasn’t sure which area would be better. So when a charming stranger came up to him and offered him more money with a bigger brand name, he was very tempted.

I totally understood this feeling. I’ve been there many times – comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. You might not be able to articulate exactly why you are unhappy, but you know you don’t want to be where you are.

In the end, he came to the best decision not by looking at what the new opportunity offered, but what it didn’t. The job security wasn’t clear, there was no mention of the contract details. The employer, although a huge name in the industry, had a reputation for pushing workers to their limits with extremely long work hours. Finally, the role he wanted was not the one they were offering first. Instead, they were first suggesting he apply for a role that was higher paid, but completely lacking all the things he liked the most about his current role. He quickly realised that the offer in front of him wasn’t that tempting at all.

Instead, he needed to go candy shopping within his current company and he had to do it leisurely. Sure, he was feeling irritated with his work life right now, but if he made a drastic change he could regret it. In fact, he would probably regret it within an hour of working in an environment that didn’t match his strengths – long before the next big juicy payday.

We gave him two action plans:

  1. By the end of the year, meet with a manager from every work area that he thought could be interesting – openly. Tell these managers, and his own, about the outside offer. Tell them that he didn’t see himself in the same area in two years’ time but that he loved the company and wanted to find an area that was more suited to his strengths. Instantly, the fear and irritation became a networking opportunity – and an excuse to go out and have fancy coffee.
  2. Go to the interview anyway, and interview them. Ask why they headhunted him, why they thought he’d be suitable to this role, what are the working conditions like, what length is the contract, how quickly can he access professional development, etc. etc. We’re talking about really drilling them for information! If they truly wanted him with the company, they would have to put much more on the table. If they just wanted (experienced) bums on seats, they would have to look elsewhere.

The new job was a good opportunity. It was a good opportunity to have a chat with friends and get motivated to take some useful steps forward, instead of blind steps sideways.

**Update**

Our friend went for the interview, and was just as bored by the interviewers as he would have been by the job!  No deal 🙂

Do you need help making with a possible career move? Email us, or comment below.

Cover image from Pixabay. It has awesome cat pics.