Interviewing | Collins McNicholas

Using the STAR Technique When Preparing for an Interview

Using the STAR Technique When Preparing for an InterviewFor many candidates, the interview process can be a very overwhelming experience with many fearing they will fail to recall important details and undersell their ability. The STAR technique is a method used to help candidates prepare for interviews, especially competency based interviews. This method will allow you to form your answers efficiently, focusing directly on the question being asked. What are competency based interviews? Competency based interviews are designed to make the job application process unbiased as each candidate is asked the same types of questions. This form on interviewing is commonly practiced in large organisations. An example of a competency based question may begin with “Tell me about a time when…” This may not seem difficult, however, during the interview it is common for candidates to leave out information and wander off topic, therefore, delivering an unstructured answer. It is important that you “sell yourself” during the interview while following the STAR technique to structure your answers. So what is the STAR technique? Your answer should incorporate the following elements: S – Situation T – Task A – Action R – Result Situation: Describe the background of a particular situation when you used the competency.  For example, if the competency is budgetary control, you may answer; “In my last job I was appointed to lead a project involving a €800,000 engineering factory shutdown lasting 3 weeks, and I had complete responsibility for the budget for this project. I did face some challenges on this project which required careful management to keep to budget.” Task: Define what your particular task was in relation to this, i.e. “My duty was to ensure that the project came in on time and to budget, which required very close liaison with the discipline heads, maintenance managers and cost and planning team. As it was very important the project ran to timescale and costs were maintained as per estimates. This was my ultimate responsibility. Any overspend, delay or conflict had to be resolved immediately to keep the project to budget.  One week into the project we were faced with unexpected delays due to unavailability of essential maintenance equipment which threatened the completion of the project on time and would ultimately have prevented the plant from becoming operational again on time. This would have obviously created a loss in production and so revenue.” Action: “I worked long hours with the buying and contracts manager, sourcing alternative suppliers and negotiating price, to keep to the original estimates. I worked closely with the planning team to reschedule some of the other work to ensure no time was lost. It was key that I kept in very close contact with the whole team throughout, as any delay would affect the budget. I examined all aspects of the project to ensure that there were no wasted costs and that, despite the tight budget, safety standards were never compromised.” Result: “I am pleased to say that through persistence and my determination to deliver on time and to budget, the long hours paid off and a new supplier was found who have since proved to be a new and more effective supplier for us. The project was finished to time and came in a little under budget, and the whole project was carried out without accident or injury.” It is important to note that the interviewer will probably score your response to each question. Being specific and providing background experience will allow you to gain more marks. You may also add your observations about what you learnt from the experience. It is important to be prepared by going over lots of examples that will highlight your skills. Practice your answers as much as possible; the better prepared you are the more confident you will...

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Ten Important Points to Note the Day of Your Interview

One of the most stressful elements of looking for employment is the interview process. The following simple tips will allow you to prepare for a successful interview and perform well on the day.   Be on time. It is crucial not to be late for your interview. Allocate plenty of time the morning of the interview and plan your route to minimise any problems occurring. If something unforeseen happens causing a delay to your journey, phone ahead and explain the situation while stating you will get there as soon as possible. Greet the interviewer with a firm handshake. A positive first impression is very important. When shaking the interviewers hand it is important to have direct eye contact while also smiling politely. You will come across as assertive and composed. Stay calm. This will allow you to think more clearly and therefore you will deliver better responses as a result. Feeling anxious and nervous is normal in an interview, the key thing is being able to control it. It is important to note that the interviewers where once in your position. Listen carefully and take your time answering. Take a moment after a question to think about what is being asked and how best to answer it before replying. Don’t get carried away. It is important to provide a full response to the question asked; however, it is also important not to speak for longer than is necessary or to go off topic. Ask for a question to be repeated or explained if necessary. This will give you both more time to think about your response while also getting...

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8 Tips for Staying Calm During a Job Interview

The thought of an interview is often a daunting one. If you remain cool and calm during an interview, you will project an air of confidence which is attractive to a potential employer. You will also demonstrate that you can remain calm when stressful situations arise in the course of your work. To stop nerves getting the better of you, here are some tips to secure that coveted job: Be Prepared Know the job you are interviewing for, review the job description and understand what you can bring to the role. Research the company, their products/services and their competitors. Go onto their website and use LinkedIn to learn about the person who is interviewing you. Practice The more we practice, the more skilled we become. Don’t memorize exact answers to likely interview questions, but do have points prepared of what you want to say to a potential employer. Think about why you want the job and what makes you a great candidate for it.  If you can, do a mock interview with a friend. Nerves tend to make us speak very quickly so try and watch out for that during the mock interview. Arrive Early and Relax Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the interview; you don’t want to give a bad impression by being late. Try to arrive early to give yourself time to gather your thoughts and take a few deep breaths. Think positively and be confident You have already been short listed for interview so the company obviously thinks you can do the job. Focus on your strengths and this will help calm your...

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Interviews – Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail

  When it comes to preparing for an interview, you must consider all aspects of your CV and the job in question before you face the interview panel. Preparation is the key to success. It is natural to view job interviews as a daunting prospect when so much can be at stake. However, with the right attitude and preparation, an interview can be a positive experience for all concerned – and result in a job offer! Here are some tips to make sure you are prepared – Do Your Research – Always make sure you have looked at the company’s website in detail. Research the organisation and have a good understanding of what they do, their products etc. as this is very important to demonstrate your interest in the company. The Job Spec – Be able to look through each point of the job description and be able to demonstrate your experience.  I would recommend you go through the job spec highlighting areas you are familiar with and writing alongside examples of where you have carried this out to date. By giving real working examples of your experience this will demonstrate why you are the best person for the job. Your CV – It is important to know your CV inside out, your education to date, career to date and reasons for leaving certain roles. It is also important to be able to explain any gaps that appear in your CV. Arrive on time – There is nothing worse than being late for an interview. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes beforehand. Plan ahead by making sure you have good...

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Prepare for an Interview with the STAR Technique

Preparing for an interview can be a daunting experience for candidates, many fearing that they will forget the detail of work based examples and undersell their experience in the heat of an interview. I would always advise candidates to use the STAR structure while preparing for interviews, especially competency based interviews. By sticking to this method you will be able to keep your response to the point and structure your answer effectively. What are competency based interviews? Competency based interviews are designed to make the job application process as objective and unbiased as possible as all candidates are asked the same types of questions.  Competency interviews are very common today and are used by most large organisations. A typical competency based question may start with “Tell me about a time when…” This may not seem like a difficult question but in the heat of an interview it can happen that you leave out key details and tend to “waffle” when delivering an unstructured answer. A good way to avoid this and to ensure that you “sell yourself” in this type of interview is to follow the STAR technique to structure your answers. An interview may not be overtly competency based and if your interviewer is not very experienced may include questions such as: This job deals with a lot of confidential information, have you done this before? This question could be answered with a yes or no. However, in order to make the best of this opportunity to demonstrate your suitability, think of it as a competency based question and answer with a specific example of when you have dealt...

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Tough Interview Questions: Do you have a question for me?

At the end of a job interview the interviewer will usually give you the opportunity to ask them a question. It is tempting to say that you have nothing you would like to ask and rush out of there relieved to have survived the experience. If you do this, however, you will be missing out on an opportunity to impress the interviewer. Asking a question isn’t necessarily about finding something out. It is really a chance to display your understanding of the company and your level of insight into their operations. Questions can follow several tracks; you can ask about the industry and the company’s position in the market; you can ask about the expectations for the role you are applying for, or you can ask about the working environment. Examples of these types of questions would be: How would you define success for this job? What challenges would I face in the first 3 months? What is the working environment like? Are there opportunities for promotion in this role in the future? How would you describe the company’s culture? What kind of job development and support do you provide? There are many suitable questions you can ask. The point is to show that you have given the job real consideration, that you already have a good idea of what the opportunity entails, and the question is simply to provide you with another small insight into the company. There are certain questions you should never ask under any circumstances. How much does this job pay? How many days holidays do I get? How big is the office? Questions that...

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