Being successful at a job interview can be down to small margins. One way of getting an edge is to adjust good practices by making them better practices. Think of what you can gain by not following what everybody else is doing. With competition fierce and little to choose between candidates, making a 1% difference to your approach to answering questions from a job interviewer can make all the difference.

STAR approach

You may be familiar with the STAR and CAR (context, action, result) frameworks for responding to competency or behavioural questions like ‘Tell me about a challenging situation you faced and how you dealt with it’ or ‘Describe a time when you demonstrated effective teamworking skills’.

Job interviewers are also familiar with STAR. It’s a perfectly valid way of showing you can do what is required in the job role. A challenge is to avoid sounding like a robot as you tick off all the boxes. Employers want your personality to shine through. How can you bring the STAR approach to life and be distinctive?

Recognising your talents

Here’s a version called Be a STARR that I’ve developed with careers adviser, Alexa-Jane Moore. We’ve added a B for Belief to bring in culture fit and values alignment, and an R for Reflect to bring in self-awareness and a learning mindset. Let’s say the question is about teamworking:

  • Belief: what do you believe about teamworking? For example, not letting team mates down or the value of diversity. Why is that important to you? How does that fit with the employer’s values and how they do things there?
  • Situation: what was the context? Be brief!
  • Task: what was your specific responsibility? Say ‘I’ not ‘we’
  • Action: what did you actually do? Ditto
  • Result: what impact did you have? On other people or performance
  • Reflect: what have you learned from this experience of teamworking? How will you use that learning here?

Valuing your talents

Saying what you believe, what you did and what you learned are still not enough to nail your response. You have to go one important step further and explicitly make the link for the employer about how your example is relevant for that job, the value they would gain if they employed you and how what you value fits with the way they approach teamworking.]

Language can make a difference here. Interviewers will look for keywords used in the essential criteria for the job. They also want you to spell out how you will contribute to making them more efficient and effective. Employers are interested in people who can:

  • Increase sales/profits/turnover/funds
  • Use old things in a new way
  • Provide more information
  • Improve appearance
  • Organise itPencils
  • Get it done more quickly
  • Develop people’s performance
  • Improve teamwork and relationships
  • Introduce new systems
  • Avoid potential problems
  • Cut costs
  • Reduce the risks
  • Meet deadlines
  • Turn round a bad situation

For example, once you have outlined your teamworking credentials using Be a STARR, you might say (depending on the role requirement):

“You’ll be able to count on me here because I’ll be great for your team’s morale”

“If you employ me, you will get a reliable team player who is prepared to have a go and won’t let colleagues down in a crisis”

“My proven skills in…. will help improve your… Here are a couple of my ideas…”

Saying what you did and how you did it are never enough. Show the difference you made. Then join up the dots up by stepping out of your own shoes and into the shoes of the employer. Enthuse them with the value they will gain from recruiting you for that specific role.

Are you ready to put stars in their eyes?