I specialize in international career and expat coaching. I am a certified coach / counselor at Dutch...
Are you a STARR in your job interviews?15 October 2013, by Dorota Klop-Sowinska
I have had many clients call me in panic two days before a job interview asking for help. The first thing I always say is:
"Be aware that the recruiter / potential employer will think that the way you perform at the interview is the way you will do your job. This is your only chance to make a GOOD or, even better, a VERY GOOD first impression."
Firstly, think about what type of job you are applying for and which elements of your experience, talents and skills are necessary to perform this job well.
I always advise people to make a list with two columns:
› What experience, strengths and skills are necessary to perform the job?
› Which of the required experience, strengths and skills do I possess?
It is also crucial to remember that your behaviour during an interview will give a clear sign to your potential employer if you are the right candidate for this position.
So if you are applying for a job where accuracy and attention to detail are of great importance, make sure to have your documents (i.e. your CV, cover letter, diplomas etc.) neatly stored and presented for the interview. No one wants to hire an accountant who comes in with documents everywhere, making a chaotic impression.
Make sure to spend enough time on the internet researching the company. A great tip I heard from a recruitment director was to print the information you find and take it with you to your interview.
In this way, you first of all show that you did prepare and secondly, you will increase your chances of being perceived as someone who takes the initiative, a quality very much appreciated in a Dutch working culture.
Also, make sure to check the LinkedIn profile of the person you are interviewing with. Look for common connections.
To sum up, to make sure you are well prepared for the meeting:
› Find out what does the company does.
› Who are their customers?
› What will the job involve?
› Know what your strengths and weaknesses are in relation to the job you are applying for.
› ALWAYS prepare your own questions!
› Check the recruiter / HR manager / hiring manager on LinkedIn.
How to handle difficult questions
Many of us fear so-called "difficult" questions during an interview. In my opinion there are no difficult questions: only unprepared ones.
Moreover, your answers should to be intelligent and prepared wisely. Many job seekers undermine themselves at this stage by not preparing their answers, even for obvious questions. They just think "I’ll make something up."
But when the question is fired at you and you do not know what to say, your face will show your confusion immediately and your self-confidence will go down.
Again, remember that the way you behave in the job interview is the way the employer / recruiter will think that you will behave at work.
The STARR method
One of the great and simple methods to giving good answers is to use examples from your life. You can do that by using the STARR method.
I have illustrated this model with an example below that can help you to create your own answers. The best way to prepare is to write down a couple of your core strengths / skills and illustrate them with examples using the STARR model.
› S - Situation
Describe here briefly the situation you were involved in that also had a positive outcome.
Example: Anna has just applied for a new job of a senior auditor in a big multinational company. The new company operates in a completely different field to that of Anna’s previous company. The recruiter asked her if she is sure she would manage in a new function without having the right experience in the field.
Photo by Flickr user Victor1558
She gave the below example to demonstrate her strengths as a quick learner with solid communications skill and the ability to take initiative in order to convince the recruiter that she was the right person.
"When I started my previous job as a junior internal auditor, there were a few fields in my work completely new to me. I was also new to the team and in the company."
› T - Task
What was the key objective you wanted to achieve?
Example: "I wanted to get a good position / reputation with my team and I wanted to quickly gain knowledge in the new areas."
› A - Action
Describe here step-by-step actions you took, emphasising the talents and skills that you used.
Example: "When during a meeting my boss announced that a new initiative was starting regarding the introduction of new financial standards (IFRS), I immediately volunteered to be the project owner.
I studied all existing materials relating to the topic and conducted interviews with people from other departments to make sure that all the requirements were incorporated.
Based on that, I developed a new auditing program for this field."
› R - Result
Here you describe the outcome of your actions (in business terms if possible and applicable). Tell them what you have accomplished and what you learnt.
Example: "Not only did I develop a completely new auditing programme for a new field, but also through involving others I achieved the status of an expert in this field.
Whenever someone in the company had a problem regarding IFRS, he or she was always directed to me as the IFRS expert."
› R - Reflection
This last step is not always used, but I think it closes the whole loop nicely. Here you can describe what you have learnt from the whole situation described above.
Example: "Reflecting on the previous example, I believe I have the right strengths and mentality (quick learner, taking the initiative, solid communication skills) to take on the challenge of the senior auditor position in the new field of operations."
I think by using this method, Anna showed not only that she was well prepared for the interview, but also a certain level of maturity in her thinking, which was definitely well appreciated by her future employer.
The STARR method is a great method to use not only in your job interviews, but also when writing a cover letter or during networking events.
How do you prepare for an interview? Have you used this or another method in the past? Share your favourite approach in the comments.