Once you’ve secured an interview for your dream digital job you’re only one or two steps away from making the job yours. One of the things that successful job candidates do is to prepare effectively for the interview. Our blog Top 10 questions asked at a digital job interview outlines what you are likely to be asked.
Using STAR to answer digital job interview questions
The STAR structure is a tool used mainly for answering competency based interview questions. This is what each of the letters represent:
Situation – Set the scene
Task – Outline what was required
Action – Explain what you did
Result – What was the outcome
You can use this tool in two broad ways – for a competency based interview and to help you frame your responses in a standard or non-structured interview.
What is a competency based interview?
A competency based interview deals with asking all candidates the same questions and asking them to highlight a relevant situation or achievement that has demonstrated a competency they are looking for in a candidate. The interviewer(s) then write down the response and then after the interview score the candidates responses to see how it meets their requirements.
Don’t worry – you will always be told prior to the interview if it is to be competency based and you can prepare accordingly. The key to these is to get all your major points across succinctly – you will be imparting a lot of information that will be written down often by more than one person – so you want to make sure you get to the point quickly. Often you will be asked several questions so you will need to think up plenty of examples before the interview and think about how they can apply to different competencies being looked for in the role.
STAR in detail
Competency questions typically start along the lines of “tell me about a time when you…” or “think of an example that…” This will then be followed with one of the competencies that have been listed on the job description. Because the questions are always focussed around a key competency the employer is looking for, you should be able to prepare in advance.
If you are applying for an internship, graduate job or a junior job where candidates won’t be expected to have much actual work experience then they will be about some of the “softer” skills. Soft skills are non-technical and non-specialised and not aligned to a specific vocation or discipline but rather a candidate’s personality. Examples of soft skills are teamwork, problem solving, negotiation skills and communication. These can be illustrated with school, university and club/hobby experience if it’s your first job.
For more senior roles and those requiring lots of experience the questions will be more technically and experienced focussed.
The length of your answer can depend on the question asked but typically we would expect an answer to be around a minute and a half to three minutes. Remember the interviewers are looking for how you meet a key competency and they will likely have several questions so keep your answer succinct and to the point.
Taking each of the STAR terms in order:
Situation or task
This is about setting the scene, giving a context and background to the situation and describing the situation that you were confronted with or the task that needed to be accomplished. For example, a question about time management would need an answer detailing the project you were working on, who you were working with, when it happened and where you were. If the question is asking you to describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult person, explain how you came to meet that person and why they were being difficult.
This is more specific to your exact role in the situation. You need to make sure that the interviewer knows what you were tasked with, rather than the rest of the team. So, for example “I had to deal with a difficult stakeholder. As the Project Manager, it was my responsibility to resolve this situation to allow the work of the team to progress”.
This is the most important part of the STAR technique. This is the bit where you demonstrate that you meet the competency. It’s important to talk about what you specifically did rather than the team. I did. I had to. My response was. Make sure you are using “I” – it is your skills the employer is looking for.
Include enough details (the interviewer won’t be able to guess what you mean or be familiar with your history). Avoid acronyms and institutional/sector language as the interviewers may not be familiar with it.
The key thing you’re trying to get across here is what, how and why. So, what did you do, how did you do it and why did you do it.
Ideally this should be a positive quantifiable result. Therefore it’s important to think about these before the interview so you can ensure you have some stats that you can use. For example, increased sales by 15%, increased web traffic by 10%, saved the team 10 hours a month etc.
Also include details about what you learnt from the situation and if this led to how you would approach the situation in the future.
Be successful with these recruitment tips and strategies
We’ve been operating in the digital recruitment space for a decade so know a thing or two about recruiting the best talent. We spend a lot of time preparing our candidates for the job interview process. We have a series of blogs that can help you succeed in securing your next digital job.
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