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Interview Techniques

Interview Techniques -THE “STAR” APPROACH

There are many types of interview from the free flowing to the formal, but one that you are likely to come up against at some point is the competency-based interview. They’re designed to make the job application process as objective as possible, removing any bias by the interviewer by asking each candidate the same questions. Some people feel this type of interview is more stilted as there can be less opportunity to build rapport. However, they are very common within the Insurance world, so it’s worth refining your technique and preparing thoroughly.

Interviewers will ask competency based/behavioural questions to candidates to prove their potential value to company and suitability to the role. You will need to give in depth examples to each of their questions with details of your own personal achievements or situations you have been in and be prepared to tell your story. Don’t let the pressure get to you; just remember to use the STAR method.

  • Situation – what was the situation and when did it take place?
  • Task – what task was it, and what was the objective?
  • Action – what action did you take to achieve this?
  • Results – what happened as a result of your action?

Typical examples of Competency based Questions include –

  • Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.
  • How do you handle a challenge? Give an example.
  • Have you ever made a mistake? How did you handle it?
  • Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it.
  • Describe a decision you made that wasn’t popular and how you handled implementing it.
  • Give an example of how you set goals and achieve them.
  • Give an example of how you worked on team.
  • What do you do if you disagree with someone at work?
  • Share an example of how you were able to motivate employees or co-workers.
  • Have you handled a difficult situation? How?

If you answer these questions by using the simple steps below, you are sure to have a positive interview!

Step 1 – Situation or Task

Describe the situation that you were confronted with or the task that needed to be accomplished. With the STAR approach you need to set the context. Make it concise and informative, concentrating solely on what is useful to the story. For example, 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. If the question is asking for an example of teamwork, explain the task that you had to undertake as a team.

Step 2 – Action

This is the most important section of the STAR approach as it is where you will need to demonstrate and highlight the skills and personal attributes that the question is testing. Now that you have set the context of your story, you need to explain what you did. In doing so, you will need to remember the following:

• Be personal, i.e. talk about you, not the rest of the team.

• Go into some detail. Do not assume that they will guess what you mean.

• Steer clear of technical information, unless it is crucial to your story.

What you did and how you did it

The interviewers will want to know how you reacted to the situation. This is where you can start selling some important skills. For example, you may want to describe how you used the team to achieve a particular objective and how you used your communication skills to keep everyone updated on progress etc.

Why you did it

For example; when discussing a situation where you had to deal with conflict, many candidates would simply say: “I told my colleague to calm down and explained to him what the problem was”. However, it would not provide a good idea of what drove you to act in this manner. How did you ask him to calm down? How did you explain the nature of the problem? By highlighting the reasons behind your action, you would make a greater impact.

For example:

“I could sense that my colleague was irritated and I asked him gently to tell me what he felt the problem was. By allowing him to vent his feelings and his anger, I gave him the opportunity to calm down. I then explained to him my own point of view on the matter, emphasising how important it was that we found a solution that suited us both.”

This revised answer helps the interviewers understand what drove your actions and reinforces the feeling that you are calculating the consequences of your actions, thus retaining full control of the situation. It provides much more information about you as an individual and is another reason why the STAR approach is so useful.

Step 3 – Result

Explain what happened eventually – how it all ended. Also, use the opportunity to describe what you accomplished and what you learnt in that situation. This helps you make the answer personal and enables you to highlight further skills.

This is probably the most crucial part of your answer. Interviewers want to know that you are using a variety of generic skills in order to achieve your objectives. Therefore you must be able to demonstrate in your answer that you are taking specific actions because you are trying to achieve a specific objective and not simply by chance.

Good luck with your next Competency based interview – just remember STAR!

Barker Munro, Insurance recruitment specialists in Kent have established themselves as leaders in the South East Insurance job market. Keep up to date with us on Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest jobs, news, content, blogs and career advice.