Getting a job may seem like climbing a mountain at times. However, there is a technique called the STAR approach that may help you on your way.
Have you ever faced questions, on application forms or at interviews, which ask ‘can you give an example of when…?’ or ‘describe a situation where you had to….’? These are called competency questions – when the employer is looking for evidence that you have the skills/qualities they require. This is where the STAR approach comes in. It’s a way of structuring your answer:
The situation and the task set the scene or give the context, for example if you were asked to describe a time when you worked effectively in a team, you could say something like ‘it was a busy Saturday at Any Shop where I work part-time as a Sales Assistant. I worked in a team of five to co-ordinate a promotional fashion show that day.’
You’d then talk about how you worked in a team to complete the task – what action did you take? This should be the biggest part of the answer. Be specific and talk about your role – if you always start your sentences with ‘we’ rather than ‘I’, then the employer might wonder whether you had a valuable input into the team work. Think about the things that make good team work – did you communicate well with other members of the team? Did you listen to other people’s views? Did you negotiate tactfully? Did you include everyone? Did you work together to solve a problem? Did you help someone when they were stuck?
Don’t forget to talk about the result, the final part of the STAR approach. This is the proof that you successfully used the skill. Did the fashion show run smoothly? Were the team happy with how the day went? Was there an increase in sales of the garments in the fashion show? Try to give an actual figure where you can e.g. ‘sales of those garments rose by 25% that day and footfall in the department rose by 40%’. You could also mention any customer compliments, feedback from managers or colleagues – anything that provides evidence that you worked effectively in a team and that this produced a good result.
If a role has a person specification you can prepare a ‘STAR’ answer for all of the required criteria before an interview. This will help you feel more prepared, less nervous and your answers should have sufficient detail to persuade the employer that you have the skills for the job. Good luck!