You've spent three years (or more) studying, your degree's done, your CV's sparkling and you've landed your first job interview in your post-graduation life.
So, what can you do beforehand to prepare? Well, your studies aren't over just yet I'm afraid - you need to learn the STAR technique. Don't worry if you've never heard of it before though, I'll explain.
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result - a mantra you should repeat before answering any job interview question and which you can crucially rehearse beforehand. Yes, it's basically more revision - sorry about that!
You need it, because the biggest mistake people make in job interviews is going unprepared, then answering highly predictable questions off the top of their heads. That advice your friend gave you saying: "Don't worry about it! Just be yourself!" should be ignored.
Preparation is key
As the old saying goes, 'If you fail to plan, you plan to fail'. If you don't prepare, more often than not, your answers are going to be random and poorly thought out. Or, worse, you're going to waffle - and droning on in a boring, imprecise way is a cardinal sin. You need to keep your answers short, accurate, to the point and well-structured - and the STAR technique is a proven method for making sure you do just that.
Competency based questions
It's particularly effective when answering 'competency' questions - those which often start with the phrase: "Tell me about a time when..." Here, the interviewer is looking for evidence of a particular skillset, and what they want to hear is that a) you have that strength and b) you can give a persuasive example of it.
Your interviewer knows that because you're a recent graduate, you most likely won't have much experience of the role or industry to which you're applying.
So instead, they want you to give details of occasions in the past, whether in jobs or just from life experience, when you've performed particular tasks or achieved particular outcomes using certain skills - and using STAR is the best way to rehearse and structure your answers.
Don't worry if you've only worked behind a bar or till before - all kinds of situations can be called upon to answer competency questions.
Research done by top Middle East recruitment firm Michael has found the STAR technique can improve your success rate by up to 50%. That's because it's a great method of retaining an interviewer's attention whilst making sure you deliver the best answers possible.
The key to making the technique work is to craft answers which are bite-size stories with a beginning, middle and end, starting with a brief overview of the situation: the when, where and what.
So, to answer a question asking you, say, to describe a time when you worked in a team to achieve a goal, you'd mention the employer or situation, the role and the task before you.
You can then move on to the detailed part of your answer, which will be the action, where you describe how you delivered on the task. Use 'I' not 'we', even for teamwork questions, and describe your use of the resources available, and the personal and relevant skills you brought to the table. The action is the most important part of your answer, and should account for 60% of the two or so minutes taken for the question; focus on your strengths, and don't go into too much irrelevant detail.
You now need to round off your answer by outlining a positive result. This is where you get to demonstrate the benefits those actions had. It's a good idea to sound as warm and enthusiastic here as possible.
Many interviewers asking competency questions might also question your knowledge of the company and industry you've applied to as well, so make sure you hit Google hard beforehand.
List of competencies
As well as teamwork, other competencies you might face questions about include:
• Decision making
• Trustworthiness and ethics
• Problem solving
Take plenty of time in the weeks or days ahead to come up with possible answers to all these scenarios.
As with all good storytelling, brevity and clarity are all key to answering any interview questions. But the most important thing is to make sure that you've shown the interviewer that you have the skills for the job, and the STAR technique is the best way of doing so in the most convincing fashion.
So go on - dazzle your interviewers with the STAR technique and that stellar job could be yours...