Interviews: Tell them what they want to hear

It may sound like obvious advice but is surprising how many people at interview fail to focus on the key things an employer wants to hear when you answer a question. Our Employer Engagement Manager explains:

‘One of things I do here at the Careers & Enterprise Centre is recruit people to work in our team. When we advertise a role we always get a lot of great applicants, but one of the things I notice in both application forms and interviews is that people gloss over what they did when talking about their experiences. Most interviewers look for a very simple pattern we call STAR.

• Situation

• Task

• Activity

• Result

(You can read a bit more about this in the interviews section on our website here). What I often find is that people get hung up on the Situation and Task section of their answer, and then don’t really mention what THEY DID, and then go straight to the result. So, for example, I might be looking for a time when you’ve had to solve a complicated problem and the answer we often get as an interviewer tells lots about the problem and what the solution was, but not enough about the actual things the candidate did.

“The power to the network grid had gone down, and the back-up generator wasn’t working. This meant all the gates to the various sections of the park were not working. The situation became dangerous as it meant security was down and the animals had the free roam of the area. We needed to reset the generator and then reboot the computer network then yada yada we did this and the power was restored and we managed to escape the island in a helicopter”

A great example definitely but in this we don’t actually find out what the candidate did. For example there is nothing about how she had to make a plan with a colleague to traverse across an open and potentially dangerous area, establish a communication link so she could receive directions from a colleague in a remote location and methodically reset the system.

Anyway I think you get what I am talking about now, but just to make sure think about what you did and don’t skip to the end.’

James Weaver

Employer Engagement Manager, Careers and Enterprise Centre

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