Use the STAR technique to structure your interview questions or responses.

The STAR interview technique is used by interview panels nowadays to assess the candidate's competency for the job advertised.In the previous post here , I discussed the concept of competency and underscored the fact that schools need highly competent senior management team members. It is for this reason that many SGBs have shifted to the competency-based tests to help them find the most suitable person for a senior post.

Dilemma: What if the Interviewee outsmarts the Interview panel?

That article generated a healthy response amongst my Facebook friends, particularly those who are teachers or heads of schools.The key thread of the comments was that interviewees may be so well rehearsed that a false picture may be painted. The interview panel would then be faced with a dilemma: how much of the interview responses would be factual? What if the interviewee outsmarts the panel? Would those who have rehearsed well not have an advantage over those candidates who are too nervous and not as well prepared?

The simple answer to these questions is that the interview panel should be thoroughly prepared to assess the suitability of the candidates.  Each question must be purposeful. Every question should seek to assess the candidate's specific skills as outlined in the job advertisement and job description. The interview committee should spell out their objectives and design questions to realize these.  Let me explain via the following illustration.

A presentation assignment (of ten minutes) is set along the following lines:    Discuss how you would deal with a teacher who underperforms.

In such a question, the interview committee would probably be looking at the following indicators, amongst others:

  •  How the candidate handles the pressure of formulating a well-articulated argument on the topic.
  • The candidate's presentation skills to a group of people he or she has never met.
  • Evidence of problem-solving skills and interpersonal skills.
  • Sound knowledge and application of monitoring and evaluation systems in this context.
  • The knowledge and application of progressive disciplinary procedures if required.
  • Evidence of being able to lead and manage human resources.
  • Evidence of experience in dealing with conflict resolution contexts.

And so forth...

As we can see, the questions should be framed to enable the interview panel to extract specific information and behaviour patterns that will help them make a decision. The design of the question requires serious thought else the interview panel will be more more inclined to be subjective to the responses they hear. We should strive to have a situation where the interview committee sets the standard and controls the interview. 

Using the STAR interview technique

STAR is an acronym for:

  • Situation:  sketching the background to the issue or problem to be addressed.
  • Task:  what action(s) had to be taken.
  • Activity or Action :  what you did.
  • Response or Result:  what the outcome or impact was.

The STAR technique helps to structure guideline responses to questions for both the interviewer and the interviewee.  When this technique is used, the interview panel can concentrate on the depth of the person's experience, how the person thinks and behaves and the impact he or she has made in a real life situation. Similarly, the interviewee can weed out the fluff and present himself or herself in the best light possible.

I hope that you have found this Job Application Smarts series a useful exercise. Do let me know if there are areas I can explore with you.  Good luck if you are going to spread your wings and apply for that job you always wanted!


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