As the interviewers are trying to determine how candidates will perform on the job in the future, it is important that the questions they ask relate to the job. For example, the job might include supervising a number of staff; therefore, the candidate will be asked questions about their leadership experience and about working in a team environment. Although it is preferred that you talk about work related experiences, volunteer work, student related assignments and/or drawing from personal experience can also be used.
Based on the information outlined in the job posting, you should be able to build a list of skills the job requires. Once your list is completed, consider when you have used these skills and be prepared to talk about them and provide examples.
STAR interview technique
The easiest way to compose your answer to the target selection interview question is to tell it like you are relating a story to a friend. The City of Calgary uses the STAR interview method to gather information about your capabilities.
S - situation (what was going on at the time)
T - task (what needed to be done)
A - action (what steps you took)
R - result (how it turned out)
Remember to connect the actions you took to the end result. The best examples are those that are specific and recent job or volunteer experiences.
Tell us about a time when you had to learn something new in a short period of time. What did you need to learn? How did you learn it?
"Several months ago my boss gave me two days notice when she asked me to provide coverage for one-week for the executive secretary. Although the duties were similar to mine – I soon discovered that the software program the executive secretary used was completely different to the package I was familiar with."
"I knew I had only one-day to become familiar with the new software program before assuming her duties. I immediately checked my calendar and re-scheduled two meetings. Next, I checked to see if I could attend some online training courses offered through our IT department. Unfortunately, the next class was two-weeks away. Next, I called the public library to see if they had any training manuals I could use. Unfortunately, there were none in stock. After exhausting my search for tools and books, I decided to call the executive secretary and explain the situation to her. She said she would be happy to provide me with one-on-one training but it would have to be during lunchtime the next day."
"I confirmed the time and met with her during the lunch-hour the next day. During the session I took notes and made copies of the specific pages we were working on. Because it was a new product, the executive secretary gave me the name of the contact person in the U.S. and said if I got in a real jam I could try their 1-800 number, but she couldn't guarantee that I would get same-day help. After my training session I went back to my desk and documented my notes step-by-step to make sure I could make sense of them and took advantage that they were still fresh in my mind."
"I had to refer to the online help function quite a few times during that week. In the end, I learned how to navigate through the new software and received praise for my hard work from the CEO. I am now the executive secretary's back-up. It was my attention to detail and the initiative I showed that really paid off."
The most important part of your answer is to make sure that you describe what you did; the steps you took. This is the action
part of the answer and tells the interviewers how you are likely to deal or handle a similar situation in the future. Make sure you talk about the options you considered, the research you did, any conversations you had, how you prioritized, how you prepared - whatever is relevant to how you completed the task. When the interviewers feel they have a complete scenario (S-T-A-R; situation, task, action, result), they will move on to the next question.
Other examples of interview questions:
- Tell me about a time when you had to work at a fast pace for a long period of time. What kind of work were you doing? How long did you have to maintain this pace? What steps did you take to ensure you could maintain the pace?
- Tell me about a time when you were faced with an unexpected policy change. How did the change in policy affect you or the project you were working on? What did you do?
- Tell me about a time when you inspired someone to work hard in order to meet a deadline. How did you inspire them? What did you do? What was the end result?
- When starting a new job, there are some skills that we pick up quickly and others that take a little more time to learn. When you were working at (past employer), give me an example of something you learned quickly and an example of one that took you longer to master.
- When preparing a presentation, what approaches have you used to ensure the audience understands the material you are presenting? Please provide a specific example of this.
- Describe a time when you had to step in to help a group or team complete a task/project/assignment? Describe the situation? What did you do? What role did you play? What was the result?
- Businesses are always looking to streamline processes to make work more efficient. Tell me about a process or a procedure that you developed that saved time, money or made work easier. What was the problem to begin with? What area was affected; time, money or efficiency? What did you do? What was the end result?
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