Interviews are the bane of my life. Luckily, I applied for the job I’m currently in after graduating and I am still there now, earning money, building my empire and taking on the world but as I will be relocating I need to start considering the options available to me. Opportunities will always come and go but whilst they are still available I think it is important to challenge yourself and to motivate yourself to be better. This is where the interview prep comes in handy.
Interview preparation is something that always baffles me. Now for me, interview experience is the best experience you can get. The feedback from each one helps you in tackling the difficult questions and it only makes your answers stronger, so any experience is good experience. But the questions? They are the raisins in cookies of life.
Questions like ‘So tell me a little bit about yourself’ completely throw me off. I want to say it took me a couple of hours to figure out who I was, you know the simple, ‘I’ve been living here, I went to uni in Nottingham, I like sports. I need this job because I’m currently living off the Maccys 99p saver menu.’ but let’s be honest I was sitting around for half a day trying to work out what my hobbies were other than carb loading. After this I worked out that yes, it is important to sound interesting but sometimes we focus so much on trying to sound interesting that we script our answers and that makes it difficult to have your natural self shine through. Being you is majorly important in an interview, you can always have the correct answers and put forward the correct examples but your inner soul needs to shine through. It isn’t just about what the job role can offer you but employers need to see what you can offer them! The characteristics you hold are so pure within you that only you can bring this quality to the team and that’s what you need to emphasise!! They need to see the fun, shining you as well as the hard-working and determined you. Personality is important as are first impressions.
Now, I always interview prep by Googling questions, or playing fire rounds with my boyfriend so that I can rehearse certain answers and prepare myself for specific questions, but the best method I have learnt this year is STAR. How I prepared and answered interview questions prior to this is beyond me but now that I have become familiar with STAR, it has helped me so much in my recent interviews.
STAR, Situation, Task, Action, Result.
Using this method will allow you to give a detailed response to any question fired at you and if you outline everything and focus on each section, there will be nothing preventing you from getting this job. Buzz words are also important within this method, before any interview I always look through the job description. There are certain requirements and skills for certain job roles, if you can tweak your CV to match this and further use the buzzwords within the job description the interviewer will take on board that you’re understanding the job role and your aware of the requirements (but that’s a basic given when you’re going for any job).
It’s all about detail! Every answer you give needs to be filled with information, it needs to be pouring with detail and you need to put across that from A to Z you followed everything through.
Common questions like, “Give me an example of when you have had a difficult customer?”
Now this could be the most basic answer, “I had a difficult customer, he wasn’t happy with a purchase, I spoke to the manager and we offered him a discount”. Now in essence this is literally what may have happened but the point of STAR is to break this down, fill it with information, put forward your skills, your responsibilities and your initiative.
You need to outline the Situation that took place “I had a very frustrated customer, he had ordered a package and he had now been waiting for 3 weeks for it to arrive when we had stated it was next day delivery. He was furious and wanted to make a complaint”. You need to fluff it up, elaborate and bring forward the emotions of the customer.
Use your ownership skills put forward how you took the Task in hand, “Now normally with complaints, we have an escalations process whereby it will need to go through supervisors, managers to then be considered by the hierarchy. As an advisor I took the responsibility in contacting the customer myself as I deal with these queries on a daily basis. Knowing the escalations process, I understood that as the customer was already frustrated passing them from pillar to post would be more annoying so I took this on myself.” At this point the interviewer has already identified key skills within your response, you’ve got knowledge of the process, you’ve taken on ownership and you have the determination to resolve it yourself.
This is where the meaty, (or Tofu-y if your vegan) bit comes in. You need to breakdown every single thing you did, emphasise the bits that you succeeded in. Action “Now the customer had emailed in, rather than emailing him back straight away I looked in to his account so that I was able to understand the circumstances of this customer. I could see he was a regular buyer with our company and he had placed orders quite frequently with us. In regards to this particular order, I could see that the option for next day delivery was selected but due to the customer not being available to sign for it, it was sent back to the warehouse. So gaining that background to the series of events that had occurred I then decided to ring the customer so that we were able to resolve this issue rather than going back and forth via email. Once I rang the customer, he was still very frustrated and wanted to file a formal complaint, but rather than taking it straight to a supervisor, I reintroduced myself and ensured that I was going to resolve this matter from start to finish as I deal with these queries on a daily basis. I informed him of the circumstances that had occurred, I notified him of when we attempted to deliver and also outlined that we always send out specific notifications 2 hours before delivering any packages. Once I had explained the series of events, the customer notified me that he had been home hence why he was so frustrated. Given that I deal with these queries on a daily basis, I took ownership and apologised profusely for this. I built that rapport and provided empathy when speaking to the customer as it was understandable that given their circumstances, waiting all day at home for a package which was then not delivered would be annoying. As I could see that this customer was a regular buyer of our products and further used us quite frequently, I decided that I would be happy to ensure his product was sent out first thing after this call and further that as a loyal customer he should receive a discount on future delivery with our company. For situations such as these, our supervisor has to authorise whether discounts can be applied so rather than keeping the customer on hold, I took his details and promised that I would call him back by the close of business on that day”.
Within that paragraph, you’ve shown how you’re following things through, you’re taking on the responsibility of resolving this and how you have considered the needs of the business by outlining the procedures and keeping a loyal customer but also on how to be empathetic towards the customer’s circumstances. To wrap this up, you need to finish with how you succeeded, how you communicated throughout the whole process and bask in the glory of the Result, “I notified my manager of the events that had occurred, I mentioned that the customer was a regular buyer of ours and further had a bad experience of the delivery process. I put forward that I would be happy to process an order through for the package to be delivered the next morning, but as a loyal customer of ours I felt that he should be inclined to a discount on next day delivery for his next purchase. After getting this approved by my manager, I rang the customer back, apologised profusely again for everything that had occurred and ensured that I was sending out the package straight after the phone call and that I would keep the customer updated with the status of it so that it would be there the next morning and I also sent him through a discount slip via email for his next purchase. The customer began the call quite frustrated about the experience he had encountered but as I had tackled this problem straight away and kept him in the loop, he still orders our products to this day”. AND BLAM! You’ve sold it to them!
Honestly, trying this method with a few questions will not only help build stonger answers but it builds your confidence too. I find that the more I explain about an example, the more comfortable I begin to get which makes it easier to let my natural personality shine through. It helps in building that rapport with the interviewer, using that eye contact, the communication between you and them allows them to get a feel for you and to work out how you can fit in with their own team. You have to remember that when starting a new job, you’re not just carrying out your role but you are also joining a team, a work family so be it and it is important for everyone to get along and to be able to merge well. So it is important to have a personality as well as being able to answer the questions right because it isn’t always about the formalities but also about the characteristics of a person and what they will be able to bring to the work place.