How to Succeed at Job Interviews (+ the S.T.A.R technique for acing interview questions)

Interviews may seem daunting, but at some point you realise that you've become pretty comfortable with them. I quite like them to be honest. So long as the interviewers are not asking ridiculous questions or making unusual requests.  I like the quiet confidence I'm often able to exude. 

While not close-ended, here are some tips I think will generally help ace your next interview!


At the Career Workshop, Mariam repeated something she had heard someone say. It's quite interesting. "When you're invited for an interview, you already have the job. The interview is an opportunity to show them why you shouldn't be given the job". This is quite true especially with final stage interviews. They already think you could be a great fit. So as long as you don't fumble, ta dah!, you'll sign the employment contract.

So, asides successfully avoiding typos on your CV, you need to be extremely familiar with it. Be able to explain in detail all of the amazing things you claim you've done. You've also said in so many words in your cover letter, that it'll be dream to work for this company. Now is the chance to show it. There's no substitute for research.  Study the job role and requirements again. Formulate responses on how your capabilities are a perfect match for the role. Like in public speaking, it's great to practice your responses ( I know, I hate it too!). 

Build your confidence

Confidence in an interview cannot be overrated, and you'll be amazed at the little things that could shatter your confidence.  Check out your venue before hand and ensure you should arrive at least 15 minutes to the set time.  Firm handshake. Sit up straight. Dress well. For my last set of interviews, I honestly wore the exact same H&M dress and Primark shoes. Felt totally comfortable with it and nothing else came close. So find what works for you!. I also often cross my legs as well as it helps build my confidence and ensures I'm sitting straight. Be careful though, there could be a thin line between confidence and arrogance. Make eye contact - but it's okay to look away if you're thinking up an answer. 

Be comfortable

Ensure the temperature of the room is okay, particularly if it'll be a long interview. Don't be afraid to ask them to turn off the AC or adjust the temperature. We don't want a sniffing nose now, do we? One trick you could also ask for a glass of water. It's a trick because when you  need a moment to think or structure a response, you grab the glass and take a long sip. Good interviewers don't aim to trick you - so, relax and see the interview as a chat. Plus they totally understand it's okay to be slightly nervous - as long as you don't display overly obvious signs such as flicking your pen, playing with your fingers or tapping the table. Don't forget to smile. Be professional, but let your amazing personality shine through. These days, asides skills, firms want to hire people they can get along with. 

The STAR technique:

Just like when giving a presentation, it's important you speak reasonably slowly and logically ensuring your responses flow. A lot of interviews these days ask competency questions. This essentially requires you to explain a time you demonstrated a particular skill or trait. For example, "Describe a time you achieved exceptional success". It sounds easy, until you realise you're waffling. And here's where the star technique comes in. Honestly, it makes you look like a star!

S -  Situation - What were the circumstances surrounding this achievement. Set the Scene
T - Task - What was required. Who What When?
A - Action - What specific actions did you take? 
R -  Result - And the result of your actions, which should clearly answer the question. 

A response to the above could therefore be

  • "As a student at University of Ibadan, I was the Finance Officer during the academic year 201/2012 (Situation) 
  • We required the sum of N1,000,000 to effectively plan our finalist dinner  (Task). 
  • Although it was difficult to raise this sum, I realised that getting a N1000 from 1000 persons will be a far easier alternative and I therefore requested all 100 members of the department to raise the sum of N1000 from 10 persons each. (Action). 
  • In just under 3 weeks we were able to raise the required sum, leading to the most successful finalist dinner the faculty had ever had  Result)". 

This pretty much works for a lot for any other competency or similar questions you may have to respond to.

Ask Questions:

When we talked about choosing a boss and not a job, I mentioned that an interview should ordinarily be a two way process. You're interviewing the firm as well to ensure you're a right fit. Asking questions is a great way to get this done. If you've carried out a fair amount of research, you probably have a few questions. If not, there are some standard questions you could twist around. 2 -3 questions are usually fine. And I try to ensure at least one is slightly personal and related to the interviewers. No I'm not saying you should ask about their love life - It's still a job interview. So I typically ask about their career in the firm, what they love about it and the one reason they may be wiling to move else where. Other helpful kinds of questions may be centred around:

  • Training and development opportunities normally provided. 
  • Reasons for recruiting this position - are they expanding or are people leaving?
  • Company's medium to long term plan, as well as greatest opportunities and challenges they face at the moment. 
  • A typical day for someone in this position
  • What are the traits and skills of people who are the most successful within the organization?
The End

At the end of the interview, and if possible send a thank you email. You'll probably not be successful at all interviews, and the fact you're getting them means you're good enough. It's a skill and sometimes we have to do a few before we get pretty comfortable with them. Get some feedback from the team on areas you could possibly have done better. 

What are your thoughts on Job interviews? Like them, hate them? Any tips for nailing it or useful questions to add? Any funny interview experiences?  Best and worst experiences? Share with us! 


Kachee.. xX

pS: I'm thinking of a separate post on answering tricky interview questions. But I'm not totally sure how useful you guys find these kind of posts. So please leave a comment and let me know if I should keep them coming! 

ppS: Let's connect on social media! @KacheeTee for pretty much everything. Find me!