Mastering CAR or STAR interview techniques through Interview Coaching
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How do CAR and STAR interview techniques help?

Little of our formal education is focused on the verbal presentation of information. This is why interview coaching can be so incredibly beneficial.

Granted we have oral exams and at third level there is some attention paid to presentations. However, the learning curve in industry can be a steep one. Teams are regularly charged with presenting budgets, briefing stakeholders and (less enjoyably) accounting for decisions they have made. 

Much of the information however, that we regurgitate in education or submit is ordered and structured. Whether by using bullet points or paragraphs, what we are presented with are structured thoughts. This guides help us manage our idea and keep them from sprawling out of control and off the page. 

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So how do we do this verbally. Many clients tell us of their Joycean outburst as nerves and over-eagerness combine to have them spilling forth a rambling stream of consciousness about why they should be selected. Not only does this embarrass them but it loses the interview panels attention as they scramble to keep up with the points you make. 

Here is where the CAR an STAR techniques can come in useful. 

CAR is an acrynom standing for Context, Actions and Results. This is especially suited to more senior candidates who may be describing complex situations that won’t fit as simply into the STAR technique. 

The Context of CAR essentially amalgamates the first to letter of STAR. 

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Actions, Result. 

Obviously the Context will be longer in this sense, which is more suited to strategic examples. 

However, with STAR the example can be much easier. The Situation consists of what was going on, who were the stakeholder. I often describe it as the opening scene in a movie. We are being introduced to a story. This is typically 1-2 sentences. The Task is the objective. What were you trying to accomplish. This will typically be between 1-2 sentences and can overlap slightly with the Situation.

 The Actions then are the most important part. This is where you describe what you did and help the panel understand you thinking. What were you doing and why. Who did you engage. This will usually run to about 5-6 sentences depending on the complexity.

The result is the outcome and it can be used to nicely sum up the impact of your actions. However, again with longer-term strategic examples this can be difficult to summaries. But we wanted just illustrated that a positive change took place based on what you did. Be careful about happy endings however as if there are not true to life and you perhaps embellish in some way certain interview boards can be very adept at spotting this. Don’t get too carried away. 

But the important thing about both of these techniques is that they can help you to tell your story by easily filing through each aspect of either the CAR and STAR techniques. It is much easier to map you progress through whatever competency example you are using and it is also an excellent way to prevent the dreaded rambling that will only make it harder for the interview boards to focus on what you are saying.  

Be sure to remember that interview panels consist of human beings with attention spans that will be tested during a full day of interview questions. If you make their job easier for them and give them information in a direct and structured, they will appreciate it. And these are the people we ultimately want to keep as happy as possible so as they make a decision that favours you.

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About the Author Ciaran Hourican

As a professional coach, mentor and facilitator Ciaran has a passionate interest in developing competencies at all workplace levels but particularly in first-line and mid-level managers. His well-developed skills in coaching and his unique approach gains the confidence of clients and supports them towards significant development.

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