Challenging …

This week, thousands of people across the country struggled with a challenging style of interview question that demanded an example. Sounding something like "describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your resilience", these questions are designed to make you dig deep under pressure, and provide specific and detailed answers to demonstrate your expertise across a range of areas.

The power of the "Story"

As both writers and professional speakers know, an insightful story can demonstrate a huge range of learning points, within a short time frame. Rather than giving the "10 keys to being a good person", Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, which highlighted key learning points in a story format that can be easily remembered.


In the same way, sharing a list of your key attributes you can bring to a prospective employer is good. However, sharing a powerful story that demonstrates how you applied these skills in the real world is far more powerful.

Example questions include:

●Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone's opinion.

●Tell me about a time you had to think strategically in order to meet competing priorities.

●Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.

●Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker.


Historically, candidates have been asked to respond to behavioural questions using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method. However, I would like to introduce another way of answering these questions that will ensure you go deeper with your answer. BARS stands for:


Background — In the first part of your answer, you introduce the position you were in and the company you were working for when the example you are about to use takes place. You then explain in detail the problem, challenge or task that you needed to solve or successfully complete.

Action — In this next part, you talk about the specific actions you took to resolve the problem or task. Be sure to mention in detail the tools you used, people you worked with or led; and challenges you faced.

Result — Explain the positive result of your efforts and what you accomplished. Make sure you are specific and include details like percentages, benefits, savings, rewards and/or recognition.

Skills Learnt — This is where you can go much deeper than the traditional STAR method. Close your answer well by detailing 3-5 skills you learnt or developed further during this scenario. For example, "This situation really helped me to further develop my conflict management skills by …"

Preparation is the key

Finally, its vital to know your key behavioural stories inside out, and how best to communicate these when called upon by the interviewer. Take the time to find some job and industry relevant behavioural questions online, then practice answering these with a family member or friend.

Contact Tom O'Neil and the team at CV.CO.NZ for a free CV or LinkedIn assessment or to be your personal career coach. Visit CV.CO.NZ or to find out more.