Organise your thoughts clearly and analytically

It is important that you show an analytical style of thinking in New Zealand job interviews. This means that you are able to give well-structured answers when you are asked an open-ended question (usually questions that start with ‘tell me about’).

Avoid telling long stories that take time to get to the point. Interviewers are most interested in what you have done in the past and how it demonstrates your skills and work experience.

Many interviewers in New Zealand use ‘behavioural’ interview questions. This means that the interviewer will try to understand how you behaved in the past because it can predict how you will behave in the future. These questions can seem hard to answer, and you may not be comfortable with all of them. An example of this kind of question is, “Tell me about a time when you experienced failure.” You need to use a specific example from your past to answer this question effectively.

You can use the STAR model to help you structure your answers to behavioural questions.

The STAR model

Situation - describe the situation or problem you encountered.

Task - describe the task that the situation required. Focus on your role in the task - not other people’s roles or what you did as a team. Use ‘I’ statements.

Action - describe the action you took and obstacles you had to overcome.

Result - highlight the results achieved, the feedback you received and what you learned from the experience.

The STAR method shows the employer that you can organise your thoughts clearly and analytically. It helps to have five or six examples ready to use for different questions during the interview.

My one piece of advice to job candidates is STAR, STAR and STAR!

To find out more about how to answer job interview questions, go to:

Using the STAR technique | The Guardian

Tips for answering interview questions | Careers NZ

This scenario will show you how to answer an open-ended question effectively.

Which answer is structured according to the STAR model?

Tell me about a time when you had to deal with conflict at work.

I went to my manager and reported the conflict. She then spoke to my colleague.

I wanted an example but the candidate has given me a general answer only. I want a specific example from the past - this will give me an idea about how she will behave in the future. I also don’t like her reliance on the manager to solve everything. It would have been better for her to try and solve the conflict herself first.

I tried to be extra friendly to my colleague and hoped that the situation resolved itself. I got advice from other colleagues in our team.

Talking about interpersonal problems with other members of the team is not a professional strategy in New Zealand. I also asked for an example but only got a general answer. I want a specific example as it will show me how she might behave in the future.

She has given me a clear and well-structured example. This is good evidence of analytical thinking. She uses good strategies, problem solving, independence and initiative. She also displayed professionalism by not talking about her colleague to others.

I’ve never had conflict at work.

Everyone has disagreements at work. Maybe she doesn’t want to admit to any of them. It’s important I know so I can see how she will cope when things do not go well.

Migrant: This is strange—it’s not a question about my skills. In my country it’s important to report this kind of situation to a manager for them to handle.

Migrant: “I went to my manager and reported the conflict. She then spoke to my colleague.”

Employer: I wanted an example but the candidate has given me a general answer only. I want a specific example from the past—this will give me an idea about how she will behave in the future. I also don’t like her reliance on the manager to solve everything. It would have been better for her to try and solve the conflict herself first.

Migrant: I often discuss any personal difficulty with my friends in the team. I find that trying to be extra pleasant to the person involved often helps.

Migrant: “I tried to be extra friendly to my colleague and hoped that the situation resolved itself. I got advice from other colleagues in our team.”

Employer: Talking about interpersonal problems with other members of the team is not a professional strategy in New Zealand. I also asked for an example but only got a general answer. I want a specific example as it will show me how she might behave in the future.

Migrant: I use the same strategy in all areas of my life. I analyse the problem and come up with ideas about how to fix it, then I talk to the person involved and put these ideas in place.

Migrant:  “I got into a conflict with my colleague who I had to work with daily. It was negatively affecting my work because I started to avoid interacting with him. I knew it was important for me to talk to him before anyone else. I found a quiet place to chat over coffee, apologised and explained my side of the story. We discussed some possible solutions. We had a good talk and I came out of the meeting feeling good about our decision. Our working relationship improved after this. I learned that the best way to address conflict is to talk about it directly with the person concerned, and to do it quickly, before your work suffers.”

Employer: She has given me a clear and well-structured example. This is good evidence of analytical thinking. She uses good strategies, problem solving, independence and initiative. She also displayed professionalism by not talking about her colleague to others.

Migrant: I’m not sure what she means by conflict. I haven’t been in any fights at work. I also don’t want to show that I am weak or that I am a trouble-maker.

Migrant: “I’ve never had conflict at work.”

Employer: Everyone has disagreements at work. Maybe she doesn’t want to admit to any of them. It’s important I know so I can see how she will cope when things do not go well.

Up next

Make your overseas experience relevant to New Zealand

It is important that you communicate to your interviewer how your experience outside New Zealand is valuable to them. This can show that you are familiar with the New Zealand way of working.

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