Be a STAR at your next interview

You can succeed at your next interview by using the STAR structure properly

Your next  interview may be  competency-based (behavioural). The STAR structure helps both interviewer and interviewee get the best out of the interview.

Most interviewees know this and are aware of the acronym STAR (Situation, Task, Action and Results) but don’t use it well.

Preparing an interview is just like baking a cake – you need the right ingredients, and the right proportions. Make sure your answers are substantial, not half-baked or overdone!

The 4 biggest mistakes in Competency Interviews

1   spending too much time  describing the SITUATION no more than 10% because the interviewer is interested in what you did.

omitting the TASK– a clearly defined description of the end result you were looking for – this is the most common fault. Use time, money and resources or any other metric that’s relevant: for example:  ” I had a target of getting 100 hits a week at least on the website.” Aim for 5% of  your answer.

3  giving too little information on  ACTIONs that you took. Relate the actions to the competency statement. Like a good watch your interview descriptions should have a lot moving parts. Therefore,  sure your actions are appropriate to the level of the job  you are going for. 20 years of experience  on reception is not going to count if they are looking for a chief executive. Show that you can box at their weight!  So, 75% of your answer should be action-focussed – what you did, how and why you did it.

not relating the RESULTS to any meaningful metric. Therefore, relate the results to the TASK.  For example:if, in your interview, you had aimed for 100 website hits a week and you achieved 200 then you have reinforced your TASK statement and shown that you can deliver on your promises; this will take 10% of  your allotted time.

A handy video to watch:  I have a demonstration video showing STAR in action and how people get it wrong.

Aim to have  your examples presented in about three to four minutes. Remember, practice makes perfect.

The interview room is a bad place to discover that your answers were not ready.

Good luck with your interview.

Remembering Dick Bolles

The photo shows the attendees at a memorial service for Dick Bolles held in St. James Church Picadilly, London recently. The attendees were alumni of Dick Bolles What Color is Your Parachute workshops and friends. 21 years ago I joined Dick Bolles staff in Bend, Oregon, USA as part of his workshop staff. Over the next five years I met over 300 career changers from all over the world.

During the Workshops it took two weeks of concentrated work for participants to discover their own best thinking on career direction and then to learn how to apply it in their future life. Bringing together the elements of personal vision and an inventory of your skills, expertise, results you can achieve and your personal attributes is the basis of a satisfactory career. It is the combination of all of the above plus your own energy and enthusiasm for what you do that is the secret. What you get out of the process is a function of what you put in. There is no magic bullet.

Dick Bolles frequently pointed out that the word enthusiasm came from the Greek “God in us”. Whether you believe in God or not your enthusiasm and the energy that you radiate is what bring you forward.

RIchard Nelson Bolles

The death of Richard Nelson Bolles author the best-selling career book What Color is  Your Parachute? was announced on 31st March 2017. Dick was a great friend and teacher and will be missed by Career professionals around the world. I owe so much to him, having attended his International Workshop in 1996 just 21 years ago and subsequently served as a member of his staff for five years. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam caoin, dílis. scan0001

Retirement is a thing of the past – Welcome to the Third Age.

Time was when a pension was a thing you got when you reached 65 years of age. If you were lucky, you got a works pension and a state pension.Nowadays the State Pension doesn’t arrive for another year and your works pension isn’t a sure thing for those of you lucky enough to have one – and most people in Ireland don’t have anything to look forward to apart from the State Pension.

Welcome to the new Third Age – one where you will be working after 65 to make up the pension shortfall – that’s the bad news. The good news is that you will have more mobility and control than any previous generation because Baby Boomers (that’s us) are coming into lifestyle that will combine the best elements of Working, Learning, Playing and Giving.
Working – because you need the money.
Playing – because you need a break.
Learning -because you will need to work on your skill set and expertise
Giving -because your family, friends and community need the benefits your gifts.

You’ll also have longer life expectancy than your parents and their parents. When doctors tell you that 65 is new 45 – believe them – they have the figures to prove it.

Do you want a hand in making your Third Age Plan happen?
Call me.

Had enough of the workplace? Want out? Time to consider your options?

Now that the economy is recovering you might want to assess your working conditions and how rewarding your current role is for you.
During the recession it was time when employers said: “just be glad you have a job”. That was followed by the heinous Zero Hours Contract: “You are ours and nobody else’s – and we don’t care if you have living wage or not”. You now have mobility as people realise that in a recovering economy talent is mobile and has a price tag. It may be time for you to consider moving – talk to me about your options.
For some a Third Age Option might be on the table – it used to be called Early Retirement – but since Retirement ain’t what it used to be it’s called Late Career Transition. The idea is that you retire with a partial pension – but you go back to work or into consultancy to make up the difference money-wise but you get to set boundaries with your life in a way that you couldn’t when the company owned you body and soul.

Want to talk about it?

Call me, I am at your disposal.

Don’t Ignore The Personal Touch – Networking

Since the mid-seventies recession has followed recession to the point that everybody will experience a number of economic cycles during their career. One of the constant principles of thriving in such a situation is the principal of Maintaining Weak Ties; which means checking in with previous colleagues and contacts regularly. Eric Granovetter discovered in 1977 that job seekers who maintained larger networks got placed in jobs more quickly than those who ignored all but the most immediate contacts.

In practice this means calling on people personally in preference to using Social Media.  It’s not a question of one or the other, personal is best.

Try networking using the PIE method (Asking about the work that people do to find their skill set and knowledge base) and see what happens. Here’s the technique in action.

Telling It Like It Is

I asked a client to share his experience of career coaching with me – exactly as he experienced it. This is what he wrote, exactly as he wrote it:


Brian McIvor does nothing.
It’s the first, and possibly most important, thing he’ll do for you.
Amongst the myriad things Mr McIvor won’t do for you are:

  • Calling people for you.
  • Trawling the internet looking for job ads.
  • Writing your CV.
  • Getting a great, good or even half-decent Leaving Cert for you.
  • Sitting down and pondering what you’re really good at.
  • Working out what you actually want out of life.
  • Networking like a grown-up, not a Facebook addicted tween.
  • Waving a magic wand to get you your perfect job.


What he does do is ask questions.
Lots of questions. Questions of such volume and piercing nature they’d probably prompt Torquemada to raise an eyebrow: “Steady on there Bri, it’s not like we’re-running the Inquisition here.”
Obfuscation, circumlocution, plámás-ing or using big words just to show off won’t cut it in conversation.
He’s a nice man. An affable chap. A good egg. A charming conversationalist.
He’s in your corner but he ain’t your mammy. He’s already got a job he loves. You’re the one that wants a new one. So you’re going to have to talk to him straight, answer his questions, consider his advice and follow his suggestions.
If you do there’s a very good chance you’re going to get a job you love too.



Now you know what goes on in my career coaching sessions.
I look forward to hearing from you.