In our last blog post, we wrote about preparing for your APS interview. One of the most important tips is to use the “STAR” method. Below is an example of how you might answer a question using this method:
Question: “Can you tell us about a time where you had to deal with a difficult stakeholder, and what you did to resolve the issue?”
- Briefly describe the situation you were in. You need to give the panel enough context that they understand your example, but avoid unnecessary details that might make it difficult for the panel to follow your story.
- E.g. “In my previous role as an Executive Assistant, I had responsibility for managing our office’s relationship with (stakeholder)…”
- Provide an example which you had key involvement in. Tell the panel what role you played and what your responsibilities were.
- E.g. “On this particular occasion, my task was to deliver a report on (xyz). However, (stakeholder) was not willing to provide the information we required for the report…”
- What did you do and what steps did you take to achieve the desired outcome? Alternatively, how did you adapt your approach to the situation? Make sure you include specific, detailed actions. So, instead of “I improved the relationship”, tell the panel how you improved the relationship.
- E.g. “I took a step back from the situation and looked at it from the stakeholder’s perspective to understand why they were reluctant to work with us” or “I realised that there had been a miscommunication and decided to call instead of sending an email” or “I explained the importance of their input to this report, and how it contributed to the very important project more broadly” or “I ensured that I was offering assistance as well as asking for assistance” etc.
- Explain the outcome of your actions and emphasise their significance. Link this back to the panel’s question.
- E.g. “As a result of the strategies I utilised, I was able to deliver the report on time. The report was accurate and allowed my manager to represent our office at a very important forum. Furthermore, I improved the working relationship between our office and (the difficult stakeholder) so there is now regular communication and information sharing.”
- Make sure you say “I did (xyz)” not “we did (xyz)”. It needs to be very clear what your specific role and achievements were.
- Preparing examples in advance is an excellent idea, but make sure your responses do not sound too scripted or rehearsed. Engage with the panel – don’t talk at
- Avoid acronyms unless they’re very widely used (e.g. “APS” is fine).
- Don’t assume knowledge on the part of the panel. Many candidates fail to include sufficient information in the ‘Situation’ part of their responses, because they assume it is obvious what their role entails, or what their policy is about, etc.
- Feel free to use the actual words “situation”, “task”, “action” and “result” in your answer. This can help you to structure your answer and guide the panel through your response. They will recognise (and appreciate) your clear use of the STAR method.
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