Getting into a Management Associate Programme (Part 2)

Hi Guys, I hope the previous two posts were useful for you and today I will continue with part two which is getting through the Stage 2 and Stage 5 of the selection process. Just to recap, the selection process is as below:

Stage 1: Resume Screening

Stage 2: Phone interview

Stage 3: Online Assessment

Stage 4: Assessment Centre

Stage 5: Face to Face interview

If you missed the earlier post (Part 1: Resume Screening) you can read it here Getting into a Management Associate Programme (Part 1). Now, why am I doing Stage 2 and 5 and skipping Stage 3 & 4? Well both these stages (Stage 2 & 5) involve interviews and the technique to ace them is the same.

Normally, companies hire consultants to teach interviewers this technique. This technique is called the STAR methodology and it is used in behavioural interview sessions. Behavioural interview is an interview process where questions are asked to understand past ACTUAL behaviours of a candidate as it is proven through research that past behaviours are the best predictor of future performance.

A lot of good companies use STAR methodology and since I have been exposed to it, I am excited to share the knowledge with all of you. So if one of you read this post and I happen to interview you, I will be happy if as a candidate you are able to use STAR to answer my questions.

But, before we go into the technique let me give some insights into what happens behind the scenes before an interview. Contrary to what a lot of young people believe, being an interviewer is not easy. A good interviewer has to do a lot of preparation before the interview session if he/she wants to get the most out of the potential candidate. One important fact you need to know about the purpose of an interview is to check if you are a good fit for the company.

Every company has its own values and culture and it is important to determine whether these values and culture are consistent with your needs for motivation. Besides that, another important aspect is to see if the candidate fits the job they are applying for. It is important for the interviewer to know if the candidate likes or dislikes certain tasks or responsibilities required in a job. So all of this is done effectively through interview or assessment centres.

So if you were able to patiently read everything and reach here, congratulations!!! I will now reveal the cheat-code to bring your best foot forward for any interview. The keyword STAR actually stands for S-Situation, T-Task, A-Action and R-Result. Whenever you answer a question posted to you, use this STAR model. Lots of MNCs use them and even global organisations like World Bank talks about this methodology on their career site. So how do you use this methodology? The examples are as follows:

Example: You want to assess how the candidate deals with challenges in tasks or job assigned

Interviewer: I would like to ask you about specific situations in your job. When you describe the situation/task please ensure it was not more than 2 years ago. I would like to know what your actions were and what were the results of that action. Is that alright? So, tell me about a time when you had a challenging task assigned to you. What did you do and how was the outcome?

Now before I go into the answer, some of you will be thinking you have never been asked such detailed questions or being indicated by the interviewer on how to answer. No worries, even if not told to answer in this manner, you can impress your interviewer and make things easy and clear by answering based on the STAR Methodology.


Situation: A year back in university I was asked to be the leader of a fund raising project to get funds to have our 5th alumni and prom night dinner, as the former project leader had left the university. The issue was that we were not able to get a lot of funds and were only being funded by small businesses in our university area. This was 3 months into sourcing funding and we only had another 3 months to go.

Task: We had to raise in total RM 50,000 for the event in 6 months.

Action: So eventually as a leader, I had to put my pride aside and let the chairperson of the entire program know we are having difficulties with raising funds. The lady gave the suggestion to reach out to seniors and lecturers to find new ways of raising funds. Hence we got suggestions and ideas from a few groups and implemented them.

Results: With the new method we were able to collect the needed fund of RM 50,000 1 month in advance of the deadline and the alumni and prom night dinner went well.

Now, this is generally how you should answer but if the interviewer is attentive to details he/she can drill down further to the answers given. So some further drilling questions might be:


-So tell me what exactly did you do differently after getting feedback from different parties to get the needed funds?

-What were the key challenges in implementing the new suggestions?

-What were your key contributions to the whole project as a leader?

And so forth…… I hope you get the picture now.

So the key things for you as an interviewee to note is:

  1. Be specific about the SITUATION/TASK, take time to explain it then move to the Action
  2. Elaborate on the ACTION well so that the interviewer will not have to probe a lot. For example the answer above could have been elaborated in more detail like what were the suggestions, what suggestions were taken and how it was implemented
  3. Once the action is done then explain what was the FINAL RESULT so that there is closure to your answer
  4. Also, be careful to not use a lot of WE in your answers because at the end of the day the interviewer wants to know what you did and not what everyone did as that leaves your answer vague
  5. Cues to watch out from the interviewer is if they start asking probing questions like tell me more about this then it means you need to be more specific.
  6. Reflect well before you say “No” as an answer to any question, because some questions might need you to think for a while and find the right answer. In most interviews, interviewers understand that candidates need time to reflect on some questions. So, don’t try to be vague in your answers as it would show lack of clarity on your part and might invite more probing.

So there you have it, the methodology to ace your interview and the key tips to note. I really hope those of you who read this will have great interview sessions and get the job you desire. Below is a link to a youtube video, which captures aptly what behavioural interview is about and how to apply the STAR methodology.

Lastly, to ensure you have the best experience, do watch out for your non-verbal communication cues. Research has shown for a message to have impact only 7% comes from words we speak, 38% is our tone, volume and intonation and 55% is our nonverbal or body language displayed. So to project a confident and comfortable image do remember 3 things:

  1. Smile at the interviewers when you enter the room
  2. If possible shake hands with the interviewers and greet them
  3. Sit upright with your back against the backrest of your seat and make direct eye contact with your interviewers. This projects confidence and shows you are interested to answer the questions

That is about it for this post guys, I know all of you will do a great job and do leave a message if these tips helped you ace your job interview, in case you have further feedback or points to add to this post, let me know.

All the best guys!!


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