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Look to the Stars for Great Interview Questions

Using Standard Questions Gets You Standard Answers

You probably have already developed a standard set of questions that you use when interviewing candidates to work in your home care business. Many of the standard questions that managers have used in the past are well known among candidates and most will have pat answers to those questions rehearsed, e.g. if you ask “Tell me about your biggest weakness or area that needs improvement” and you will get a list of positive things that are the candidates “weaknesses” like “I sometimes work too hard” or “I need to get better work/life balance, but it’s hard because my work is so important to me.”   

Assessing Your Candidates Using the STAR System

It’s very important to understand the candidates work experience and skills by asking questions to uncover the depth and breadth of their related experience as well as assessing their soft skills, attitude, potential fit within your culture and their critical thinking skills. One way to do this is to use the STAR system.

STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result:

  • Situation: An event, project, or issue faced by the candidate
  • Task: The candidate’s responsibilities and assignments for the situation
  • Action: Steps or procedure taken by the candidate to achieve a successful outcome or resolve the issue
  • Result: Results of actions taken and their significance.

Be sure that you prompt them through each stage of this process to get better information.  For instance, when the candidate describes what actions were taken to resolve an issue, ask them what their role was in creating/implementing the actions taken. Clarifying their role will give you much greater insight into them as a candidate.

Make sure you take them all the way through the stages, including the results of their actions. Make sure they understand the consequence of their actions whether good or bad. It is helpful for you to know whether they think through things critically.    

Fueling Your STAR System’s Engine

If the STAR system is the mechanism to gain better insight into your candidates, then behavioral questions are the fuel for that mechanism.  Very simply, behavioral interview questions are questions about specific situations in the candidates past work experience and how they handled them.

Behavioral questions are usually worded as a directive statement like, “Tell me about a time when you had to make a tough decision at work” or “Describe an instance when you encountered an obstacle to completing your work and what you did about it”.  Note: the closer you can make the behavioral question relate to your home care agencies work the better the information you will glean from the candidate’s responses. 

Situational Questions That Complement Your STAR System

While situational questions aren’t really part of the STAR system, they can make a useful complement to your behavioral questions.  Situational questions are questions that ask how the candidate would respond to a situation in the future.  For example, pick an actual issue that your agency has encountered and ask the candidate what they would do if they faced that situation. Their response will be hypothetical, but it could very well help you gain insight into their experience level and also allow you to assess their thinking process as they work through their response with you. 

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