Behavioural interviews

Migrant candidates may be unfamiliar with common questioning techniques used in New Zealand. For example, behavioural interviewing is not commonly used in some parts of the world.

In behavioural interviews, candidates are expected to provide structured answers to open-ended questions. Many interviewers expect STAR-based answers, especially employers in the New Zealand government sector.

The STAR model:

Situation - Describe the situation or problem.
Task - Describe the task that the situation required.
Action - Describe the action taken.
Result - Highlight the results achieved

Many migrants may not have come across this kind of question structure before and may not know the best way to respond to an open-ended question. While everyone needs to prepare well for a job interview, there are still things you can do to help get the best from migrant job candidates.

Here are some tips for interviewing migrant candidates: 

  • Clearly state to the candidate your expectations regarding the answers they give, preferably at the start of the interview. Explain that you want to hear about a specific example from their past if you are using the behavioural interviewing technique.
  • Be flexible enough to rephrase a question if you do not get the kind of answer you are looking for.
  • Be patient and give the candidate time to think and respond. Let them quickly note down their ideas on a piece of paper if it would help them to organise their thoughts before answering.
  • Prompt the candidate to provide a complete and structured answer to an open-ended question if they answer in an unsatisfactory way. A way to do this is to paraphrase the candidate’s answer to fit the STAR model, or prompt the candidate to finish their STAR answer, e.g.

    ‘What was the end result?’
  • Remember that for migrants from cultures where saving face is important, it may be difficult for them to answer questions relating to failure, such as

    ‘Tell me about a time when something did not go well at work’.

Read more about the STAR interview technique