Tags: Career Guidance, career-guidance, blog

Firstly, congratulations on securing a job interview!

Well done, you’ve got the interview booked in and you’re probably ecstatic – so you should be! Now, time to give yourself the greatest chance of success and prepare for your job interview by learning how to answer competency based interview questions using the STAR technique.

For those who are unsure of exactly what competency based interview questions are, here is a quick explanation. Competency based interview questions are designed to test you on your ability to handle situations you may face in the workplace. They are designed this way to give you an opportunity to showcase your expertise, experience and soft skills. With all this in mind, we asked our interview experts who help guide our candidates through the interview process to place our candidates in their desired job every day. These are the professional insights they gave us…

The questions will be driven by a framework that is required for the job. For example, a chief financial officer may require analytical skills, or a job in customer services may require conflict management skills.

Thankfully, competency based interview questions follow a similar pattern. Often, they will start with one of these three openings:

  1. “Tell me about a time when you...”

  2. “Give an example of a time you…”

  3. “Name an instance when you…”

This similarity means we can apply a technique to answer any question they ask you!

The method we advise you to use is called the “STAR” technique, which is a mnemonic for memorising Situation, Task, Action, Result. We strongly encourage you to take an extra step in the STAR technique to make it the “STARR” technique, which will take your answers to the next level. Read on to find out what the final ‘R’ stands for.

Answer competency based interview questions using the STAR (R) technique.

Answering a competency based interview question by following the STAR(R) technique ensures that you are ticking all the boxes your interviewer is looking for in each of your answers.

The STAR technique is one of the most tried and tested methods that provides consistent reliable results.

So, here’s how STAR is done:

Situation - This is the start of your answer, it is about setting the context and describing the overall situation. Describe the context within which you performed a job or faced a challenge at work. For example, perhaps you were working on a group project, or there was a workplace conflict between colleagues. This situation can be from work experience, a volunteer position, or any other relevant event. Be as specific as possible.

Task – The next step requires an explanation of what you were required to do. So, describe your responsibility in that situation. Perhaps you had to help your group complete a project under a tight deadline, resolve a disagreement between colleagues, or hit a sales target.

(YOU, not your team. It is important to understand the power of “I” not “we” in these interview questions)

Action – An explanation of what you actually did. What steps did you take to resolve the situation? You then describe how you completed the task or endeavoured to meet the challenge. Focus on what you did, rather than what your team, boss, or colleague did.

Again… Make sure that you are saying “I did…” not “we did…” this way you are taking responsibility and the interviewer understands your role and what you deserve credit for in the situation. Saying “we” will leave the interviewer wondering exactly what it was that YOU did.

Result – This is about describing the outcomes of your actions. Don’t worry too much about whether the outcome was positive or negative, but be sure to give an honest response.

BONUS TIPSTAR(R) Reflect – After clearly describing the first four steps using STAR to your interviewer, it can be powerful to reflect and review your actions.

In essence, you want to show that you have learned from the situation, whether the result was positive or negative; there should always be something that you learn from every challenge you face. A good way to show this is to explain what you think went well, or not so well, then describe what you might do differently next time.

Need some further advice for preparing for your next interview?

So, you’ll have the competency based interview questions mastered using STAR - but what about the rest of the interview?

Preparing people for interviews is something that we do every day. With this in mind, we thought we’d share our top tips for how to prepare for a job interview. Give yourself the best possible chance of landing your dream job and a brand new challenge for 2020.

Download our comprehensive guide to preparing for your next job interview.

We also have a short blog outlining 4 steps you can take today to prepare for your interview.


Now, are you ready to put those interview skills and STAR technique to the test? Maybe you still need advice on how to overcome your interview fears?

If you’re seeking a new start in 2020, check out our wide range of jobs available to you.

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