How to use STAR technique to answer competency-based interview questions

How to use STAR technique to answer competency-based interview questions
How to use STAR technique to answer competency-based interview questions

posted 12 Jul 23

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.

Competency-based interview questions are designed to test your ability to handle situations you may face in the workplace. These questions offer an opportunity to showcase your expertise, experience, and soft skills to the potential employer. With this in mind, we asked our recruitment experts who help guide candidates through the interview process and place them in their desired job every day to provide professional insight.

Interview 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 customer service role may require conflict management skills. Nevertheless, competency-based interview questions will follow a similar pattern and will often start with one of these three openings:

  • “Tell me about a time when you...”
  • “Give an example of a time you…”
  • “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, and Result. On top of this, our experts advise you to take your answers to the next level by adding an additional step in the STAR technique, to make it the 'STARR' technique. 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 answer.

The STAR technique is one of the most tried and tested methods when answering interview questions and provides consistent results.

So, here’s how STAR(R) is done:  
Situation Begin your answer by setting the context and describing the overall situation. Describe the context in 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.

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)


An explanation of what you actually did. What steps did you take to resolve the situation? 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…”, taking responsibility so the interviewer understands your role and the credit you deserve credit in this situation.


As you near the end of your answer, describe the outcomes of your actions. Don’t worry too much about whether the outcome was positive or negative, be sure to give an honest response.

+ Reflect – To take your answer to the next level after completing the first four steps of the STAR technique, our experts advise you 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 take away from every challenge you face. Explain what you think went well or not so well, then describe what you would do differently next time.


Further advice to prepare for your next interview

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

Preparing people for interviews is something that we do every day. For this purpose, we thought we’d share our Career Toolkit, which offers advice on all stages of the job search process, including interview preparation.

Career goals: Your ultimate toolkit

Career goals: Your ultimate toolkit

For more advice on how to progress in your career, access our free toolkit.

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