Competency-based questions make up a large part of most job interviews. From a company’s perspective, they allow an objective assessment of a candidate’s experience and the qualities that make them suitable for the job. Questions that require a candidate to provide a specific example of when they exhibited a certain competency make it easier for the employer to compare all the people who are applying for the job in a methodical and structured way.
Thankfully, there’s a tried and tested technique that will help you to answer these sometimes tricky questions. It’s known as the STAR technique. Using this step-by-step method will allow you to answer each question in a systematic manner, without forgetting the important points. Let’s take a look at every stage of the STAR interview method.
Which questions need a STAR response?
The questions will usually start with something along the lines of “tell me about a time when you…” This will be followed by a skill or competency that was listed on the job description, so it is important to get familiar with these as you prepare. Questions about soft skills such as teamwork, negotiation and communication are especially popular when interviewing recent college graduates.
A lot of competency-based interview questions will require you to think about past work experiences. If you are applying for internships or have no previous work experience, you can still talk about extra-curricular activities, what you achieved as a member of a university club, or school projects you have been involved in.
The answer to these questions will usually be between a minute and three minutes long. Follow the following outline to structure your answer:
This is about setting the scene, giving a context and background to the situation. If you’re asked a question about time management, your reply should include the details of the project you were working on, who you were working with, when it happened, and where you were.
This is more specific to your exact role in the situation. You need to make sure that the interviewer knows what you were tasked with specifically, apart from the roles of the rest of the team.
This is the most important part of the STAR technique because it allows you to highlight your response to the situation. Remember, you need to talk about what you specifically did, so use ‘I’ rather than ‘we’ or ‘the team’ in your answer to showcase the skills they are looking for.
Be sure to share a lot of detail as the interviewer will not be familiar with your history; but remember to avoid any acronyms or language specific to your school or previous employer.
Your goal here is to communicate how you assessed the situation and decided on the appropriate response, and how you got the other team members involved. This is a great way to demonstrate your communication skills.
For example, if you are asked about dealing with a difficult personality on your team, you would talk about how you decided to take a certain course of action to avoid making the situation worse or upsetting the individual.
The result should be a positive one, and ideally one that can be quantified. Examples include repeat business, an increase in sales by 15% or saving the team 5 hours a week. The interviewer will also want to know what you learned, and if there was anything you’d do differently the next time you were faced with a similar situation.
The STAR technique enables you to showcase your relevant experience with the interviewer in a methodical manner. Make sure to do some in-depth preparation before the interview, coming up with some great examples to have on-hand.
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