There are many different types of interviews that employers are using to assess a candidate’s abilities nowadays. One of the most common you will find is the competency based interview, whereby questions will be worded so as to find out whether you possess the skills and attributes that are required for the role.

When preparing for an interview, you need to think carefully about how best to communicate your strengths and skills to your potential employer. To help support any point you make about the skills you have, you should try to provide evidence in the form of examples. Approaching a competency based question using STAR(T) will undoubtedly help you in any interview.

STAR(T) stands for:

  • Situation - How, when, where and with whom?
  • Task – What task were you faced with or what responsibilities were you given?
  • Action - What action did you take?
  • Result - What was the result or what did you achieve?
  • Additional step: Transfer - How did the situation help you develop and what did you learn?

The STAR(T) technique enables you to provide well structured, meaningful answers to your interview questions. This will make the interviewer more receptive to the messages you are trying to communicate.

For each skill or strength that you need to demonstrate, talk about a time when you have used this skill successfully. If you don’t have any previous work experience, situations you’ve been in while studying or taking part in extracurricular activities can be equally as relevant.

Step 1 – Situation and Task

The situation and task usually combined to form an introduction to your answer. You should describe the situation that you were confronted with and the task that you needed to accomplish. Make this part of your answer concise, but don’t forget to add context. For example, if you’ve been asked to describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult client, explain how you came across that person and what made them difficult.

Step 2 – Action

The action you took to accomplish the task given should form the main body of your answer. This is the most important section of the STAR(T) structure because it allows you to demonstrate the skills that the interview question is aiming to test. If your example involves work as part of a team, you need to highlight the role you played.

Remember:

  • Talk about what you did, rather than other team members.
  • Give relevant and concise details. The interviewer is looking for solid evidence and specific examples that demonstrate your competencies.
  • Avoid technical information unless it is crucial.
  • Explain what you did, how you did it and why you did it. This way, your answer will have a greater impact and provide an insight into your thinking process.
  • Think about relevant examples before you go to the interview, bearing in mind the skills and attributes that the job requires. Don’t invent a scenario on the spot as you risk of coming across as dishonest. If you cannot think of an example instantly, ask the interviewer for a moment to think.

Step 3 – Result

Explain the outcome of your actions and what you achieved. The result of your actions should be positive and preferably able to be quantified.

Additional Step 4 – Transfer

Mention what you have learnt from the experience, how it helped you develop as an individual and which of the skills you would utilise if you were to be offered the job.

Examples of competency based questions:

  • Can you describe a specific goal you set for yourself and how successful you were in meeting it?
  • Tell me about a time when you came up with an innovative solution to a challenge your company was facing. What was the challenge?
  • Give an example of a time you’ve had to demonstrate leadership.
  • Can you talk me through an example of when you had to deal with a complaint?
  • When was the last time you successfully worked as part of a team, and how did you approach this?