How to Shine like a “STAR” in a Competency Based Interview!

Competency based interviews are becoming increasingly popular. These interviews are made up of a number of targeted questions that require interviewees to describe specific situations or tasks allowing the interviewer to gain an insight into how the candidate would deal with a particular situation that would present itself within the course of the role you are applying for. The reason behind asking competency based questions is that a candidates past performance is the best indicator of their future performance. These are not trick questions, they’re designed to create the best match between a candidate and an organisation and they are an excellent opportunity for you to showcase your skills.

As always preparation is key. We always recommend that candidates have 4-5 focused project examples that they have worked on previously, relating to the job spec. You will need to be able to talk through your examples in a very methodical way in order to demonstrate your suitability for the role. One simple way to ensure you achieve this, is to format all your answers using the “STAR” approach

(S) – Situation.

Describe the situation as a backdrop for the task you needed to deliver. This gives the interviewer a detailed overview of the environment surrounding the project. It is important to bring the situation to life. Numbers work very well here to create a clear picture. For example – instead of stating “a busy role” you could say “serving as many as 100 customers per day”.

(T) – Task

Describe the purpose. You need to make sure that the interviewer knows what you were tasked with, rather than the rest of the team. What was the desired outcome and reason for project in first place?

(A) – Action.

This is what you did, or the body of the story. What action did you take to deliver on your requirements? Describe how you behaved during the situation. The most common mistake at this stage is to use the word “We” instead of the word “I” when describing actions. Doing this will dilute your contribution.

(R) – Results.

The final part of the technique where you state the results or outcomes of the situation. The result should be a positive one, and ideally one that can be quantified.  What did you accomplish? What did you learn?

Some common competency based questions

  • Describe a situation where you influenced someone to accept an idea that they were initially reluctant to take on board.
  • Give an example of how you provided a service to a client beyond their expectations?
  • Give an example of when you’ve overcome a problem at work.
  • Give me an example where your listening skills proved crucial to an outcome.
  • Give an example of a difficult or sensitive situation that required extensive communication?
  • Describe something you have done to improve the performance of your work unit?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to lead a team to achieve an objective?
  • Describe the things you consider and the steps you take in assessing the viability of a new idea or initiative.
  • Tell us about a time you had to adjust your communication approach to suit a particular audience.
  • Describe a time when you were in a high pressure situation?
  • Describe a time when things didn’t turn out as you had planned and you had to analyze the situation to address the issue.