Competency Based Interviews and the STAR technique

Updated: Oct 10

You may have had an invite to a competency based interview. You may have heard of them or of STAR technique, or this may be completely new to you. It's a really common interview technique so it's really a must to know it and to be able to structure interview and application answers in this way.

Employers use it as the theory goes, if you've done it before you can do it again for them.

It generally sounds like 'Tell me a time' or 'Give me an example' and they are looking for a SPECIFIC example from your career or voluntary work/study. These are particularly common for public service roles but also across many other industries.

When you hear a version of this, or if you are specifically told that you will be asked competency based questions, this is the time to use the STAR technique.

This stands for:





And is broken down like this:

Situation; What was your role/who were you working for. Set the scene

Task; What had to be done

Action; What did you do

Result; What happened in the end. (This needs to be positive)

It's important to answer the question being asked and to be specific.

If you are asked to 'Tell me a time you were involved in a project that didn't go to plan' for example think of a SPECIFIC from your past, what you did to resolve the problem and how it worked out in the end. Often people are too general, think of an actual example that stands out.

You can usually tell which questions you'll be asked by looking at the job description ie if they say that you will have to be flexible and work to tight deadlines you are very likely to be asked to 'Give me an example of a time when you had to work to a tight deadline and be flexible in your approach' so you can prep and get your answer ready.

Struggling to remember? Dig deeper and ask friends and family. They may well remember something you told them in passing that would be perfect.

Often things are memorable as they were difficult so think about difficult times and how you resolved them. Challenging customers and situations make for good examples as do times when you have changed a system or process to improve it.

Working to targets, in teams and with partners and stakeholders are common topics for questions. Here are some more that you may be asked:

  • Tell us about a situation when you failed to communicate appropriately?

  • Describe a situation where you had to explain something complex to a colleague or a client.

  • What problems did you encounter and how did you deal with them?

  • Tell us about a time when you had to sacrifice quality in order to speed up a project?

  • Describe a time when you developed and updated good practice in your area of work?

  • Give me an example of a time when you had to manage without influence?

  • Tell me about a time when you failed to plan and the impact that this had on a project?

  • Give me an example of a time when you had to deal with a challenging customer and couldn't resolve the issue alone?

  • What tools do you use to ensure you complete a number of tasks effectively?

  • Give me an example of working in a team where there was conflict. What was the cause? What did you do to help resolve the situation?

  • When was the last time you worked as part of a high performing team? What did you do to contribute to it?

If you need more help with these, I have created an Ace that Interview course which has 11 short video modules covering ALL aspects of interviews. There is extra material on competency based interviews to help you to prep and practice and you can buy the course here

If you need 1 to 1 support to prepare for a specific interview you can book a Power Hour here These are £175 and allow us to dig into your specific skills and experience and present these to employers in the best possible way.

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