How do I answer competency based interview questions?

Posted on Posted in Ask Alison

At some point in your job search you’ll come across competency based questions. These are questions which are designed to test your reactions to real life scenarios.

I mentioned them in a previous post but, as a reminder, the acronym STAR stands for:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

Let’s look at each one in more detail.

Steps One and Two – Situation and Task

This is your opportunity to give a specific example of a situation related to the question or describe a task that you had to accomplish. You should put your response in context making sure that you:

  • are clear and informative
  • only give detail that is relevant to the story you’re telling

Step Three – Action

This is where you show the interviewer that you have all the skills they are looking for by explaining the action youtook relating to the situation or task.

In steps one and two you put your story in context so now you need to explain your actions. Again, only give information that is essential to the story.

In a nutshell you need to explain:

  • what you did
  • how you did it
  • why you did it

This is your story so make it personal – say “I did this”, and “I did that”.

Step Four – Result

This is where you can explain what happened and how the situation ended. In other words, you explain the result of your actions. This is your opportunity to describe what you accomplished and what you learnt and enables you to highlight further skills.

Interviewers want to know that you have taken specific actions to achieve the desired result and have not simply arrived there by chance.

Let’s break this down further with a real example.

You’re in your interview and the question is asked:

“Can you tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult customer?”

Don’t panic – just take a deep breath and remember the STAR technique.

STAR technique

Steps One and Two – Situation or Task

This is where you can talk about:

  • how you came to meet the difficult customer
  • why they were being difficult

For example:

  • “I was working in a cafe”
  • “A customer had been given the wrong order”

Step Three – Action

Try and think of examples of:

  • what you did
  • how you did it
  • why you did it

For example:

  • “I remained calm and apologised to the customer” (what)
  • “I checked his order and prepared the correct order myself” (how)
  • “I did not want to lose his custom in the future” (why)

Step Four – Result

Let the interviewer know:

  • what happened
  • the final outcome

For example:

  • “The customer calmed down and was grateful for the speedy correction of his order”
  • “He thanked me for my assistance”

Although using the STAR technique can seem daunting at first practice definitely makes perfect.

If you think you would benefit from some interview coaching please get in touch.

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