What is STAR?
STAR is a technique designed to help you answer competency-based interview questions. It stands for Situation, Task, Action Result.
When should STAR be used?
STAR is useful in competency-based interviews. Competency questions help interviewers understand how you perform in certain situations. They’re also designed to be fair as each candidate is asked the same scripted question.
How to spot competency questions
Usually you’ll be told if the interview is a competency one. You can also figure out if questions are competency ones based on their wording. They usually start with:
- “Tell me about a time you’ve...”
- “Describe a situation where you…”
- “Give an example of a time when you’ve…”
How should STAR be used?
Firstly, prepare your answers before your interview. When you’re preparing for a competency-based interview, try the following:
Work out which competencies the employer is looking for
The first step is to look at the job ad. Understand what the roles and responsibilities are. Keywords or phrases are hints of what the employer wants. Examples of competencies include:
- Research skills
- Decision making
- Problem solving
- Commercial awareness
The next step is to research the role. Look for blogs, articles and career guidance related to the job role you’re applying for.
Thirdly, look up the company. Read their values and find out how they work to understand what they expect from their employees.
Gather some examples
Once you’ve figured out the competencies, think of examples from your life which demonstrate you hold the required skills and experience.
Think about situations you’ve faced in previous jobs and during your studies to help you. If you have difficulties, look over your CV to jog your memory of what your jobs involved. Also speak to colleagues and friends to ask what they’ve observed of you.
The examples can be from any part of your life, anything from a volunteering group to a sports club. Diverse examples also give employers an insight into your personality outside of work.
Structure your answers
Now you’ve got some examples, this is where STAR comes in. Tell our story by splitting it into four sections: Situation, Task, Action and Result.
- Situation: Set the scene, explain what happened, what was the issue?
- Task: Explain what you needed to do to resolve the situation
- Action: Describe what you did and why you did it, did you face any challenges?
- Result: Did you achieve your aim? What did you learn?
Make sure you give the right answer
It’s easy to get confused in interviews. Make sure you give the right example for each question.
Listen to the question properly to understand which competency it’s related to, then give the correct example.
Examples of STAR questions and answers
Question: Tell me about a time when you performed well under pressure
This question wants to find out how you handle tough, challenging or fast paced situations. Explain how you’re resilient, determined and adaptable.
In my previous role as a project officer, a member of the team had been signed off sick for a lengthy period. This meant a very important project was now incomplete and usassigned.
I was asked if I could take it on, which I did. A deadline extension was refused, leaving me with 6 working days to complete a project which needs at least twelve working days.
I requested a reduction in my weekly workload, which was accepted. This gave me more time to focus on the project. I delegated some of my usual tasks to other team members.
I completed the project on time. My superiors were very pleased with the way I handled the situation. I was allocated similar projects and I was also promoted.
Question: Tell me about a time when you’ve had to deal with confrontation
For this answer, the interviewers will want to hear how you deal with an unhappy person like a difficult customer or client. Customer service examples would work well here.
When I was a customer service advisor at a supermarket, an irate customer complained about some cocktail sausages she’d bought earlier in the day. They were out of date and her child has eaten some.
The customer threatened to take her loyalty elsewhere unless there was a resolution. There were no senior colleagues available, so it was down to me to single handedly satisfy the customer’s complaint.
Firstly I apologised to the customer before offering a replacement. As a goodwill gesture, I also gave her a full refund. I also promised to raise an investigation with the manager of the chilled foods department to avoid this happening again.
The customer was very happy with the service she received. She understood mistakes can be made and she felt comforted knowing measures would be taken to prevent this from reoccurring. She also submitted a positive feedback form to praise my service.
Whatever your answers, keep them:
- Focussed on how you contributed