It’s a great feeling to land a job interview for an exciting new role. The first stage in the process could mean a number of things: a quick telephone interview, a casual face-to-face meeting, online testing, or the dreaded competency-based interview.

Answers to competency-based questions don’t come as naturally to some as they do to others, but they are an essential component of the typical interview process.

The STAR method – Situation, Task, Activity, Result – is a proven technique for answering these types of questions in an easy framework to ensure you are communicating consistently and thoroughly. Particularly as job interviews can be nerve-wracking, we’ve all experienced those times when your responses have come out all jumbled, before your brain has had a chance to apply any order to all these details. Learning the STAR method and adopting this practice can therefore really give yourself the best chance to impress. Here’s how to effectively use the STAR technique in your next interview.

STAR method: Step 1 – Situation

At this first step, it’s important to set the scene for your answer and briefly, but thoroughly, describe the situation where you completed a key task or faced a challenge at work.

Example: My team was tasked with conducting market research for a new high-value client.

STAR method: Step 2 – Task

The second step is where you describe and outline your involvement or role in the situation. For instance, if you are explaining a time you worked within a team, mention the task or tasks you were involved in.

Example: I was responsible for collecting, sorting and summarising survey results from target markets in six locations.

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STAR method: Step 3 – Activity

At the third stage, it’s about clearly illustrating the strategic action you took, as well as the skills and personal attributes you used. It’s important to make this section personal to yourself, what you did and how you went about doing it.

Don’t be afraid to go into more detail here, as it will help the interviewer understand exactly why you carried out your particular actions. It also shows them that you calculated the consequence of those actions, in order to take control of a particular situation.

Example: I used our data management system to identify relevant survey participants and organise responses. From there, I visually presented common themes and insights to the client and made recommendations for next steps.

STAR method: Step 4 – Results

Finally, explain how the situation played out and the result. Mention what you personally accomplished and what you learned from the situation. It may be the case that you can apply the same skills sets and outcomes to a number of situations, a key requirement in order for you to be successful in the role, so be sure to communicate and highlight it here.

Example: Based on my research methodology and strategic recommendations, the client signed up for a further six-month contract with our company.

Putting it all together

Utilising the STAR technique in job interviews is particularly beneficial for highlighting your skills and logic when applied in real-world situations.

Whether or not you’re asked competency-based questions during your initial interview, it’s a good idea to have some examples prepared using the STAR technique, so you’re ready to sell yourself when the opportunity arises.

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