Most job interviews have a segment for competency or behavioural questions. Hiring managers use these questions to gauge a candidate's experience and qualifications. These types of questions are designed to elicit story-like responses from candidates. Successful candidates know and use the STAR technique, a proven method to systematically answer case-sensitive questions while providing all necessary details. In this article, we explain how you can use this technique for your next skills-based job interview.
The STAR technique is a method of answering questions that is comprised of four steps:
Situation: Describe the situation and when it occurred.
Task: Explain what the task and purpose are.
Action: Provide details of the action you took to achieve this.
Result: Conclude with the results of your actions.
A typical competency-based interview question usually begins with a question about when you demonstrated one of the skills listed in the job description. For this reason, you should familiarize yourself with the description before the interview to prepare for these questions. Most graduate job interviews focus on soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and negotiation. Many questions ask you to recount past work experiences. If you're applying for an apprenticeship or internship or have little work experience, talk about your extracurricular activities and accomplishments or school projects you've worked on.
The STAR Method allows you to create a simple, easy-to-follow story that presents a difficult situation and solution. Here's a breakdown of what each of the four parts of the technique means:
Set context for the story by giving context and context to the situation. If you are asked about teamwork, your answer should include details about the project, who you collaborated with, when you worked on the project, and where you were at the time.
Describe your exact role or responsibilities in the situation. Make sure the hiring manager knows what you've been specifically assigned to do, rather than what everyone else has done.
This step is perhaps the most important part of the story. Here you explain how you handled a difficult situation or overcame a problem. Tell me if you did it alone or in a group. What you're trying to convey is your assessment of the situation and your response to the problem and how you're participating in the group. Share as many details as possible so the interviewer can follow up with you. In doing so, avoid acronyms and company-specific jargon.
End the story by stating the positive results of your actions and the lessons you learned. If possible, quantify the results and show the impact of your actions. Examples might include a 10% increase in sales, customer retention, or saving your team five hours of work per week.