What is the STAR method of answering competency-based questions in an interview and how is it used? 

Interviews can be a daunting prospect, yet also an equally rewarding and helpful part of a job application process. Going in prepared is an important way of curbing interview-anxiety. Most interviews will include competency-based questions which will help the hiring managers gauge your skills and qualities. These questions will encourage you to use real-life examples and a key technique used in interviews by candidates is the STAR method. By using this method, you are given a fool-proof guide on how to answer difficult questions in a structured way, whilst ensuring that you provide all the relevant information.  

The STAR approach broken down: 

  • Situation: Describe the situation and when it happened – ‘setting the scene’ 
  • Task: Explain the task and the objection
  • Action/Approach: Give examples of what you did to resolve the situation 
  • Result: End with the result of your action – how well did the situation work out?

A common example of when you might apply the STAR technique is when the interviewer asks about a time when you have demonstrated a quality included on the job description. Usually, this will require you to draw on past work experiences – although there may be times when you are unable to recount work examples (particularly if it is your first job!) so speaking about activities and accomplishments outside of work can also be appropriate.  

Here, you want to ‘set the scene’ of your example – you do this by giving context and background to the scenario. It is best to be specific, try to include names or job titles of people you worked with and when and where the project took place. By doing this, you are making the situation more credible.  

Build on what you have previously described and detail the exact situation/task. For example, describe the position and duties that you actually had.  

Explain what you did to resolve the problem – a lot of weight is attached to this!  
Outline the steps you took that resulted in a successful outcome or overcame a difficult situation. Try and be as specific and succinct as possible to avoid the interviewer getting confused.  

What was the outcome of the situation? End the story with the positive resolution and what lessons you learned. Take this step even further and impress your interviewers by explaining in tangible terms the effectiveness of your results. For example, did your actions result in any cost savings or more streamlined processes? 

The STAR method is easy to apply and a great technique to practice before any interview. You can try this method by recalling recent situations that demonstrate how you have overcome a problem or difficult situation. Try not to be too rigid with the structure and allow your responses to flow from one to the other in a natural manner.  

Good luck! 

The Core Partnership specialises in company secretarial recruitment. If you would like a confidential career discussion, please do get in touch with Lucy on 02035890333 or email her at lp@core-partnership.co.uk.

Interview Tips