How to prepare for a competency based interview

How to prepare of competency based questions using the STAR Technique

Interviews can be a nerve-wrecking experience for everyone. Even the most experienced interviewees may feel nervous, under pressure and unconfident in interview scenarios. When the pressure is on, it’s easy to accidentally respond to competency-based questions with unstructured, long-winded answers. A great way to avoid this is by using the STAR technique to respond to questions.

Employers ask competency-based questions for a number of reasons. They give employers an insight into tasks you have completed in the past, your ability to demonstrate you know what you’re talking about and to find out how you work best. They also tell employers how you have dealt with challenges and how you are likely to respond to difficult situations.

The STAR technique is formed of four areas your answers should cover; the Situation, Task, Activity and Result. Using these four words will allow you to form structured and considered responses, while avoiding the omission of important details.


What happened? Set the scene for your story about a situation which didn’t go quite to plan.

For example: An angry customer calls you to complain of a bad experience received when dealing with someone from your company, and threatens to stop using your company’s services in the future.


Explain how the situation related to your role, and what the objective was.

Your role included maintaining good working relationships with customers and ensuring their experiences were positive. You had to investigate and resolve all negative complaints.


What did you do? Tell the interviewer everything you did to rectify the situation.

You calmed down the angry customer by speaking with them in more detail about what happened during their bad experience. You notified the manager of the relevant team and found out the complaint was about a new member of staff. You asked the Team Manager to consider additional customer service training for the new employee, and contacted the customer to apologise and advise them that new staff will be receiving further training.


What happened as a result of your actions?

The customer felt they had been listened to and decided to give your company another chance. The new employee felt more confident after receiving additional training, and the Team Manager is delighted with their progress. The Team Manager subsequently arranged for all staff to have a training day every month to ensure they were on top of their game. Sales have increased by 10% since the training days were implemented.

Put your new skills into practice!

Firstly, when used correctly, the interviewer will be unaware that you are using the STAR technique or following a formula.

Practice answering a few situations by researching common interview questions. This will help you feel more prepared when you are in an interview and you will be able to think of a larger range of relevant answers.

Secondly, when answering competency based questions, you may have more than one example. Try to choose the example that is most relevant to what is being asked. This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to think of an example which is the most impressive instead of an example which properly answers the question.

Also, try to think of an example which is fairly recent so the interviewer understands that you know how to solve a problem and you are able to use your initiative. Lastly, try to be specific when answering the question, including relevant numbers or company titles, and keep reminding yourself of the question the interviewer had asked you.

Keep on topic, and if you find you are drifting from the point, move to the next step of the STAR formula.

If you would like more support for your job interview please contact us.