Answering competency based interview questions using the STAR technique

Competency based or behavioural interview questions are a way of assessing your suitability for a job, based on your prior behaviour in similar situations.  The theory is that the best way of assessing future behaviour is to look at past performance.

These competency or behavioural questions are based on the competencies required in the job, and in this article I’m going to suggest the best way to answer these.

Firstly identify the competencies for the job you are applying for.  These are usually easy to identify on the job description, you are looking for behavioural traits like, team player, people management, ability to cope in a crisis, prioritising work load, customer relationship building.  Then for each of these competencies, think about a couple of scenarios for each from your past where you have demonstrated your skilled behaviour in dealing with this situation.

Now here’s the trick, it’s really easy, and even if you don’t get asked specifically behavioural type questions you can usually use this technique to demonstrate how well you are suited to the role.

Use the STAR technique

Take each of your scenarios and split it down into

S –Describe the Situation you were in

T – Describe the Task you were faced with

A – Describe the Action you took

R – Describe the Result

R – Some people like to add an extra ‘R’ for Reflection and learning from the event.

So for instance, you are applying for a job as a Project Manager with a major EPC for the installation of a Round 2 offshore Wind Farm off the East coast of the UK.    ‘Ability to cope under pressure’ is the competency, it could be dealt with as follows:

Situation: I was Project Managing an offshore wind farm installation project from the East of England worth £1million, and it was the first of our projects with this particular client.  Unfortunately one of our suppliers had let us down for one of the components needed for the electrical connections for the Nacelle, and the job was in danger of being brought to a standstill, meaning huge potential additional costs.  The reputation of our company was at risk.

Task: As Project Manager it was my responsibility to ensure that this wind energy project went to plan, including adhering to time and cost.  In this situation I had to save the reputation of my company, the jobs of our staff, and fulfil the contract that we had agreed to with our client.  I had to find a solution quickly and within budget.  We had also commissioned 2 offshore installation vessels at significant cost which would have also been jeopardised.

Action: First of all I spoke to the client and let them know the situation, as I wanted to keep them up to speed with developments; I also kept my own management team informed too.  I assured them that I would do everything in my power to keep the project on track. I spent a hectic 14 hours getting in touch with all my engineering and procurement contacts, and eventually managed to find an alternative nacelle electrical and instrumentation engineering components supplier, and one that was in fact within 20 miles of the manufacturing yard.  Luckily they had just had a cancelled order for another offshore wind array in Europe, my job was then to negotiate a price that would be able to keep our budget on track.  Another 24 hours of negotiation and we agreed a mutually satisfactory price.

Result: The result was that our offshore installation project remained completely on track.  I managed to deliver within time and budget.  Our client was delighted, and complimented me on being able to deliver a solution in the face of unexpected major difficulties.  They were also particularly pleased that I had kept them fully informed throughout.  They have indicated that we would be the EPC company of choice for future renewable energy projects.  The alternative supply chain company are also willing to partner in future.

In keeping to this specific format you can see how you have the added benefit of the dreaded interview curse commonly known as “waffling on and going off at a tangent” for which I’m please to say there is now a cure.  Apply the STAR technique as required and you could be cured!

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4 comments so far

  1. Sukh Pabial

    Good post to help explain competency based interviews. In training I used to use the SRAOL method, which is similar – Situation, Role, Action, Outcome, Learning.


    Very good techniques.

  3. Kedar Dixit

    These are nice useful notes…This will truly help in real situation and give positive impact..


    This is an excellent post ,which gives a right directions to the renewable markets and aspirants eager to start and work in this sector.
    these are useful notes to help real situations and effective tool set for desired goal orientation.

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