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Interview and presentation skills

Competency based interview questions: The STAR approach

The STAR Approach  

The STAR approach is a communication technique designed to enable you to provide a meaningful and complete answer to questions asking for examples. Its stands for:  

  • Situation 
  • Task 
  • Action 
  • Result

1. Situation and Task 

Describe the situation that you were in and the task that needed to be accomplished. Keep it clear, concise, and informative, making sure you only focus on information that is useful to the story. 

2. Action 

This is the most important section as it demonstrates the skills and personal attributes that the question is testing. Now that you have set the context of your story, you need to explain what you did, how you did it, and why you did it.  

  • Be personal, i.e. talk about you, not the rest of the team, so avoid “we did….”.  
  • Go into some detail. Do not assume that they will guess what you mean. 
  • Steer clear of technical information unless it is crucial to your story.

3. Result 

Explain what happened and how it all ended. Use this opportunity to describe what you accomplished and what you learned from the situation. This helps you make the answer personal and enables you to highlight further skills. 

General Tips  

  • If you have been given a job description the required competencies may be detailed within it. 
  • Some companies list their generic leadership competencies on their website in the About Us section. 
  • Prepare for the interview by; researching the competencies you will be asked about (see above), thinking through relevant examples you can draw upon to evidence this, and sketching out some answers. 
  • At an interview always stick to the question you have been asked, don’t go off-topic. 
  • If you don’t catch all the questions or need to buy time – ask for the question to be repeated. 
  • Provide specific evidence or not just what you did but how you did it. 
  • Avoid generalist answers, i.e. “I have lots of examples of that, when I am in that situation I usually…”. Keep it specific with an actual example. 
  • A good detailed answer to a competency question may take five minutes, if it is ten minutes plus it is too long an answer. 
  • If you are unsure if you have given enough detail you can ask – “Have I gone into enough detail or are there any aspects you would like me to expand on?”