For many candidates, the interview process can be a very overwhelming experience with many fearing they will fail to recall important details and undersell their ability. The STAR technique is a method used to help candidates prepare for interviews, especially competency-based interviews. This method will allow you to form your answers efficiently, focusing directly on the question being asked.
What are competency-based interviews?
Competency-based interviews are designed to make the job application process unbiased as each candidate is asked the same types of questions. This form of interviewing is commonly practiced in large organisations.
An example of a competency-based question may begin with “Tell me about a time when…” This may not seem difficult, however, during the interview it is common for candidates to leave out information and wander off-topic, therefore, delivering an unstructured answer. It is important that you “sell yourself” during the interview while following the STAR technique to structure your answers.
So what is the STAR technique?
Your answer should incorporate the following elements:
S – Situation
T – Task
A – Action
R – Result
Situation: Describe the background of a particular situation when you used the competency. For example, if the competency is budgetary control, you may answer; “In my last job I was appointed to lead a project involving an €800,000 engineering factory shutdown lasting 3 weeks, and I had complete responsibility for the budget for this project. I did face some challenges on this project which required careful management to keep to budget.”
Task: Define what your particular task was in relation to this, i.e. “My duty was to ensure that the project came in on time and to budget, which required very close liaison with the discipline heads, maintenance managers and cost and planning team. As it was very important the project ran to timescale and costs were maintained as per estimates. This was my ultimate responsibility. Any overspend, delay or conflict had to be resolved immediately to keep the project to budget. One week into the project we were faced with unexpected delays due to the unavailability of essential maintenance equipment which threatened the completion of the project on time and would ultimately have prevented the plant from becoming operational again on time. This would have obviously created a loss in production and so revenue.”
Action: “I worked long hours with the buying and contracts manager, sourcing alternative suppliers and negotiating price, to keep to the original estimates. I worked closely with the planning team to reschedule some of the other work to ensure no time was lost. It was key that I kept in very close contact with the whole team throughout, as any delay would affect the budget. I examined all aspects of the project to ensure that there were no wasted costs and that, despite the tight budget, safety standards were never compromised.”
Result: “I am pleased to say that through persistence and my determination to deliver on time and to budget, the long hours paid off and a new supplier was found who has since proved to be a new and more effective supplier for us. The project was finished to time and came in a little under budget, and the whole project was carried out without accident or injury.”
It is important to note that the interviewer will probably score your response to each question. Being specific and providing background experience will allow you to gain more marks. You may also add your observations about what you learned from the experience. It is important to be prepared by going over lots of examples that will highlight your skills. Practice your answers as much as possible; the better prepared you are the more confident you will be.