Learn about the STAR interview method

Welcome to Career Academy. At The Nottingham, we believe in driving young people’s aspiration for the future. Moving from education to employment is an exciting journey but one that can require a lot of skills to reach your full potential. One of those skills is how to interview to your best ability. 

You’ve done it! The interview is confirmed and in the bag. Congratulations, you are just a few steps away from your first job after education.

Competency based interviews are one of the most common types of interviews that employers would put you through before offering you a role. Competencies are the skills, behaviours and knowledge you’ll bring into a role and this style of interview allows you to demonstrate how you have used your competencies to the best effect in previous situations.

There are some common competencies such as teamwork, communication and problem-solving and the interview questions based on these areas tend to be based around explaining a time when you used on of the core competencies in a situation. These typically start with the ‘Tell me about a time…’ phrase. The interviewer will have a set criteria on which to score you against for these questions. Having some great examples and good technique is key for a successful competency interview. STAR is a great way of remembering how best to respond to these questions.

Situation – describe the situation - this is an opportunity for you to set the scene and give some context to what you are about to tell them.
Task – what was the task or issue that needed tackling? Was there a reason that you were asked to complete the task?
Action – what did you do as well as how and why? If you worked as a group, how did you decide on who did what? What role did you take in the group?
Result – what happened, what was accomplished and was there anything you would do differently?

When giving your answer, think about details you can share; e.g. time frames, numbers, results, percentages. This allows the interviewer to build a clearer picture of your competencies.

It is worth thinking about various situations and events which may help you answer this type of question and also what competencies they may be looking for. To find this out, read the person specification which is part of the job advert.

In most cases, interviewers are looking for some or all of the following things. 

  • You can deal with problems positively
  • You are able to compromise
  • You have a willingness to learn
  • You are aware of your own limitations
  • You are willing to accept help
  • You can grow from your experiences
  • You work well within a team
  • You can work under pressure
Sometimes the interviewer will ask you to elaborate. Don’t worry, this just means that they want to hear a bit more to help you reach their criteria. Here are some top tips to remember. 
  1. Always ensure you listen to the questions so that you understand what competency you are being asked about
  2. Take a moment to think before you answer
  3. It may be useful to do some research into common interview questions but be careful about using a scripted answer to each question
  4. Remember, what may be a great answer on paper, may not be the one the interviewer is looking for
  5. Prepare a library of examples which you can speak about naturally in response to a particular question so that you can tailor your response to the person and their question
  6. Interviewers will want to see that you have a wide range of experiences, therefore, try and use a different example for each question
  7. If you have a really good example that you want to share, don’t try and shoehorn it into an answer, as you might not be answering the actual question being asked
  8. Finally, don’t be afraid to draw on experience gained through volunteering, work placements or working on projects during your education that will demonstrate the skills they are looking for. 
Good luck!

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