Competency based interview questions are the hardest type to answer because you need to provide specific examples of behaviours or skills. Luckily there is a great tool you can use to frame answers that will massively help you to succeed at these. This tool is the STAR framework, however I’m going to add an ‘E’ at the end and call it the STARE framework from here.
The way to use this framework is to talk through your answer in this order – i.e. discuss the situation, then your required task, then describe your actions, then explain the result, then evaluate how you performed. It’s a tough skill, but one that can improve greatly with even the smallest amount of practice.
You are telling a story when answering competency based questions in interviews – make sure your examples are engaging and flow nicely. Even if the interviewer does not recognise that you are using the framework they will appreciate the structured answer.
Don’t overtly use this framework – i.e. don’t say “using the STAR framework I’d like to answer…” or start every sentence with “Situation” or “Task”. Just let your answer flow in the order below.
S – Situation
This is the scene setting part of your story – e.g. “my boss asked me to review the last 12 months of activity our PR company has organised – important because we were feeling that we weren’t getting value for money”.
Two tips – context and conciseness. Make sure your situation is given a little context – i.e. the bigger picture. This helps your interviewers get their heads around why this situation is relevant. Also make sure you are concise – keep the situation to one or two sentences otherwise you’ll never get to what you did (the point of competency based questions).
T – Task
Task is the activity that you needed to perform – this sometimes rolls up nicely with Situation. You can see from my PR example above this is what I’ve done (boss asking me to review PR activity).
What did you do? Not us, not we, but YOU! You need to have “I” and “me” peppered throughout your answer. What steps did you take? What language did you use?
To continue the PR example above – “so I called the PR company and said that I was worried that we weren’t getting value for money – could they provide me with a list of their activities over the last year”. From this example it’s clear what you did.
R – Result
What was the specific outcome of your action? This result needs to be a worthwhile outcome when taking context into account. Continuing the PR example above – “the PR company were really shocked that I was suggesting a lack of value, immediately called my boss and complained about me. They then sent the required list through to me and my boss and offered us a 10% reduction in next years fee”.
This is now the end of the classic STAR framework – so how can you stand out from the crowd? Use my “E” – evaluate to really impress the interviewing panel.
E – Evaluate
Lots of people use STAR. To stand out from the crowd add a little evaluation to the mix – i.e. what did you learn, or what would you do differently next time? This is a really nice touch that shows your interviewer that you are always looking to improve your behaviours and skills and will leave them impressed.
I might say “The PR company weren’t very happy with me and asked my boss if they could deal directly with him next time – I’ve learnt that being pushy and direct can sometimes have some downsides. I arranged a meeting with them and smoothed it over by explaining WHY we thought there was a lack of value for money – after that they were happy to work with me”
Use the STARE framework in your next interview and it should really help you land your dream job! There’s a great book by Ceri Roderick called You’re Hired! Interview Answers: Brilliant Answers to Tough Interview Questions which you can buy from Amazon by clicking the link. It will give you some great answers that should really help in your preparation…