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Be a STAR at your next interview

Be a STAR at your next interview

In an interview you are faced with a wide range of questions, all structured to generate different responses.  Most questions will be open-ended – requiring more detail than a simple yes or no.

Competency based questions are designed so the interviewer can better understand your approach to a task, how you react, and act in certain work situations, as well as what learnings you have taken from your past experiences.

The STAR approach is a way to answer such questions. STAR stands for:

Situation – describe the setting for the interviewer.

Task – explain what you had to do, your roles and responsibilities in the situation.

Action – what did you do to address the situation?

Result – what was the outcome and what did you learn?

Examples of competency questions are:

  • Share an example of a time when you faced a difficult problem at work. How did you solve this problem?
  • Tell me about a time you made a mistake at work and how you handled it?
  • What is the most difficult decision you have had to make and how did you react?
  • Share an example of a time when something went wrong. How did you address the problem and what did you learn?
  • Tell me about a time you worked as a team to achieve a specific goal, and describe the specific role you played.

How to prepare for an interview using the STAR technique

Ask a friend or family member to ask you some questions and practice covering off the STAR points.

  • Consider the objectives and requirements of the role you are interviewing for, prepare stories of your achievements or situations relevant to this specific position.
  • Make a list of situations where you overcame adversity and how you achieved this.
  • Describe a goal you accomplished and the steps you took to achieve this.

The STAR technique gives you the framework to craft your story, which will give the interviewer a greater understanding as to your abilities and suitability for the position you are applying for.

Here's an example:

"Tell me about a time you were under pressure at work and how you handled the situation?"

Your answer:

Situation: I work well under pressure.  This year has been challenging for all businesses including ours. Going into lockdown it was my responsibility to transition the team to working from home and for the business to stay connected to our customers. There was a short time-frame to achieve this.

Task: I needed to ensure staff could connect and communicate working from home, we could update our website and had access to our customer database.

Action: I assessed what needed to be done and prioritised my tasks to ensure the team were all able to successfully work from home.  I liaised with our relevant suppliers to ensure we were all remotely connected and communicated with our other suppliers affected as our physical office would be closed.

Result:  The team were all able to log in and continue working successfully from home, we had no issues communicating within our team or our customers and our office was secure during the time it was closed. Our business continued to trade during a challenging time for all businesses.

With a few examples on hand, and by practicing beforehand, you will be ready for whatever questions arise at your interview.  By using the STAR technique, you will ensure you answer the question thoroughly, with the detail required to showcase your skills and abilities to your potential new employer.

Claire Hewson

Claire Hewson

Our resident Managing Director, Claire is our in-house HR practitioner, qualified psychometric assessor and career coach.

Phone 06 280 2399 Mobile 027 541 4013 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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(06) 356 6091 Fax: (06) 356 6071

53 Princess Street, Palmerston North 4410
PO Box 594, Palmerston North 4440


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