Competency based Interviews & The STAR Method

Competency based Interviews & The STAR Method

I wanted to discuss competency based interviews and briefly cover the STAR method as we are seeing employers use these techniques more and more. The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) defines competencies as "the behaviours employees must input into a situation in order to achieve high levels of performance”. Competencies are the skills, behaviours and knowledge you’ll bring into the role. Employers will use open questions to discover real-life scenarios where you can demonstrate you used your competencies to the best.

1. What is a competency-based interview?

Competency-based questions are designed to let you talk; they are open and they invite a response that tells the employer about a real-life challenge that you’ve faced. These questions help employers understand how you’ve previously dealt with particular situations, tasks or people. Competency questions typically lead you towards describing a situation and task.

For example, an employer may start the question by saying: Tell me about a time when … Give an example of when … Describe a time when … Have you ever been in a situation where … Competency-based interview questions always require an example of something you’ve done in the past.

2. How to answer competency- based questions?

When preparing for a competency-based interview, we advise following these four steps. Find out what competencies the employer’s looking for. Identify competency question examples. Develop a story for each competency. At interview, pick the right story for the right question. Scrutinise the job description, and make a list of the criteria the employer is likely to focus on- most bullet points in the job ad will equate to a competency. For each competency you know the employer is looking for, find an example from your work or education history that demonstrates you possess it. Prepare positive examples, show off your successes and spell out how you've brought value to previous employers.

Use the STAR technique to structure your answers and develop a story:

STAR stands for

Situation: Describe the background or context.

Task: Describe the task or challenge you were faced with.

Action: Explain the action you took, and how and why you did it.

Result: Describe how it ended, what you accomplished and what you learned from the situation. Relate the skill or ability you’re illustrating back to the vacancy you’re applying for and explain why it’s useful.

Once you’ve broken down your answer into these four sections, keep it CONCISE, don't WAFFLE, keep it POSITIVE and emphasise how you contributed to the successful outcome. Use a different story for each question. Don’t repeat yourself. Remember to give an example of when you’ve demonstrated this competency.

3. Examples of competency-based questions


Describe the biggest change that you have had to deal with in the workplace? How did you cope with it?


Tell us about a situation where your communication skills made a difference to a situation.


Tell us about a time where you had to think ‘outside the box’


Describe a time when you had to make an important decision in the workplace?


Describe a situation where you had to fully change your approach to a task.


Tell us about a time where you faced a challenge leading your team. How did you address this?


Describe a time where you positively contributed to your team.

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