You’ve aced your first interview and the second interview is competency based. At this point you may have no clue what this actually means or how to answer the questions. This quick guide will tell you everything you need to know, so read on.

A common technique used by employers to measure your expertise is with competency based questions. It’s a great way for you to give specific examples of your skills and experience. Questions such as “give me an example of a time when you…”

A simple strategy you can use to answer these questions is called the STAR method

What does STAR stand for.

  • Situation: Present your example and give necessary details
  • Task: Describe what your responsibility was in the situation
  • Action: Describe the steps you took to solve it
  • Result: Share the outcomes, and what you learnt

By following the STAR structure above, you can be confident that your answer will be thorough – and to the point. It gives the employer a solid example that they can use to determine how well you might fit the job. Remember, examples you give should be about YOU, so answers should start “I…”

Step 1: Present the Situation

How you start your answer is vital for the employer. Give a specific example that supports your point, try not to go off on a tangent, make it concise and informative. If you re-read through the job specification beforehand you may be able to choose an example to which they can relate.

Example: “In my previous customer service role, a customer was unhappy about the number of calls it took to resolve an issue.”

Step 2: Highlight the Task

Here is where you can demonstrate to the interviewer exactly what your responsibilities were in the situation. Do not be tempted at this stage to start talking about what you did to resolve your example, explain in more detail what the task was you had to resolve.

Example: “I wanted the customer to be satisfied, so my goal was to be sympathetic and solve their problem to the best of my ability, without them having to speak to anyone else.”

Step 3: Explain the Action

This is the most important section of the STAR approach. This is what you will use to demonstrate and highlight the skills and personal attributes that the question is testing. Again, ensure that you use yourself as the example, not a collective or team effort. Ask yourself ‘what steps did I take to solve that problem?’

Example: “I apologised to the customer about their problem being unanswered and proceeded to ask them how I could be of help to them. I listened to them carefully, and rather than passing the complaint to someone else, I made it my priority to understand their frustration and work to provide a solution during that same phone call.”

Step 4: Emphasise the Result

This where you can show them how your actions made an impact. What was the outcome? What was accomplished? This is also a great opportunity to also describe what you learnt and what you could have done differently. It doesn’t always go right and no one is perfect however if you are self-aware and understand what you could have done to improve a situation all counts.

Example: “The customer felt understood and that their queries were answered. They didn’t escalate the complaint any further and continued to use the company’s services. I learnt to empathise with customers and made it my priority to show them that I care about their frustrations. On reflection, I realised I should ask more prompts and give the customer time to air their grievance, rather than being so quick to resolve the issue.”

The best way to answer competency based questions to is practice and prepare beforehand. Re-read the job specification, key skills and behaviours and think about how you can provide specific examples to these.

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