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Tell Me About a Time When………(and other competency interview questions)

You’ve been selected for an interview. It’s a job you are passionate about and really want to give the best account of yourself. Maybe, you’ve contacted the employer to ask about the format of the interview and have been told it will be a competency based interview.

Don’t panic. There is a lot you can do to prepare for this so you don’t get the dreaded mind blank as you furiously try to recall a time when you did something. You have examples, lots of examples, but without preparation there’s a good chance you could start going off on tangents, and not ending up answering the question being asked.

An interviewer only has a finite amount of time to cover all the competencies they are looking for, so it’s really important that you can answer clearly and concisely covering all the pertinent details required.

This is where the STAR approach comes in and gives you a structure to tell your story.

The Star Approach

STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action and Result, and can help you prepare your interview responses.


This sets the scene and gives your answer context. It should be brief but ensure you choose a situation that clearly demonstrates your skills in relation to the question being asked.


What was required of you. You could include your overall goal, the timeframe, the budget and what you had responsibility for.


What did you (not ‘we’!) do? This is the key part of your answer and needs to clearly convey what you did to achieve your objective. Be clear and specific on the actions you took to address the task in hand.


What was the outcome? What positive impact did you have? Can you quantify your results to really demonstrate how you added value? You could also include what you learnt from this situation.


Some organisations will tell you which competencies you will be interviewed against. Try to think of a different example for each one. If you are not told of the competencies, the job description will give you a good idea of what could come up. Identify the skills they are looking for and think of times you have demonstrated this using the STAR approach.

Interviewers are looking for evidence of when you have demonstrated these competencies, so when preparing for your interview think about some of the specifics that showcase your expertise. The STAR method will help you remain focussed and answer interview questions clearly and concisely.

Practice relating your STAR stories to a friend or use your phone to record yourself to help you become more confident. Need some more help? Get in touch, I offer bespoke interview coaching and can work 1:1 with you to hone that interview technique.


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