3 April 2023

The STAR Interview Technique

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When it comes to answering competency-based questions, we’d always recommend following the STAR interview method.

What is the STAR interview technique?

The STAR interview technique is a structured way of preparing for competency-based questions, using the Situation – Task – Action – Results technique. But before we delve into what STAR includes, what exactly are competency-based questions?

Below is a list of commonly asked questions that you might face when applying for school leaver programmes, from apprenticeships to traineeships.

Common competency-based questions in job interviews

  • Can you give us an example of a time when you worked with other team members to achieve an end goal or result?
  • What is the main challenge you’ve faced at work in the last year and how did you tackle it? What did you learn from the experience?
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • How would your enemies describe you? (A good question)
  • What are your main strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?


SITUATION: What was the situation that you faced? When did it happen?

TASK: What was the task you had to take part in? What was the objective of the task?

ACTION: What action did you take to achieve your objective? How did you tackle the problem you faced?

RESULTS: What was the result of your actions? How did you measure your success? What did you learn from the situation (evaluation)? What skills did you learn?

The STAR interview technique in practise

Sounds good in principle, but how can the STAR interview technique be applied to real-life situations?

‘Eleanor, describe to us a time when you have led a team…’

SITUATION: I was working at Waterstones as a sales assistant during the Christmas holidays while the store was going through a rebrand.

TASK: As the store steadily became busier, I moved over to the children’s department. My job was to ensure the smooth running of the rebrand while also providing good customer service.

ACTION: To support the rebranding in the children’s department, I had regular meetings with the store manager. This meant I was aware of when new stands or shelves were coming in and was able to manage my time effectively to help set these up in time for the reopening.

RESULTS: We achieved record sales during the Christmas period, a 50% increase on last year, while the rebrand continued with no issues. I was presented with an ‘Employee of the Quarter’ award in recognition of how I managed the team.

Application forms

Competency-based questions are also a feature of application forms. Here are a few things to consider… ​


Give yourself a nice amount of time to complete the application form. If you rush, or leave it until two hours before the deadline, chaos will ensue. 

Find somewhere where you can fill it out in peace and avoid disturbances. It’s also a smashing idea to print off the application form, so that you can plan out your ideas in a rough draft before writing a final answer online.

EPM have put together this fun video to explain how you can use the STAR technique in an interview.


  • Check spelling and grammar! This is crucial. Employers have kittens when they find spelling mistakes!
  • Ensure you have referred to the employer correctly – listing the wrong employer or spelling their name incorrectly will not win you any friends. If you’re being interviewed by a lady called Sue, and you call her Sharon, Sue is unlikely to see the funny side. 
  • Personal and contact details… are your email address, phone number and name listed correctly? If you fill your name out wrong, then it’s probably best to go home. The employer won’t be able to contact you if your details aren’t accurate.  
  • Have you answered all the questions? Unless stated, there shouldn’t be any questions left unanswered. If there are large, eerie blank spaces on your application form, expand on your answers. 


Losing unsaved work is one of the worst things that can happen to a person. 

Write your responses in a separate document, then copy and paste them into the application form. That way, if you lose internet connection or your computer freezes, you will not have to start the whole process again.

If you are applying for multiple schemes, it can be useful to have a set of notes saved from a previous application. You can tweak a response if a similar question comes up.

Some application forms allow you to save a draft, or save your work as you answer each question. Take advantage! ​