How to use the STAR technique at interview –
advice from
The JobCrowd

The STAR technique is a method of answering competency based questions at interview. A competency based question will normally start with “tell us about a time when you…” and will be related to competencies/ skills listed on the job specification.

So what is the STAR technique? 

As the first part of your answer to a competency based question create a brief context- was this a skill you demonstrated at university, during your internship, during a university play or as part of a sports team?

Then become more specific. What was the task you faced specifically and how did this relate to the people you were working alongside.

This is the most detailed part of your answer. Talk about what you specifically decided to do and why. Ensure you speak as “i” rather than “we” as this demonstrates that you personally have the skills the employer wants you to demonstrate. Feel free to talk about any challenges you faced and how you overcame these.

Ensure the example you use has a positive result. If you can quantify the result in some way, even better. For example increased sales by 15%.

Here’s an example answer using the STAR Technique

“Tell us about a time when you had to juggle lots of tasks simultaneously”

S– Whilst at university I had to submit a weekly essay and also juggle being captain of the football team
T– I knew that I had to be very organised in order to ensure my football team were successful and my studies did not slip.
A– I decided to create a diary attached to my email where I segmented my time. I even planned for time when I would be travelling to the football pitches for training and during these periods planned reading that would be beneficial to my essays for university.
R– My football team climbed 5 places in the universities league and I was able to achieve a 2:1 grade thanks to managing my time efficiently.

Try using the STAR technique next time you go into an interview!

Jo Cooper


Guest blog: Interview Tips for Graduates

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert

Interviews can be nerve-wracking even for the most confident and experienced of people. Graduates embarking on potentially their first job search need to prepare extremely well and practice the art form of giving a good interview. If you’ve been invited to interview then you’re doing better than most already but the hard work has only just begun. Here at Wayfair we’ve put together some tips for students and graduates on achieving interview success and getting your foot on the first rung of the professional ladder!

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Step One: Preparation

The more you know about the company you’re interviewing for, the more at ease you will feel and the more you will be able to impress the interviewer. Knowing about what the company does, their size, and their presence in the marketplace shows interest and engagement in the company, something that is crucial if you want to win a job offer.

You should also think about how the division you’re being considered for fits into the company as a whole. This’ll help you gain a better understanding of what type of person they might be looking for and which of your experiences is most relevant to the role.

Tip: Always look at the company’s website and read any information provided, including the job description, prior to the interview.

It may be that you don’t have an abundance of relevant professional experience which means that you will have to draw on other experiences to show that you’re the right person for the job. To prepare well, study the job description and make notes on what skills and experiences the company are looking up. Then line up your CV with the job description; work out which of your own experiences tie in with what they’re looking for and make clear in your own mind which of your experiences and skills are most relevant to the job so that you can talk about these clearly at the interview.

The next step is to think about what questions they might ask and how you might answer them. You could always try practicing interviewing in front of the bathroom mirror or with a friend or family member.

Another good way to prepare is to think of some questions beforehand that you might like to ask at the end of the interview. This is an opportunity to show that you’re engaged with the company and also gives you the opportunity to ask about aspects of the job that are important to you and find out if the company suits you.

Tip: It’s a good idea to check the news on the days running up to your interview, just in case anything major is happening that involves or might affect the company that you’re interviewing for.

Step Two: Planning

It’s extremely important to be punctual for an interview. Arriving late or hot and bothered after a rushed journey will cloud your mind and affect your confidence. Allow plenty of time for delays and if you really are stuck, phone ahead to let the company know that you’re running late or can’t make it.

Make sure you get enough sleep the night before and eat plenty before the interview so that you’re feeling refreshed. You should be at your best so that you can focus and represent yourself as best as possible!

Step Three: Presentation

How to dress for an interview may seem like a complicated decision, especially if you’re unfamiliar with professional wardrobe standards. The answer is simple: formal. It’s safest to dawn a suit (skirt or trousers) with smart shoes. For graduates in particular, what you wear will help you to come across as mature, professional and serious about gaining the position.

Tips: A good way to gauge how you should dress is to aim to dress a level of smartness above what you would for the job.

Your body language is also a key part of the impression you give. Smile, make eye contact with the interviewer, and leave your arms uncrossed by placing your hands on your lap so as not to create a barrier between you and the interviewer.

How you speak is also important and your voice will give it away if you’re nervous so take control. Give yourself time to answer questions; you can take a few moments to consider how you’re going to answer a question and speak naturally and not too fast.

Tip: First impressions matter. A firm handshake at the start and end of an interview together with your verbal and non-verbal communication is critical to creating a professional image.

Step Four: Mindset

Regardless of how you’re feeling about the prospective job, get excited about it and go with the objective of getting it. This will help you to automatically create a positive representation and give you a much better chance of actually getting the job.

Remember also that an interview is equally about you working out if the company suits you as well as it’s about the company working out if you’re right for them. Having this in mind may help to boost your confidence and settle nerves.

Be confident in yourself—the fact that you’ve been asked to interview shows that the company believes you can do the job. Now they just want to see whether you’re genuine and work out whether you’re a good fit for the team.

And with that, we wish you the very best of luck!

Guest blog by Florence Edwards, Wayfair

Guest blog: Be prepared for job interviews

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert

So you’ve got past the first hurdle of making your CV stand out amongst hundreds of applicants, and managed to bag yourself an interview. Congratulations! But in order to secure your dream job, you must first make it through the next stage: the dreaded graduate job interview. These can be a lot trickier than an interview for some part-time bar work at your local pub, so it’s best to be prepared. At Spotlight Recruitment, we help graduates prepare for job interviews every day, so to help you in your search, we have put together the top 5 questions you are bound to be asked, and the best way of answering them.images


1.    “Tell me about yourself…”

Strictly speaking, this isn’t a question, but it’s something that will come up a lot during interviews and can definitely throw some people! But don’t panic; you can keep your answer fairly brief and just give the interviewer a brief run-through of your CV. Talk about your degree, the different modules, then any bits of relevant work experience, volunteering, or extra-curricular activities you have done.

2.    “Why do you want the job?”

This questions is almost guaranteed to be asked during a job interview, so make sure to have an answer prepared before you go. And be specific. Don’t just say why you want to work in the industry, tell the interviewer what it is about the role and the company that you are interested in. Read the job description carefully before you go and read up on the company.

3.    “What is your main strength?”

This is your chance to show what you can bring to the role. Think about what you are good at, then pick something which is related to the job you are interviewing for. If you are going for an accounting role for example, it’s best to mention your ability with numbers rather than the fact you’re a talented pianist. It’s also better to be specific so you stand out. If you’re interviewing for a marketing position, instead of saying “I’m creative”, say something like “I’m always the one coming up with new ideas when doing a group project.”

4.    “What is your biggest weakness?”

This is one of the hardest interview questions to answer and can often throw graduates! Avoid the “I’m a workaholic” cliché; admit a genuine weakness. The best way to go about it is to pick something that’s not directly related to the role, then go on to show your strengths and explain how you work around it. For example, you could say you’re not good at public speaking, but get around it by being organised and preparing what you are going to say when you have to give a presentation (although don’t use this one if it’s a sales role!).

5.    “Describe a time where…”

Competency questions are often used in graduate job interviews. It’s a good idea to have some good examples lined up before you attend the interview that can be adjusted to fit different situations. Think back to university group projects, part-time jobs, volunteer work, travel, or any extra-curricular activities you have done. Then answer the question using the STAR technique: describe the situation, the task you had, the actions you took, and the result. Make sure to be specific on the actions you took to resolve the situation.

Guest blog by Alice Riley from Spotlight Recruitment

Be bold : don’t wait for your perfect job to find you …

Adam Schoch 24.2.15

Today’s Alum in the ‘what I wish I’d known when I was a SOAS student’ series was Alex Schoch (on the right in the picture).

Alex graduated in 2009 with a degree in History & Asian Studies without a really clear idea of what he wanted to do, but a very clear interest in sustainability and clean technology.

He’d heard of Tesla Motors which was (at the time) a small start-up modifying the Lotus Elise to become a battery-powered car, and called them up speculatively to see if they had anything for him. To cut a long story short, due to his interest in the sector and his convincing story, he was hired and became the European Sales and Marketing director by 2014, managing a team which had grown from 4 to 250 people in 35 European locations. Tesla worldwide now has about 1200 people and a market capitalisation of over $50bn, so it’s clearly no longer a start-up!

Alex’s boldness clearly paid off. He’s currently on a sabbatical year, and due to return to Tesla in March to head the division which will explore battery storage on a grand scale.

Alex and the students who came to the session had a really interesting discussion about the relevance of degree subject to jobs in Sales & Marketing (answer: not necessarily relevant); why he chose the degree he did (answer: it was a passion he longed to pursue); how he learnt the technical skills for his job (answer – make sure you spend enough time with the experts to get the gist of what they are saying and have confidence in yourself).

There was also a fascinating discussion about what Alex looks for when he is hiring fresh graduates himself (answer – people who have taken the trouble to research the company thoroughly rather than just rely on the ‘about us’ page on the website; people who can show their passion for the company’s ethical approach).

Finally, here are Alex’s top tips for current SOAS students

1. While you are at University, don’t think you have so many classes and seminars that you won’t have time to do anything else. Take all opportunities to go out and look for clubs, events, activities which will help you to deepen your own interests and may give you some new contacts.

2. Look for roles or sectors which interest you but don’t restrict yourself – you may find that that a similar role in a different sector, or a different role in the same sector would bridge your interests and skills.

3. All work experience is useful – try and make it last at least a month so you can demonstrate you have completed a project or achieved a result as part of your work experience.

Philippa Hewett

Is this one interview question people don’t prepare for?

We all know interviews are a bit of a game – they have rules (of a sort) and there are many well-rehearsed formulae for answering questions (and if the above comes as news to you, then either take a look at the Careers pages for some ideas, or book a Quick Query in the Careers Service).

The Good Day At Work site has just published a really interesting article about the latest ‘killer question’ designed to get to the real you rather than the well-rehearsed actor.

It is this:

‘Tell me something I wouldn’t know from looking at your CV’

This might sound odd, given how much time everybody spends perfecting their CV, but what it is designed to do is find out a bit more about the real you – your enthusiasms, your ideas, what makes you tick – to see how close a fit you are to the organisation you are applying for.

Read the full article here:

If you’d like to practice your interview skills and don’t have a real interview booked, why not come to one of the alumni interview sessions? These are held monthly and are designed to give you the experience of both being interviewed and being on the interviewing panel, so you can see what works in a safe environment. The next one is on 5th March from 2:00 – 4:30 and will be hosted by Olamide Bada who is now a corporate lawyer – here’s a link to book a place.

Philippa Hewett

Emotional Intelligence and the interview process

Do happy employees create more profit?

Whatever your views about emotional intelligence (EQ), it is fair to say that a lot of organisations are keen to test how candidates can demonstrate it as part of the interview process.

Broadly, EQ is the ability to understand and manage your emotions in a positive way, which is generally considered to be one of the ways of managing stress effectively and fitting in to a variety of teams.

Here’s a link to an interesting page on Good Day At Work which identifies some potential interview questions to test EQ such as:

“What aspects of your work are you passionate about?”

“What makes you angry?”

“How do you like to have fun?”

If you get asked a question like this at an interview, then take a moment to make sure you give a really authentic answer which shows the interviewer what makes you tick, and how it will fit in with the organisation you are applying to join.

Philippa Hewett

The 360 degree interview experience

Today marked a first for the Careers department when we ran the pilot of the Alumni mock interview workshops.

The workshops are designed for current students to give them an idea of what it is like to be on both sides of the interview table, as recruiter and as candidate, and to get a chance to talk to a SOAS Alumnus currently working in an interesting role.

Steve Lipscombe (BA Modern & Classical Chinese, 2010) who heads a team for the BBC’s NGO (Media Action) came in to chair the interview panel, supported by a member of the SOAS Careers team.

Each student attending the workshop took it in turns to be  a member of the interview panel, the candidate, or to complete a typical interview in-tray exercise.

Candidates were given feedback on their interview at the end of it, and some practical tips from Steve and the Careers Service at the end of the workshop.

All attendees found the experience really useful, particularly the opportunity to be part of the interview panel and also the practical, real-life advice from Steve, who was in their position not so long ago.

“Extremely helpful! A nice small-sized workshop.”

“Got really practical advice”

“I think it was very useful to be the interviewer for one session, to understand the perspective of the employer. Thanks a lot!”

“Very useful experience, especially for those with not much similar experience”

Steve is also part of the ‘Take an Alum for Coffee’ scheme, where you can buy him a coffee and find out more about his career path, so if you’d like to know more then take a look here.

And if this has whetted your appetite, why not book yourself onto the next session?

Philippa Hewett