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

What is an assessment centre?

We have recently seen a number of students wanting information about how to perform well at assessment centres. The main questions they ask is what is it and how do I perform well?  Basically, it is an employer location; some call it a recruitment location/centre where they will test you to see if you have the skills and abilities to do a particular job.  You would have received an invitation from the employer, because at this stage of the recruitment the employer thinks you have great potential and they would like to me you and get to know you better.

The key to performing well is preparation, just as you would prepare for any examination or essay. Assessment centers are designed specifically to assess your suitability for a job, and you’ll go through a series of tasks and activities that are structured to see whether you can do the job. So typically in addition to more interviews you may have:

Firstly, read the information from the employer carefully, this will tell you what to expect on the day; what  sort of activities the employer is going to use to assess you, so that, if you have to prepare a presentation or brush up on your numerical (maths) skills, you have some time to do so before the day. If you are not sure, please do contact the employer for further information.

Go over your application again, review the job details and company information.  You can also look at the employer website, news website and newspapers for recent articles involving the employer, its competitors and the business sector.

Practice interview sessions can be arranged with SOAS Careers Service.  We also have various opportunities for students to practice psychometric tests as well.

Plan your travel well and allow an additional 30mins for delays. Remember to take the direction and contact details with you as well.  Think about what you are going to wear in advance, first impressions are instant and it takes seconds for a complete stranger to formulate a positive or negative opinion of you, so consider carefully your outfit for the day.

For more information about assessment centres please do contact the Careers Service on tel: 020 7898 4115, email:

Diana Omololu

Prepare to be an interview STAR(R)!

11 March alum session

Preparation, preparation, preparation….

The need to prepare thoroughly for interviews was one of the hints and tips which came out of our latest mock interview workshop held on March 6th. Olamide Bada (SOAS LLB 2011) now a Corporate Associate at Baker and McKenzie LLP was part of our interview panel and gave valuable feedback to students on how to develop their interview technique.


This week’s mock interview candidates were applying for jobs in law, journalism and the charity sector. It was clear; however, that researching the organisation and being able to talk fully about why you wanted to work for them was a key element of any interview.  What has your target employer achieved recently?  Who are their competitors?  Who are their clients?  What challenges may the organisation be facing?  All of these questions can be starting points for research which, when used in an interview, can show that you have gone that extra mile as a candidate.


Don’t forget to think about how to structure your answers effectively.  The recruiter needs to be able to understand the context, what you did and what the outcome was.  Try using STARR to present examples of what you have achieved when asked to describe a time when you have worked in a team, solved a difficult problem, initiated a change or used a variety of other skills.

Situation: Describe the context in which your example takes place.

Task: What did you do?

Action: How did you do it? What action did you take?  This is often the part of the answer that candidates miss out.  Don’t just say that you ‘negotiated’ or ‘persuaded’.  What did this involve?

Result: What did you achieve? Try to be as specific as possible.

Reflect: What did you learn from this experience?

And there’s more

Imagine the scenario, you have just given a good answer, well structured and full of evidence but the interviewer wants more! Be prepared for follow up questions to explore, in more depth, the examples which you have given; what would you differently next time?  What would you do if….

Practice makes perfect  (or at least very good!)

When was the last time outside of an interview that anyone wanted to know what you greatest achievement was or when you worked effectively in a team? We rarely need to answer these questions in our day to day lives so getting some interview practice before the real thing can be very helpful indeed. Olamide suggested that recording yourself answering some common interview questions will help you improve your technique. Are your answers structured, do you use umm or aahh too much or do you speak too quickly? You could ask a friend to play the part of the interviewer and the Careers Service has a great handout on ‘Challenging interview questions’ which you could use.

If you want more practice

  • Forthcoming Alumni Mock Interview sessions will be advertised on our events page and our newsletters.
  • Use Interview Simulator to practise your interview technique against the clock. You can record your answers and then compare your responses against video advice from employers. Please contact us for more information.
  • If you have an interview coming up then you can book a practice interview with a Careers Consultant. Contact us for details.

As one of our mock interview candidates said at the end of the session

‘The whole mock interview process really gave me an insight into what to expect from a real interview….I’m much more confident now’