Leah Exton

August 17, 2023, by Jackie Thompson

How STAR Helped Me Get a Graduate Scheme After Uni

By Leah Exton, Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience student

In this blog post, I’ll explain what the STAR interview technique is all about and how it helped me to secure a graduate scheme straight after leaving university.

Learning about competencies

Interviews are considered one of the more daunting parts of the application process and for myself, being interviewed was my worst nightmare. When applying, career advisers offered sessions about the interview process and their tips on succeeding. The main tip highlighted was to focus on matching myself to the company’s competencies. When I first heard this, I was baffled about what a ‘competency’ was and how it related to my interview, so I did some research.

Companies highlight key characteristics and skills they want candidates to have and label these as their competencies. Explaining situations where you have demonstrated these skills in a concise manner is imperative for succeeding during the interview stage as it shows employers that you have the characteristics they want in an applicant.

Using the STAR technique

The STAR (Situation, Task, Action, and Response) structure for interview questions ensures that as a participant, you concisely and accurately demonstrate your ability to produce the skills the company wants.

My company highlighted leadership as a key competency for succeeding, so I produced a STAR response explaining how I demonstrate good leadership ability.

  • Situation: give a brief description of the context, so employers know how the skill described can be applied to the scenario
  • Task and action: explain what you did to demonstrate the skill
  • Response or result: demonstrating how the skill allowed you to overcome the barrier you were facing

To make sure I was ready for any characteristic-based question, I prepared STAR responses for all the company’s competencies (most companies have around seven or eight), that way I knew I could be confident when answering any question based on my character.

One-way interview

My interview was a one-way interview, which is where you record yourself giving answers to a question in timed conditions. I had ninety seconds to prepare an answer and had to finish my answer within two minutes.

Having a one-way interview was more daunting than in-person interviews as I had nobody to address while giving my answers, so it was difficult to gauge whether I was saying the right thing. During my interview, I answered around two or three competency questions and the remaining questions were scenario based so the employers could assess how I would handle certain situations.

I completed my interview in my university house and made sure my surroundings were quiet and professional so the employers could focus on my answers, rather than being distracted by background noise.

After my interview, I felt relieved that it went well and was not as daunting as I had originally predicted. Doing the STAR structured answers prior to my interview meant that I was prepared for any competency-based question, felt confident in my answer structure, and could use my pre-prepared answers in other areas of the application process.

Preparation is key

When applying for a graduate scheme, it is therefore important that you research the company’s competencies and prepare STAR structured responses related to these, so you demonstrate that you have the skills needed to join the company. Additionally, nerves before an interview are normal but if you have researched the company and done the correct preparation you should be ready for any question they may ask!

Our team can help you through all aspects of the graduate or internship recruitment process from start to finish. Check out their workshops, practise psychometric and interview resources, and lots more…

Posted in Applying For JobsInterviews