Excel at Interviews: The Simplest Technique to answer The Trickiest Questions

Competency based questions are asked more than ever before. And these are the very questions which do not have a right or the wrong answers. The very questions, you do not know if you’ve answered well or not even after the interview is over. More often than not we underestimate their weightage. It’s these answers that speak volumes about us [our most critical qualities]; Based on which the interviews take a call.

Interview Questions India

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Typical competency based questions and ways to answer them:

Past Behaviour Questions

  1. Tell me about a time when…
  2. Can you think of an incidence where you displayed…
  3. Describe why you call yourself a team player or a good communicator [or any such traits you might have mentioned in your profile or during the interview].

Ways to answer Competency Based Behavioural Questions: STAR Technique

STAR Technique: For answering questions that matter [Interviews of all levels, performance appraisals and conversations in general].
Most of the interviewers assess the credibility of a candidate based on the candidate’s past behaviour. They, then, analyse the established behavioural pattern [from responses to situations in the past], to determine the presence or absence of desired core competencies [e.g. integrity, team spirit, ownership, leadership, etc.]. Mostly, basis the result of this analysis [showing if the candidate has the desired skills] they select [or even reject] the candidate. This, in a nutshell, is called a behavioural interview.

Simply put, a good interviewer won’t ask, “Are you comfortable working with teams?” [Because, no candidate with common sense would ever say “No” to such an undemanding question]. He/she would rather ask something like, “Tell me about a time when you found it difficult working with a team-member, colleague or manager.” Doing this, as mentioned earlier, the interviewer tries to assess an interviewee, behaviourally.

Not only are behaviour interviews critical to almost all the roles and all the organizations globally, but also most interviewers embed these behavioural interview questions with any other round of interview [technical, functional, etc.] they take.

One must have a key to crack these, successfully. So, here’s the simplest yet most successful technique of answering behavioural interview questions: The STAR Method! It’s a structured manner of responding to a behavioural-based interview question by discussing the specific Situation, Task, Action, and Result of the situation you are describing.

For example:

Question: Tell me about a time when you found it difficult working with a team-member, colleague or manager.


1. Situation: [Cover the background of the story, including the “what”, “when”, “why” or “how” as applicable]

E.g. In my previous organization [or final semester of engineering], I was assigned a month long project along with 7 other colleagues/ friends/ team members.

2. Task: [Share the objective, issue or obstacle you had to overcome. What needed to be done? Remember, the more challenging (yet realistic) it sounds the better.]

E.g. one member was extremely reluctant to contribute to the selling and marketing part of the project. He just won’t agree to present. We failed to understand why. And it caused a lot of friction in the team.

3. Action: [What you did to turn the ship around and improve the situation.]

E.g. I spoke to him only to find out that he wasn’t confident about his communication skills and that caused him fear of public speaking. He hated the fact that the team pushed him to do something he wasn’t confident about.

I helped him find out his strength that he could help us the most with. Turned out he was really willing to lead the whole documentation bit.

4. Result [The results that your actions produced. And how it helped achieve the goal.]

E.g. As a result. We delivered the project well ahead of time due to excellent allocation of tasks and bonded really well, helping and motivating each other to improve our areas of improvement.

Use STAR to communicate the foundation of your story, your learning from the given situation and how those lessons could potentially relate to the position you are applying for.

Interviewers are often also interested to know about your learning from the shared experience, particularly if you think you could have done something better. Stay prepared to share your learning in a structured manner.

Be creative and use the STAR Technique to build credibility beyond interviews e.g. performance discussions and more!

 Ways to answer Situational Questions: SSS [State, Support and Summarize]

Not only to answer situational questions but also to persuade, convince or simply make a point, use The SSS formula.

This is a simple yet powerful formula for structuring the language precisely and very meaningfully. Using key phrases to indicate your movement through points can greatly increase the clarity of your thoughts speech. Organize each of your main points as follows:

  1. State the point. “My first (second, third) point is …” “Now another major point is …” “I would like to say…” “I want to start with the fact that…”
  2. Support the point. “Let me give you an example.” “Here are some statistics.” “Do you remember the story of…?” “And by that I mean …” “The term ______refers to …” “Let me tell you why I say so…” The reason I said so is…”
  3. Summarize the point. “And so you can see that …” “To summarize this point…” “So, in a nutshell…”

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