Preparing you for Interview
Preparing for Your STEM Industry Interview in Ireland: Mastering Competency-Based Questions with STAR Technique
When it comes to preparing for your interview in the STEM industry in Ireland, there are two crucial areas to focus on: competency-based questions and utilizing the STAR Technique to structure your answers effectively. In this blog, we will guide you through these essential aspects to ensure you are well-prepared.
Crafting Compelling Stories for Competency-Based Interviews
Competency interviews can be likened to storytelling. During such interviews, you will encounter questions like, "Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult situation?" You might already be familiar with the STAR technique for answering competency questions, which emphasizes providing answers with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Just like a captivating story, the more detail and enthusiasm you inject into your responses, the greater impact they will have. It's important to align your experiences directly with the requirements of the role and the company you are interviewing with.
Before delving into interview preparation, it is crucial to understand the specific competencies required for the role you are applying for. Once you have identified these competencies, you can begin your preparation.
To help you get into the flow, we have compiled a list of questions corresponding to each competency:
Planning & Organising
Using Initiative – Achieving Goals & Results Oriented
Decision Making & Problem Solving
Team & Collaborative Working
Effective Relationships & Networking
Innovation & Creative Thinking
Adaptability & Flexibility (Openness to Change)
Continuous Development (Self & Others)
Thinking & Acting Strategically
Resilience & Stress Tolerance
Trustworthiness & Ethics
Energy & Enthusiasm
Mastering the STAR Approach for Competency-Based Interviews
The STAR approach is a widely recognized communication technique that allows you to provide comprehensive and meaningful answers to questions seeking examples. The acronym STAR stands for:
Let's explore each step of the STAR technique:
Step 1 – Situation or Task
Begin by describing the situation you faced or the task that needed to be accomplished. Set the context concisely, focusing on the details relevant to the story you are about to tell. For example, if asked about dealing with a difficult person, explain how you encountered that individual and the reasons behind their challenging behavior. If discussing teamwork, describe the specific task your team undertook.
Step 2 – Action
This step is the crux of the STAR approach, where you demonstrate and highlight the skills and personal attributes being tested by the question. Once you have set the context, explain what actions you took. Keep the following points in mind:
- Personalize your story by talking about your own contributions rather than the team's.
- Provide sufficient detail, avoiding assumptions that the interviewer will understand what you mean.
- Avoid excessive technical jargon unless it is crucial to your narrative.
- Explain what you did, how you did it, and why you did it.
Highlight your proactive response to the situation and emphasize important skills. For instance, describe how you collaborated with your team to achieve a specific objective and how your communication skills were instrumental in keeping everyone updated on progress.
Step 3 – Result
Finally, explain the outcome of your actions and how the situation resolved. Seize this opportunity to showcase your accomplishments and the lessons you learned from the experience. This personalizes your answer and allows you to highlight additional skills.
The result section is pivotal in demonstrating your ability to use various generic skills to achieve objectives deliberately, rather than relying on chance.
Planning & Organising
In the STEM industry, effective planning and organising skills are highly valued. Employers seek candidates who can efficiently manage their time, prioritise tasks, and work towards achieving operational or strategic objectives. Here are some sample interview questions related to this competency:
Describe a time when you had to deal with a complex task or project. How did you approach the planning and implementation of it?
Tell us about a time you set specific work-related goals and how you achieved them.
Share an experience where unexpected events required you to change your plan. What challenges did you identify, and how did you overcome them?
Explain how you determined your priorities in your last job.
How do you schedule your time on unusually hectic days? Can you provide a recent example?
Describe a situation where you took a creative approach to resource planning to achieve a goal.
What factors do you consider when resourcing a project or goal?
In your current role, how do you manage workload fluctuations during busy and quiet periods?
When faced with multiple deadlines, how do you organise your time to ensure completion?
Tell us about a project you were coordinating that stalled. How did you get things back on track?
Using Initiative – Achieving Goals
Demonstrating initiative and the ability to achieve goals independently is crucial in the STEM industry. Employers seek candidates who can focus their efforts on delivering excellence and take proactive action when opportunities arise. Here are some sample interview questions related to this competency:
Describe the culture of the organisation and give an example of how you work within this culture to achieve a goal.
Share an accomplishment that improved the performance of your work unit.
Tell us about a time you identified a new or unusual approach to addressing a problem or task.
Describe a recent decision or problem that required a high level of skill. How did you gather the necessary information?
Explain how you assess the viability of a new idea or initiative.
Share a situation where you applied newly learned concepts to a different scenario.
Describe techniques you've used to enhance productivity or effectiveness in previous roles.
Discuss projects or ideas that were implemented due to your efforts.
Tell us about a time you used your organisational knowledge to achieve a goal.
Explain how you improved existing work processes in previous roles.
Decision Making & Problem Solving
The ability to make informed decisions and solve complex problems is highly valued in the STEM industry. Employers seek candidates who can analyse situations, identify key issues, evaluate alternatives, and provide practical solutions. Here are some sample interview questions related to this competency:
Describe a situation where you had to make a difficult decision and explain it to others.
Tell us about a time you took a risk and the outcome.
Give an example of a time when you needed to make a quick decision.
Describe a recent unpopular decision you made and its result.
Share a situation where you had to choose from multiple options. How did you make your decision?
Describe a time when you had to think deeply about a problem before finding a solution.
Discuss the types of problems you routinely solved in your previous role.
Explain how you solved a problem or made a decision that required careful consideration.
Have you ever experienced a situation where evidence conflicted with your intuition? How did you handle it?
Share an example of a creative solution you applied to a problem.
Remember, in addition to answering these questions, it's important to use the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your responses effectively. Tailor your answers to align with the specific competencies and search intent for the STEM industry in Ireland.
Adaptability & Flexibility (Openness to Change)
Demonstrating adaptability and flexibility is vital in the STEM industry, as it involves continuously adjusting to changing work practices, procedures, and situations. To exhibit your openness to change, showcase your ability to embrace new circumstances, take calculated risks, and support others during the change process.
During the interview, you may be asked questions such as:
Can you describe a time when you had to quickly adapt to changes over which you had little control? How did these changes impact you?
Share an experience when you had to alter your plans due to new information or changing priorities.
In what ways has your current job changed since you started? How have you effectively dealt with these changes?
Tell me about an experience where you faced a significant change. How did you maintain your effectiveness during that time?
Describe a situation where you disagreed with a new policy or procedure. How did you handle it?
Leadership skills are highly valued in the STEM industry, as they involve inspiring, supporting, and encouraging others to achieve objectives. Effective leaders understand how individuals operate at all levels and utilize this understanding to drive efficiency and effectiveness. They can also make tough decisions, foster direct and tough debates, and provide direction during challenging times.
Here are some potential interview questions related to leadership:
Have you ever adjusted your team's goals to align them with the organization's overall objectives? How did you approach this?
Describe a situation when you had to implement a policy or decision that your staff did not agree with. How did you handle it?
What do you believe is the most important skill of a good leader? Share a time when you effectively utilized this leadership skill in a work scenario.
Tell me about a time when a group you led failed to meet expectations. How did you handle it?
Describe a situation where you faced resistance while trying to get others to accept an idea. How did you approach it?
Continuous Development (Self & Others)
Continuous development is crucial in the STEM industry to stay updated and excel in your role. Showcase your commitment to self-improvement and your ability to help others excel by providing challenging tasks, constructing development plans, and executing them. Additionally, emphasize your dedication to identifying and supporting the career goals of your team members.
Expect questions like:
Give an example of how you identified the career goals of a direct report and proactively supported their development.
Explain how you have used formal development-planning processes to help your team members attain their career goals.
Describe a situation where you motivated someone to accept developmental tasks or projects for their professional growth.
Talk about your own strengths and areas for improvement.
How do you assess your own abilities and knowledge relative to your role?
THINKING & ACTING STRATEGICALLY
Understanding the purpose, context, goals, and objectives of the organization, as well as their own area, and how they are strategically interconnected. Demonstrating an understanding of how current actions will impact long-term business objectives.
How do you approach brainstorming and sharing ideas to foster critical thinking?
Provide an example of a recent SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) you conducted.
Explain how your role contributes to the success of the organization.
How do your personal goals and objectives align with the Strategic Plan?
Describe how your specialist advice benefits colleagues, partners, and other individuals.
Share an example of a challenge or opportunity you identified based on your organization or industry experience. How did you develop a strategy to address it?
Describe a time when you created a strategy to achieve a long-term organizational objective.
Illustrate a situation that demonstrates your ability to accurately anticipate future trends.
Tell me about a time when you utilized your organizational knowledge to understand a specific situation or problem.
Describe a time when you demonstrated the ability to take a broad view of an issue or challenge and project scenarios into the future.
Share an experience when you took on the challenge of a new or unfamiliar task or responsibility.
Describe a time when you quickly grasped the underlying essence or structure of complex things and applied that information.
Provide an example of how your company's vision for the future influenced daily decisions you made.
RESILIENCE & STRESS TOLERANCE
Assessing the ability to work under pressure, handle stress, and manage through tough times with maturity. Being dependable in holding things together during difficult periods.
Give an example of a situation where you had to deliver a difficult truth to someone. How did you handle it?
Describe a challenge that tested your coping skills.
Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult or angry person. How did you handle it?
Share a situation when you struggled with a change in policy or procedure at work.
Describe a time when you failed to achieve a goal. How did you handle it?
Tell me about a time when you didn't handle a situation well or felt overwhelmed.
Provide an example of a time when you had to quickly adapt to uncontrollable changes in your surroundings.
Describe a time when a situation became highly heated. How did you respond?
Explain how you manage stress.
Describe a time when you helped resolve a tense situation in the workplace.
What has been your biggest frustration at work, and how did you overcome it?
Tell me about a time when you received negative feedback from your manager. How did you handle it?
Describe a situation where you had to adjust your work priorities rapidly to meet changing demands.
Give me an example of a time when you missed a deadline.
Specify the most stressful aspect of your current job and provide an example of how it affects your performance.
How do you ensure your team doesn't get overwhelmed?
Tell me about a time when you were frustrated or lost your temper at work.
Being knowledgeable about current and potential future policies, practices, trends, technology, and information that affect one's business and organization. Understanding the competition and being aware of how strategies and tactics work in the marketplace.
Describe a situation when you had to make a decision or take action without having all the information or the complete picture.
Explain a time when you effectively integrated financial, enterprise, and industry data into a strategic plan or initiative.
What do you believe are the most significant issues our industry faces today?
What do you believe are the most significant issues our industry will face in the future?
Share how you stay up to date with industry trends and developments.
Tell me about a time when you exceeded your budget. Why? How did you handle it?
Provide an example of a time when your understanding of your organization enabled you to obtain something you needed that you wouldn't have otherwise.
Describe a time when workplace politics affected your job. How did you handle it?
Explain how you handle situations in which others involved lack the information you have but a decision must be made.
Tell me about a time when you used industry data to support a successful project.
Describe the most challenging negotiation you have conducted.
Describe a period when you made an extra effort to build strong relationships with others inside or outside the organization.
You've been presented with a new idea for your department. Describe how you assess its feasibility and potential success.
Describe a situation that demonstrates your ability to confidently present to those in authority, regardless of your surroundings.
Share your thoughts on the role of "corporate culture" in a company's success.
Tell me about your experience in fiscal management: budgeting, reporting, cost reduction, and maintaining reserves.
TRUSTWORTHINESS & ETHICS
This competency assesses how a person upholds social, organizational, and ethical norms. Respecting confidentiality, adhering to organizational regulations, and honoring personal commitments.
Tell me about a time when you had to handle a challenging problem that involved ethical issues.
Describe a time when you acted with integrity.
Share a situation in which your values were questioned. How did you handle it?
Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a problem that challenged fairness or ethical standards.
What would you do if you discovered a colleague was lying?
Describe a time when you took responsibility for a mistake before anyone else knew about it.
Has your manager/supervisor ever asked you to do something you were uncomfortable with? How did you handle it?
Tell me about a time when you witnessed a fellow employee engaging in inappropriate behavior.
Describe a time when you felt unqualified for a job assigned to you.
Tell me about a time when a situation tested your integrity.
What behaviors do you find least desirable in your colleagues?
How do you balance your work and personal life?
Share a mistake you made at work. How did you handle it, and what did you learn from it?
What aspects of your previous job were most frustrating? Why?
Describe a situation that demonstrates your ability to gain the trust and confidence of people in authority.
Tell me about a time when you spoke up in an unfavorable situation.
Describe a time when you had to earn the trust of your colleagues.
ENERGY & ENTHUSIASM
This competency explores a person's level of energy and ability to maintain high activity levels and sustain productivity over extended periods. It assesses perseverance and the drive to finish tasks, especially in the face of resistance.
Describe a time when you had to work at a fast pace for an extended period. How did you maintain your work pace?
What job activities have required the most energy? How did you remain effective while working on these activities?
Share a situation where you had to see a project through to completion despite facing setbacks.
Would you consider returning to your former employer? Why or why not?
Give an example of a policy you adhered to even if you disagreed with it.
Tell me about the most difficult and complex situation in which you set clear, ambitious goals for yourself (and others, if applicable) and pursued them with enthusiasm and energy.
Think back to a challenging time when you anticipated obstacles and had a contingency plan to maintain momentum toward the goal, keeping others involved on track as well.
Describe two situations that demonstrate your reputation for success and high-quality performance in the eyes of your peers and superiors.
Recall a time when your positive work ethic inspired others. Share the details.
Provide instances that demonstrate your ability to regularly develop and implement plans for new projects and redirect activity when plans aren't working.
Think back to a recent period where you viewed challenges and mistakes as opportunities for growth.
Describe the most complex and challenging situation in which you had to set the pace for productivity by example, in a firm yet non-threatening manner.
Give an example of a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty.
How do you balance your work and personal life?
What kind of work environment do you thrive in?
Do you find more energy working alone or collaborating with others?
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