How to tackle competency interviews using the S.A.R. Method: Situation, Action, Result

How to tackle competency interviews using the S.A.R. Method: Situation, Action, Result

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Competency based interviews are also called “behavioral interviews” or “criterion based interviews.” Such interviews are based on the concept that past behavior and experience is the best indicator of future performance. In other words, your history tells a story about you: your talents, skills, abilities, knowledge and actual experience in handling a variety of situations.

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Competency interviewing questions can look like this:

  • Tell us about a situation when you went above and beyond your manager’s expectations.
  • Give an example of a time when you used your problem solving abilities to resolve an issue?
  • Tell us about a time where you had a number of demands being made on you at the same time? How did you handle it?

Use the S.A.R. Method Situation, Action, Result

Situation ~ It is important to be as clear as you can when describing the situation so the interviewer does not have any problems understanding your actions and the outcome.

Some questions to consider when thinking about describing a situation:

What was the issue? Where did it happen? How were you involved?

Action ~ The interviewer needs to know how you handled the situation so that they can see how you will handle similar situations in the future. So questions to think about when explaining your actions are: What job did you do? How did you solve the problem?

Result ~ Always tell the interviewer the result. They want to know if your action solved the problem. Some questions to consider when describing the result are: How did the situation end? What was your role in the end of the situation?

For example: Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an angry customer?

  1. Situation: I was working as a Server in a busy restaurant when a customer became very upset because he had to wait a long time for his meal.
  2. Action: I listened to his concern, apologized and advised the customer that I would check on the order. I asked the kitchen to put a rush on his order. When I took it to the table, I offered the customer a free dessert, as this was our policy.
  3. Result: He was happy and left a comment card stating that he would return in the future because I had taken his complaint seriously.

Additional tips for Competency interview:

  1. Prepare a wide range of brief real life stories about your accomplishments. Be aware of the specific skills each story illustrates and remember to include the positive outcome or lesson learned from each experience.
  2. Be ready to discuss your strengths and your ability to learn from past experiences. Also think about how you could contribute to the work of the company/organisation and to the specific position you are applying for.
  3. Review the competencies mentioned in the job opening. These will be probed in your interview, so your stories should show your skill in these competency areas.
  4. You should be prepared to address positive results and achievements using these competencies and also challenges you have had in each of these areas.
  5. The structure of your answer should be: Situation, Action, Result.
  6. Share information you feel is appropriate and relevant.
  7. Listen to the question carefully. Keep to the point. Be as specific as possible.
  8. Learn as much as you can about the Department and Office you are applying to and the work it does.
  9. Practice, practice, practice.

(NOTE: Would you like to know the BIGGEST CV mistake you can make? Find out plus the Top 8 Ways To Make Your CV Stand Out.)

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Interview Questions Coaching

Do you have any interview question you would like to know how to answer? What challenges are you facing with interview question? I’d love to hear them. Please leave a comment below or send me an email.

Daniel Mutuku

Daniel Mutuku,

Career Coach and Adviser at Careerpoint Solutions


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