There are numerous styles of interviewing but the competency based interview is quite popular within the built environment. The questions will be driven by a competency framework that is required for the job. For example a site manager may require problem-solving skills or quantity surveyor good negotiation skills. The interview questions tend to start with a variation of, “Tell me about a time when you demonstrated strong negotiation skills…” this may sound simple but, in the heat of the interview, it’s easy to give an unstructured answer.

The STAR technique, which stands for situation, task, action, result, can be practiced to ensure concise and effective responses are given, here’s an approach overview:

Situation – As these questions will almost always be situational you should start by explaining the situation that you were in at the time – explain who was involved, when it was and what you were doing.

Task – This is where you can add more information to the ‘Situation’ and explain exactly what you were trying to achieve – what the outcome should have been.

Action/s – This is where you need to describe what actions you took and responsibilities you had in order to achieve the ‘Task’. This could also involve what actions you didn’t take!

Result and Reflection – Finish by explaining the outcome. Ideally there will have been a favourable outcome but regardless ensure that you include here any key learns you had, whether you would do anything differently with hindsight and how you benefited from it.

Following this technique will ensure that you give a full, precise and comprehensive answer to their question, here’s an example

Q: Can you describe a time when you have been under significant pressure at work and how you managed that to achieve a successful outcome?

Situation: I was project managing a residential development within the South East of England worth £5 million, and it was the first of our projects with this particular client. Unfortunately one of our suppliers had let us down supplying scaffolding ,which was imperative for a high rise apartment complex.

Task: As Project Manager it was my responsibility to ensure that the project went to plan, including adhering to time and cost. I had to find a solution quickly and within budget. We had two forthcoming projects which would have also been jeopardised, as we’d booked more scaffolding from the same company who could not commit fulfilment.

Action: First of all I spoke to the client and let them know the situation, as I wanted to keep them up to speed with developments; I also kept my own management team informed too. I assured them that I would do everything in my power to keep the project on track. I spent a hectic 14 hours getting in touch with all my contacts. Being able to negotiate another 2 bookings of similar cost helped entice one scaffolding company to draw on extra equipment from Ireland. Another 24 hours of negotiation and we agreed a mutually satisfactory price.

Result: The result was that our residential project remained completely on track. I managed to deliver within time and budget. Our client was delighted, and complimented me on being able to deliver a solution in the face of unexpected major difficulties. They were also particularly pleased that I had kept them fully informed throughout.

For more tips on interviewing techniques you may find the top ten questions asked interesting

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