A commonly used technique for answering these questions is to use the STAR technique.
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!
Full example of using STAR
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 an offshore wind farm installation project from the East of England worth £1million, and it was the first of our projects with this particular client. Unfortunately one of our suppliers had let us down supplying one of the components needed for the electrical connections for the Nacelle, and the job was in danger of being brought to a standstill, meaning huge potential additional costs. The reputation of our company was at risk.
Task: As Project Manager it was my responsibility to ensure that this wind energy project went to plan, including adhering to time and cost. In this situation I had to save the reputation of my company, the jobs of our staff, and fulfill the contract that we had agreed to with our client. I had to find a solution quickly and within budget. We had also commissioned 2 offshore installation vessels at significant cost which would have also been jeopardised.
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 engineering and procurement contacts and eventually managed to find an alternative Nacelle electrical and instrumentation engineering components supplier, which was in fact within 20 miles of the manufacturing yard. Luckily they had just had a cancelled order for another offshore wind array in Europe; my job was then to negotiate a price that would be able to keep our budget on track. Another 24 hours of negotiation and we agreed a mutually satisfactory price.
Result: The result was that our offshore installation 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. They have indicated that we would be the EPC company of choice for future renewable energy projects. The alternative supply chain company are also willing to partner in future.