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How To Use the STAR Interview Technique

July 2, 2021

Recruiters conduct behavioural interviews to evaluate if an applicant is a good fit for a position. While the abilities in your application may match the requirements for a position, the interviewer also wants to ensure that you can manage particular scenarios related to the position. The STAR interview response technique can assist you in preparing for this section of the interview. In this article, we outline what is the STAR interview technique and how to use it in an interview.

What is the STAR interview technique?

The STAR interview technique is a method you can employ to answer behavioural and situational interview questions. Behavioural interview questions typically delve into how you have behaved or handled specific work situations in the past. STAR stands for situation, task, action and result. Utilising this method can assist you in responding to competency-based questions in a clear and concise manner.

How does the STAR method work?

The STAR method simplifies the process of crafting an engaging narrative with a clear problem and resolution. Outlined below is the explanation of each part of the method:

Situation

Set the background scene for the narrative by providing context about the circumstance you were in or the obstacle you encountered. In most instances, it's ideal to explain relevant professional scenarios. But depending on your level of experience, it may also be suitable to highlight academic coursework or community service. You can also discuss a single incident instead of your overall responsibilities. Choose an example that exemplifies the importance of your experience, such as the most challenging, complicated, significant and successful problem you have resolved.

You can spend the least amount of time on this section of your response, since interviewers are more interested in your actual performance. Give the appropriate amount of information to provide the interviewer with sufficient context about the situation. Try to keep it short with at most three essential facts and details. Remember to explain the who, what, where, when and how.

Example: In my previous position as a lead marketer, there was a point in time when my team was understaffed and encountered a considerable backlog of work. The account managers were imposing unreasonable targets on my team, generating stress and lowering morale.

Task

Describe the tasks and responsibilities assigned to you in the situation. Similarly, this section requires a minimal amount of time. Again, focus on only one or two items that best represent your role. Make sure to emphasise any specific challenges you faced.

Example: It was my responsibility as the project leader to guarantee that my team fulfilled our commitments within the agreed timeframe, conveyed bandwidth to other divisions and still remained energised and motivated.

Action

Describe the precise steps that you took to handle the issue or solve the obstacle. This section of your response is where you can go into the details because it primarily determines your suitability for the job. This is the most important part of your response, since it allows you to highlight your skills in a real-life scenario. Identify and discuss some of the more effective actions you did to achieve success.

Oftentimes, professional issues are tackled as a team. Nevertheless, using the term "we" to explain how you overcome challenges during an interview is a common mistake. In any event, it's critical to concentrate on what you did in the circumstance rather than the team's accomplishments. It's important to be mindful that recruiters want to know what you did. Therefore, use the term "I" to emphasise your personal contributions.

Example: In order to set clearer expectations, I established a formal request procedure that included project timeframe estimates. I organised regular meetings with account team leaders to review the bandwidth of my team and to give progress updates. I also kept my staff updated on the new procedures, so they could be certain that the concerns were being acknowledged and addressed.

Result

The result is the second most significant part of your answer, as a successful outcome validates that your efforts were effective. Identify the two to three most impressive outcomes and discuss them. If it's feasible, quantify your achievements or offer tangible instances of the results of your work. Also, talk about what you have learned, how you have developed and how the experience has made you a more well-rounded individual.

Example: We were able to reassess the priorities of the design team's to-do list and accomplish everything in our backlog by offering more transparency into my team's procedures and setting clearer expectations with the account managers. I learned from this situation, continued to use this framework, and as a result, we cut our average project timetable by four days the next quarter. I also discovered the importance of clear communication across teams.

How to use the STAR method to prepare for an interview

While you won't know the interview topics in advance, most behavioural interviews focus on diverse work-related problems that exhibit critical thinking and problem-solving, as well as scenarios that display leadership skills, analytical skills and performance under pressure. Here's some more information about behavioural inquiries and pointers to help you make the most of the STAR technique:

1. Understand what are behavioural interview questions

A behavioural interview is conducted to discover how you acted and behaved in prior work situations. In your replies, employers are searching for instances of your past behaviours that may indicate how you'll respond in similar situations in the future. These are often more open-ended inquiries that ask you to tell experiences or examples from prior employment.

2. Familiarise with some STAR interview question examples

Here are some samples of common behavioural questions you may encounter in an interview:

  • Share about an experience when you encountered a challenging boss. What did you do to manage the situation?
  • Let me know about an occasion when you made a mistake. What did you do to correct it?
  • Share with me an event when you had to fulfil multiple tasks at once. By what means did you go about prioritising your time?
  • Share with me the last time you were in charge of a long-term project. What did you do to keep your project on schedule and your team motivated?
  • Have you ever had to make an unpopular decision? How did you handle it?
  • Share a case of a situation you had to make a hard choice. What did you do?
  • Give an example of how you were able to motivate a colleague, your peers or your team.
  • Can you share with me about a circumstance you had to build rapport with a colleague or client whose personality was different from yours?
  • Can you give me an example of how you've contributed to the culture of previous teams, companies or groups?

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3. Plan for an interview using the STAR interview technique

These are some ways to prepare for an interview using the STAR method:

  • Go over the job description and required skills, and consider possible problems you could face in the role.
  • Review common behavioural interview questions like the ones listed above.
  • List the various instances in your work experience that demonstrate the kind of qualities to excel in the job, and answer some of the most typical behavioural interview questions. Use the STAR framework to prepare each example.
  • Say your answers aloud to ensure each narrative is coherent and straightforward. Practise at least three to five times. Having sufficient practice can make you feel more natural and confident when answering questions in a real interview.

Consider instances from internships, community work or academic group projects if you're new to the work field and don't have a long professional background to draw on. Employers may ask you to provide a non-work-related instance in their questions, so think about personal problems or obstacles you've conquered as well. Whatever experience you choose to talk about, be sure you are clear in your explanation and elaborate on a situation, task, action and consequence, as well as highlight the skills and knowledge most relevant to the position.

Example of how to answer a question using the STAR method

Here's an example of how you can answer a common behavioural interview question with the STAR method:

Tell me about a mistake you've made. How did you handle it?

I was working for an event planning firm, and I was in charge of purchasing flower arrangements for a private event held by a high-profile client. Unfortunately, I mistyped the details from another occasion and the flowers were delivered to the wrong location on the opposite side of town. I quickly admitted my mistake and apologised to my employer, took an early lunch break, travelled to the other location, picked up the flowers and delivered them to the right location 45 minutes before the event. My boss and I were very grateful that the client was unaware of my blunder.

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