What is the STAR technique for interviewing, and why should you practice it?

Do you have an interview coming up and want to prepare in the best way possible? Let us introduce you to the STAR technique for interviewing. It’s a favoured method of interview practice in the recruitment world. With proper use, you’ll be able to answer behavioural based interview questions with ease.

In this post, we will look at the STAR interview method, it’s benefits and how you can use the framework to deliver textbook interview answers.

What is the star technique for interviewing?

STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action and Result.

The STAR method is a framework which when followed allows you to structurally answer behavioural interview questions by describing the situation, task, action and result of your answer. By following this framework, you can confidently demonstrate to interviewers how you’ve previously dealt with situations and challenges. Giving them the answer they’ll want to hear to demonstrate your capability for the role. 

Situation

The situation is where you’ll describe a situation you’ve previously been in. This can include a challenge you faced, a task or project you were working on or any event you were involved in.

It’s important for recruiters to know the situation to translate how similar situations may appear in the role you’re applying for.

Task

The task is simply describing what was the goal you worked towards.

Action

The action is where you would describe how you addressed or handled the situation. But be sure to talk about your personal involvement if the goal was achieved as part of a team. . Describe specifically your personal involvement in the situation and how your individual involvement made a difference.

Result

The result is where you reveal the outcome of your actions. What was accomplished? Were any problems solved? If you can deliver your results with statistics and numbers to demonstrate this clearly. E.g. sales increase by 30%.

The result can always be negative too. In this scenario, you can present your STAR answer as a learning curve, knowing what not to do for next time.  But don’t leave it at that, in your answer say how you’d act differently in the future.

The ability to demonstrate self-reflection and critical thinking to yourself demonstrates highly valued characteristics in a candidate.

What are behavioural focused questions?

Behavioural focused questions or competency-focused questions are designed to reveal your abilities, knowledge, skills and behaviours in different situations.

The best way to impress a recruiter is to answer their behaviour-based questions without any prompting or being asked to describe more. By using the STAR framework, you can give a full-bodied behaviour- based answer that tells the recruiter everything they’ll need to know in order to see how you’ll handle the role. 

Why use the STAR technique for answering interview questions?

As we’ve established, the STAR technique focuses on behavioural and competency based interviewing.

Many recruiters will introduce competency-based interview questions throughout the interview to determine how your past behaviour can predict how you’d perform in the new role. It’s a very successful interview method to narrow down suitable candidates.

Candidates who can successfully answer competency-based interview questions concisely not only demonstrate they understand and deliver on the capabilities of the role, but it reveals their ability to effectively communicate, listen and self-reflect.

The STAR technique enables candidates to systematically answer these questions quickly and effectively every time.

What competencies are recruiters looking for in candidates?

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) outlined a list of the top competencies that recruiters will typically look for. 5 of these are:

what is the star technique for interviewing

 

1.   Communication- oral and written

The ability to communicate effectively is a skill many people lack. Communication is not only one’s ability to share their ideas and thoughts in a clarified manner, but also the ability to understand your personal message you’re giving off, whether this is through tone of voice, words spoken and even body language. Strong communication enables connection and engagement with others. A skill needed across many roles in many sectors.

2.   Teamwork and collaboration

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

You may be a technical wizard or a super salesperson, but often collaboration and the ability to build strong relationships is needed within an organisation. A strong candidate has the ability to not only work well within a team, but encourage collaboration to get the best out of all team members.

3.   Critical thinking and problem solving

Within all roles at all levels there’s a component of problem solving needed, no matter how big or small.  Many different situations present different problems that can’t all be fixed with a cookie-cutter solution each time. The ability to demonstrate thinking on your toes when a new challenge arises is a skill that will always strengthen a candidate’s profile.

4.   Leadership

Not all roles require a leader, however being able to demonstrate leadership is a quality that is sought after. This tells recruiters that you can effectively communicate your ideas, be independent in your role with minimal management, and effectively lead others to greatness.

5.   Professionalism and work ethic

It goes without saying that an employee who is punctual and professional will be liked by management in every role. A manager has enough on their plate without the need to micromanage their employees.

Free examples of competency based interview questions and answers 

If you have an interview coming up soon, the recruiter is likely to ask you some competency interview questions. Below we’ve outlined some examples of these so you know what to look out for and when to answer using the STAR framework. Here you can practice the STAR method on these question examples below.

 

STAR method examples for communication:

When it comes to demonstrating communication skills, recruiters are looking for someone who can effectively listen, adaptively communicate to different people and situations, speak with clarity and persuasion.

  1. Describe a time when you persuaded a team member to your way of thinking.
  2. Demonstrate how your communication skills helped a situation.

STAR method examples for teamwork and collaboration:

When working within teams, difficult situations can arise, unpopular decisions need to be made and disagreements can occur.  Being able to effectively deal with and turn around a negative situation with a colleague enables a successful team who can effectively collaborate, share and support their different ideas.

  1. Have you ever made an unpopular decision that worked out for the benefit of the group?
  2. Describe a time when you’ve resolved conflict with another team member.
  3. Describe your strongest and weakest colleagues, how do you manage different personalities?

STAR method examples for critical thinking and problem solving:

Recruiters will look to see how you can approach, identify and find solutions for problems. Do you have a positive approach? Can you think quickly on your feet? Can you continually improve and learn?

  1. Describe a time when you used good logic and judgement when finding a solution to a problem.
  2. Have you ever worked on a project that didn’t go to plan, how did you turn the situation around to make it work?
  3. Describe a time when you’ve dealt with a customer complaint face-to-face and thought outside of the box to resolve the issue.
  4. Describe a time when you learnt from your mistakes.

STAR method examples for leadership

Recruiters are looking to see what your management style is. Including how you can manage and lead a team and how you can control a situation, implement ideas and persuade people.

  1. What was a difficult decision you had to make for your team, how did you implement it, and how did you manage people’s reactions?
  2.  Tell us about a situation when you needed to intervene and take control.
  3. Describe your successes when leading a team, what did you achieve, what problems did you encounter on the way.
  4. Describe a time when you needed to take initiative and lead.

STAR stories examples

See our example below of how you answer competency-based questions using the STAR framework.

Competency based interview question:

Describe a time when you thought on your feet and resolved a problem for a customer.  

STAR answer:

1.   Describe the situation

In my last role, I worked in the activities department for a hotel. It was a very hot summer and one of the parents of a child in the activity class was telling me about his uncomfortable night sleep due to the high temperature in their hotel room the previous night.

2.   Describe the task

Upon hearing this, I was surprised that such an easy solution to a problem wasn’t resolved immediately. He told me that he called the front desk and they logged the issue with maintenance to fix the air conditioning in his room, but it still had not been corrected.

3.   Describe the action to solve the problem

For an immediate solution I gave a fan from my office to the concierge team to put into the guests’ room, then chased up the maintenance call log for the air conditioning to be fixed. As it turned out the call log had somehow been marked on the system as complete. The problem was re-logged on the system for the air conditioning to be fixed that day.

4.   Describe the result of your actions

The next day the guest was so thrilled with the spontaneous action I took to resolve the heat issue in his hotel room, he came to give me a large tip and told me he was blown away by my actions to take control of a situation that was outside of my realm of responsibilities.

I then received a reward voucher from my department manager who was informed of the situation from the guest, complimenting my resolve and quick-thinking initiation to immediately make his stay more comfortable.

The example above is a very simple answer using the STAR framework. However, even in its simplicity, it showcases the individual’s ability to problem-solve, think quickly on their feet, and go above and beyond the requirements of their role to make a customer happy.

It’s not too hard to do, and with practice can be easily applied to any competency-based question.

 How to prepare for a star interview

While answering behavioural interview questions initially seems daunting, by following the STAR framework you can pause, break down your answer into separate sections and deliver your answer in a professional and well-presented manner.

However, there are more steps you can add to your STAR interview framework to perfect your answer. These include.

1.   Prepare in advance

Prepare a set of behavioural interview answers in advance. Go through the list of questions above and write down scenarios that you’ve been in that demonstrate the competency the recruiter will be looking for.

Prepare short stories of each situation.

Prepare your learning from the example.

Ensure the outcome of the story reflects positively on you.

Give detailed accounts of the situation, task, action and result.

Vary your answers, not just from your career but all areas of your life, (this includes hobbies, sports teams, home life, social circles, religious groups etc)

2.   Rehearse your answers

You should practice each answer with a friend or family member. You want your story not only to flow and sound natural, but you want to ensure you get the message across in a clear and concise way.

 

3.   Don’t waffle

Keep your answer under 3 minutes, any longer and you risk losing the attention and focus of your recruiter. Waffling can give the impression that you aren’t confident with your answer, hence the need to over talk to make up for any doubts.

4.   Add personality

Following a structured guide is a great way to ensure you cover all your bases by presenting a full bodied answer, however, your answers can soon sound too robotic and rehearsed.

When delivering your answer, change your tone of voice as you would tell a story. Throw in your personality, be positive and use body language to convey your message. This would make your story flow much more easily and keep the attention of your recruiters.

5.   Demonstrate your skills

Don’t forget the point of behavioural-based questions. The recruiters are looking for a specific skill set that would require effective performance of the job role. Before your interview make a list of the key skills listed in the job descriptions and tie your own examples into these competencies.

Good luck

Good luck using the STAR framework for answering your interview questions.

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