The STAR method: The secret to acing your next job interview

Author Pearce Doorley
April 27, 2023

Are you good at telling stories? Do you get right to the point and include all the relevant details? Or do you tend to forget to mention key details or tend to ramble?

In a job interview, you’re probably familiar with questions like “Tell me about a time when you…” or “How do you handle…..” or “Give an example of how you…..”

You are probably also familiar with how stressful these kinds of questions can be. You know you’re supposed to provide some kind of example, and you know you’ve got loads you could draw from, and after some time umming and ahhing, you eventually pull an example from your mental archives. However, you are still feeling a bit flustered and realise you’re starting to ramble.

Fortunately, there is a very simple solution to this common conundrum. It’s called the STAR method, and it will help you to answer behavioural interview questions concisely and coherently.

What is the STAR method?

The STAR method is an interview technique that gives you a straightforward format you can use to tell a story by laying out the Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

Situation: Set the scene and give the necessary details of your example.
Task: Describe what your responsibility was in that situation.
Action: Explain exactly what steps you took to address it.
Result: Share what outcomes your actions achieved.

Why is the STAR method useful?

The STAR method is useful because it helps you to provide logical, well-structured answers which tell a relevant story.

When following the STAR method, you will ensure that you cover all the necessary details that the interviewer is looking for—and that you do so in a coherent, easy-to-follow way.

By focusing on the four points of STAR, you can also avoid rambling, going off on a tangent, or diving into too much detail and losing the point you wanted to make.

When to use the STAR method.

The STAR method is a valuable technique you can even apply to your answers for behavioural and competency interview questions. Employers ask behavioural interview questions to surmise how you will perform in specific scenarios. They ask competency interview questions to ensure you have the specific competencies required for the job.  These questions are easy to recognise, as they often have tell-tale openings.

Here are some common behavioural interview questions which can be answered using the STAR method:

“Can you tell me about a time when…”

  • You had to take on a new task that you had no experience doing before
  • You made a mistake at work
  • You had to delegate to other colleagues or team members

“How do you handle it when…”

  • You have clashing deadlines and not enough time to meet them all?
  • You and a colleague can’t reach an agreement on something?
  • A last-minute request comes in and you’ve already got lots on your plate?

“Can you give me an example of…”

  • A successful project you worked on
  • A time when you had to work with a difficult or uncooperative colleague or client
  • An unsuccessful project you worked on

The interviewer won’t always formulate their behavioural questions in the same way. But, if it sounds like they’re digging for insights into how you approach certain challenges and situations, the chances are that they’re looking for a concrete example or an anecdote. That’s your cue to apply the STAR framework.

How do you prepare to use the STAR method ahead of your interview?

  1. Plan ahead and have some STAR stories at the ready
    You can’t anticipate exactly what questions will come up in your interview. But you can—and should—spend some time reading through the job description to get an idea of the skills and qualities the hiring manager will be looking out for.
  2. Construct a few strong STAR answers using only the most relevant detail
    When using the STAR method, it’s important to follow the framework to the letter. The goal is to share every story or example in a concise, logical manner—delivering the relevant points and making it easy for the hiring manager to follow along.
  3. Practice… Practice… Practice
    It’s great to go into your interview with some STAR stories at the ready. At the same time, it’s important that you’re able to implement the STAR method on the fly, too. Find a friend, colleague, or relative who can roleplay the interview with you. Ask them to come up with some behavioural questions based on the job description and practice answering them using the STAR framework—with no prior preparation.

The STAR interview method might seem a little overwhelming at first. But with just a little preparation and strategy, you will soon view behavioural interview questions as less of a burden and more of an opportunity to emphasize your awesome qualifications.

If you would like to find out more about the above, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with your local Carter Murray consultant.

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