In job interviews, most hiring managers follow a basic question and answer format. However, it’s also common for the interviewer to ask a series of behavioural questions, i.e. questions that start out with the words: "Tell me about a time..." or "What do you do when..." or "Give me an example of..."
These behavioural questions are designed to test out your suitability for the open position; after all, past performance is often the biggest indicator of future success.
Still, it can be daunting when you’re asked one behavioural question after another in one interview. Luckily, there is an approach that can help you prepare for these type of interview questions and answers: The STAR technique.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss what this technique is, why it's useful, and how you can apply it in your next job interview.
What is the STAR interview technique?
The STAR answer format is a method of preparing for behavioural interview questions. The acronym STAR stands for: Situation, Task, Action, and Result. In other words, your answer for each behavioural question should follow the same basic pattern:
Describe the situation
Focus on the specific task that you needed to accomplish during that situation, and any skills required, e.g. problem solving
Talk about the action that you took to accomplish the task
Describe the result that came about from your action
Think of the STAR technique as a mental outline that helps you to stay on track when responding to behavioural interview questions. If you follow the outline, your answers will be more coherent, concise, and impressive to your interviewer.
Why is the STAR technique useful?
The STAR model is useful for several reasons. For example:
It allows you to answer each question in a logical, easy-to-understand way.
It enables you to demonstrate your skills, qualities, and work experience to the interviewer by means of concrete, "bite-sized" examples from your past.
It also helps you to engage your interviewer more fully by describing your qualifications within a narrative framework. In other words, it allows you to become a teller of your own story.
Not only, is STAR useful for interviews, it can also help you prepare cover letters and job applications in a way that highlights your strengths
How could you respond to interview questions using the STAR method to answer?
Using STAR answers is extremely versatile. No matter what question the interviewer throws at you, you can almost always frame your response in terms of the STAR method. Here's just one example of how you can put it all together:
An example of a STAR interview question is: "Tell me about a time when you had to use your management skills in order to complete a project on time."
In this instance, you could respond by relating the answer to specific work situations in this way:
Situation: "In my previous role as a team leader for an engineering contractor, one of my responsibilities was to coordinate the efforts of multiple teams within a predefined workflow."
Task: "The project's objective was to transfer the company's current inventory to a larger warehousing space by a three-month deadline."
Action: "In order to meet this goal, I used an agile methodology that enabled different teams to work on distinct project phases simultaneously. For example, one team renovated a section of our new warehousing facility while another team transferred inventory to a completed section."
Result: "We were able to fully transfer the company's inventory into the new facility two weeks ahead of schedule."
As you can see, applying the STAR interview approach doesn't have to be too complicated. However, it does require some forethought.
Using the STAR format in your next interview
The STAR approach to answering interview questions is a great way to mentally outline your responses to behavioural interview questions. It allows you to demonstrate your skills and experiences, qualifications and abilities within the framework of a story.