If you are preparing yourself for the upcoming interview and you are struggling with structuring your answers, we have good news for you. There is a simple answering method that will make your interview preparation (and life!) easier, your interviewing skills better, and consequently – your interviews, job hunt and career more successful. It's time to meet... STAR technique. Interested in learning more about this time-saving, interview-nailing, job-winning technique? Here you can find out the answers to the most important questions about the STAR.
WHAT DOES STAR MEAN? STAR is an acronym which stands for: Situation, Task, Action and Result. This is an excellent way to properly structure your responses to an interviewer’s questions by providing the following information:
S = Situation: (Where? When?)
set the scene, briefly describe the context and background of the situation
you can include your role at the time and a common task, problem or risk related to the situation
T = Task: (What needed to be done? Why?)
briefly describe the challenge and expectations
explicitly name what you needed/wanted to achieve in this situation
A= Action: (What did you do? How did you do it? Why?)
start using “I” instead of “we” to show off your relevant skills
elaborate on your specific actions and all the steps you took to resolve the situation
be prepared to answer the What, How and Why questions
R= Result: (Quantify.)
explain the result and provide a lot of details about the positive outcomes of your actions
provide evidence that can support your story – if possible, support it with numbers as a reflection of improvements after your action or share feedback you received
additionally, to nicely wrap up the answer – share the lesson you have learnt from this situation and what was the benefit for your team/business unit/company
WHEN IS APPROPRIATE TO USE THIS TECHNIQUE?
STAR technique is suitable for each question about a specific situation from your previous experience – in other words, for every competency-based question.
Whenever you hear a question starting with: “Tell me about a time/situation when…” or “Could you give us an example of a situation…”, it is a sign for you that you can apply STAR model.
By applying this technique, you will be able to deliver well-structured answers with all relevant information included.
HOW MANY DETAILS SHOULD I PROVIDE?
As mentioned in the overview, situation and task should be described just briefly – to provide a general context.
When you start talking about the action and result, dig deeper and share all the relevant details and information, but keep it specific and concise.
Avoid talking about your responsibilities in general. First of all, if you talk about your day-to-day responsibilities, it is going to be hard to provide information about the final result. You actually won't have an ending point where you could measure your success, as you will be talking about ongoing responsibilities. Instead, focus on one situation from the past. Speak in specific rather than general terms and quantify your success. From a listener’s perspective, this makes the story more interesting. Vague information and undefined successes can make the answer less feel less convincing.
By focusing more on actions and results, you will provide evidence of your strong skills and competencies. In fact, these parts of the answers give you an opportunity to present yourself in the best light and to show interviewers you are their dream candidate.
HOW LONG SHOULD MY ANSWER LAST?
A general rule of thumb is that answers shouldn’t last longer than 2,5 to maximum 3 minutes.
To fit your answer in the suggested time-frame, bear in mind the information written above – describe a situation and task with 4-5 sentences altogether. After that, use the rest of the time to elaborate more on action and result parts, as they are, by all means, the most important parts of your answer.
Don’t be afraid you’ll miss something important.
If the interviewers are interested in a specific aspect of a situation, they will ask probing questions. And probing questions are not something you should be afraid of.
They are not a sign that your answer was not good enough. On the contrary, they show that you got the interviewers interested in the situation you have shared. By giving them an opportunity to ask questions about it, the interview will become an active dialogue and it will be easier for you to build a successful rapport with them.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD I KNOW?
It may be obvious, but despite that, we would like to make it clear – the outcome of the situations you’ll describe should always be positive. And of course, you need to be “a main actor/actress” in these situations.
A common belief is that the best predictors of the future success are previous situations where you were successful.
Keep that in mind before you start answering your questions and describing all the mistakes you have made in a specific situation.
Additionally, try to think of rather stretching and challenging situations.
Situations in which you went above and beyond your role and your responsibilities are situations interviewers are most interested in. This also goes in your favour, as these situations will easily highlight your strengths and competencies and help you to stand out from the crowd.
The best thing about the STAR technique is that it is not only useful for interviews.
You can use it in daily business environment whenever you describe a situation and your contribution in a given situation. Think about yearly or quarterly performance rating conversations with your boss – definitely time to apply STAR.
However, like every other technique, the STAR also requires some practice. During your preparation for the interview, try to think of your success stories you would like to share with interviewers and structure them according to the rules above. It might not be easy in the beginning, especially the first time you apply this technique. Probably all these rules will be in your mind and it will be impossible to structure a decent sentence.
But we guarantee it will become easier once you start using it regularly.
A lot of candidates struggle when they have to talk positively about themselves. However, there is no place for modesty in interviews. You must put yourself in the spotlight. Therefore, simply by using “I” instead of “we” when you start talking about the actions and the outcome, you will do it smoothly. Don't worry. It won't sound like bragging. You won’t even explicitly be using positive adjectives – you will simply share cold facts. And they will go in your favour.
Bonus hack: If interviewers ask you about a situation you haven’t prepared in advance, don’t panic. You can still deliver a well-structured answer from the top of your head, even in the heat of the interview. You can help yourself by using parts of STAR format as keywords in your answer. In other words, you can say: "The situation was…", "My task was to…", "The actions I conducted were…", "As a result…"
That way interviewers will follow your mind flow with ease. Also, this will keep you on the track. Win-win solution! LET'S RECAP: STAR is an answering technique that helps you to properly structure your responses during the job interview. According to this technique, all answers must have four parts: situation, task, action and result. Within those four parts you should do the following:
Situation: set the scene, briefly describe the context and background of the situation
Task: briefly describe the challenge and expectations; explicitly name what you needed/wanted to achieve in this situation
Action: elaborate on your specific actions and all the steps you took to resolve the situation
Result: quantify your achievement, explain the result and provide a lot of details about the positive outcomes of your actions
This model is suitable for all questions about a specific situation from your previous experience – in other words, for every competency-based question. By applying this technique, you will be able to deliver well-structured answers with all relevant information included. If there is an interview coming your way, you might also be interested in reading this:
If you need additional help with rehearsing your answers and applying STAR technique, we can do it together. As part of our coaching sessions, you can get feedback directly from a recruiter who can help you to point your answers in the right direction and wrap them nicely.