Learn How to Use This Simple Technique to Shine at Interviews [STAR technique explained]


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.