STAR technique: What is it and how do I nail it?

“Tell me about a time when…” sounds all too familiar in an interview setting, doesn’t it??

If this sentence starter sends you into panic mode at the thought of having to think on your feet, this is where STAR really comes in handy.

What is STAR?

It’s a simple methodology that fits perfectly into an aptly titled acronym (being a ‘star’ candidate, geddit?!) to help you nail those competency questions.

Situation, Task, Action, Result

How do I use STAR?

Firstly, think of answering the question by telling a story. Then, think about what makes a really good story. A great scene you can picture, an event with interesting detail on what happened and a satisfying ending is usually a pretty good recipe! So why not channel this storytelling into your answers?

Let’s take an example question and answer it using STAR:

"Tell me about a time you had to implement change in the workplace”

Situation - Start by giving a little detail of what the topic is and what your role was at the company. You can be as specific as you like, the more you are, the better picture it paints for the interviewer.

Example: When I worked as an Accounts Assistant at ABC Accounting, we looked after several entities, all using different banks for their business banking. That meant we had up to 28, multi currency accounts across 6 business entities which made the management of the accounts very complicated.

Task: Here, describe how the above affected you and what did you do to impact the change? Was there anything particularly difficult about what you needed to undertake? What challenges did you face?

Example: My biggest daily task was controlling these 28 accounts, logging into multiple online banking applications to check balances as well as make and manage transactions, before reconciling all of the accounts in the general ledger.

 

Action: Specifically, what action did you take to make a change? Note here that this should be the most detailed part of your answer and remember to pick up on the key qualities the job role requires, and play on these in your answer.

Example: Over a 12 week period, I kept a transaction analysis spreadsheet across all of the accounts. I noted where we were paying charges and hardly using an account, daily and weekly transaction averages and how many direct debits we had for varying services. I presented this to management with the goal of consolidating all the accounts into one bank, rather than 4, and which accounts we could effectively close to save money and most importantly, make it easier for our customers to have just one set of information per entity.

Result: Here is the chance to sell yourself, especially where there’s a happy ending! Really drive home your achievement and tie in how it not only benefitted you, but your colleagues and customers, too…

Example: Management approved my idea and I set to work migrating the accounts over. I organised multiple client management meetings with our chosen bank and worked with them until implementation was complete. I then oversaw the communications to customers regarding the new streamline process of paying and rolled out staff training to the other Accounts Assistants. The best part were the compliments from customers for “finally having an easy payment process” and it’s probably one of my proudest achievements to date!

Great! Anything else I need to know?

Competency based questions come in many forms and are delivered differently depending on the type of role they are recruiting for. They don’t all start with “Tell me about”, you can also use the STAR method to answer the following;

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They may also ask you slightly negative questions such as how you have overcome a conflict with a colleague, how you dealt with a workplace disaster or what you do if you miss a deadline. Don’t panic! Be as positive as you can, use STAR and tell them exactly how you maintained your professionalism and handled the situation like a boss!

Although you can’t prepare for the exact questions they’ll ask you, it’s good practice to prepare your answers in advance. Pick a ‘story’ of yours that you can adapt to all eventualities and make sure you are confident of the story you will tell. Industry experts advise to have up to 5 differing STAR scenarios to call upon should you need to give differing answers based on the roles you have previously had.

So, there you have it, a simple guide to what STAR is, how to apply it and nail that interview

Let us know how you get on!