Blue star on a white background

The STAR interview technique is a great method to help you format answers to behavioural interview questions, i.e. questions that prompt you to provide a real-life example of how you handled a certain kind of situation in the past.

Behavioural interview questions are easy to spot as they generally start with phrases such as:

  • Describe a time when…
  • What do you do when…
  • Have you ever…
  • Share an example of a situation where…

The STAR interview method gives you the ability to organise your answers so that you provide something meaningful to the employer. 

The STAR is an acronym that stands for:

Situation: What were the circumstances and what are details of your example?
Task: What was your responsibility in that situation?
Action: What specific steps did you take to address the situation?
Result: What were the outcomes your actions achieved?

There are an almost infinite number of behavioural questions that you could be asked, however they often revolve around:

  • Teamwork
  • Problem Solving/Planning
  • Initiative/Leadership
  • Interpersonal Skills/Conflict
  • Pressure/Stress

This means that with some planning, you can prepare for any number of questions the hiring manager is going to throw at you. 

How to Answer Interview Questions using the STAR Interview Technique?

1. Find a Suitable Example

Your first port of call when asked a behavioural interview question is to find an appropriate scenario from your professional or personal history that you can expand on.

Before the interview, come up with a number of stories and examples for different situations so that you have them up your sleeve ready for the big day. You can tweak and adapt them for different questions. For example, you might have two example each for teamwork, problem solving, initiative, interpersonal skills and pressure. In certain cases they may be the same example, however the more the merrier!

If you can’t come up with an example from your repertoire on the day, it’s ok to let the interviewer know that you are thinking about it. You can then take some time to think of a scenario and formulate an answer. 

2. What was the Situation?

Once you’ve decided on the story you are going to tell, you have to set the scene to the hiring manager. Remember to stay focused and only tell information that’s relevant to your overall point. 

3. What was your Responsibility and Role in the Situation?

The story you are telling has to ultimately revolve around you and what you did in the anecdote. Here you need to make the interviewer understand exactly where you fit in.

4. How did you Address the Situation?

Now that the story has been laid out and he or she knows what your role was and the problem you faced, you can describe what you did to address the problem. 

Remember to be specific, whether that’s naming the software you started using, the type of plan or way of working you initiated or the testing that you undertook. 

5. What were your Outcomes?

This is your chance to put everything together and show that the actions that you took led to favourable results. Again, remember to be specific, whether it’s the number of additional users to your app over a specific timeframe or how much admin you cut back on and how much time this freed up for employees. If possible, quantify your achievements and use numbers or percentages. 

Some stories may not end in perfection and that’s ok. However even if you’re talking about a time you failed or made a mistake, make sure you end on a high note by talking about what you learned or the steps you took to improve.

To get the best results from using the STAR technique, PRACTICE. Get your friends to ask you as many hypothetical questions as you can think of so that you learn to think on the spot. You’ll also improve your ability to formulate your answers into stories that you feel comfortable in describing and you remember to get all the important points across with a bang.