Guide to using the STAR interview technique
Interview questions based on competencies are known as behavioural questions. The STAR interview technique is one of the best methods to use to answer behavioural questions. This article will look at what the STAR interview technique consists of, and look at some examples of implementing this method when answering interview questions.
What is the STAR interview technique?
The star interview technique is a method that you can use to answer behavioural interview questions. These questions prompt you to respond using real-life examples. STAR is an acronym for situation, task, action and result. Using this technique will help you prepare clear and concise answers with real-life examples. This is beneficial if you want to quickly highlight your experience and skills and back them up with examples.
While it's difficult to know what questions interviewers will be asking in an interview, behavioural questions tend to focus on work-related challenges. The questions asked are so you can demonstrate your critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. You can use these situations to highlight your interpersonal skills, strengths, conflict resolution and how well you do under pressure.
How does the STAR interview technique work?
The STAR interview technique is an outline that allows you to emphasise an apparent conflict and resolution. We've broken down what STAR stands for below.
This is the section where you set the scene. Describe the situation and the context of the conflict you faced. Be sure that you remain factual and use a relevant issue to show how you resolved the issue. Keep it specific rather than giving a general answer.
By giving up to four pieces of relevant information, the interviewer will have enough context. You do not need to spend a lot of time on this section, as the interviewer is more concerned with the actions taken rather than how it all started.
Discuss your role and the relevance you had in the situation. Like the last part, all you need is a few points in this section to make your task known. Don't spend too much time on it. Be careful to not make this into the 'action' part of the method. An example of this would be: 'As the project supervisor, my role was to ensure we met all the deadlines while confirming our plan with upper management and keeping up the team's morale'.
This section explains the actions you took to resolve the dispute or how you overcame the challenge. This is the part the interviewer will want to know about the most, as it will indicate how you will fit into the position. Be ready to discuss a few of the most impactful steps you took to successfully resolve the issue and be as specific as you can.
Usually, as you work with a team, the word ‘we' gets used a lot. Remember to try and use ‘I' instead, as the interviewer is looking at how you successfully handled the situation, including the steps you took to reach your goal.
The result should be positive. What happened? How did it end? What did you accomplish? Describe the outcome of your actions, focusing on two to three impressive results. This section is nearly as important as the 'action' section, and you should spend almost as much time speaking about it. It's essential to discuss how your actions lead to an outstanding result.
What are behavioural questions?
Interviewers use behavioural questions to gauge how developed your problem-solving skills are. By asking these questions, the interviewer can get an insight into your personality, skills and abilities. As the questions can vary, it's wise to prepare a few different answers. These answers should highlight your skills and strengths. The logic behind these questions is that your past success will lead to your future success. The questions will always be open to avoid a 'yes/no' answer.
STAR example questions
Here are a few examples of behavioural questions that may come up in an interview:
Tell me about a time you handled a challenging situation.
What do you do if you disagree with a team member?
Tell me about a mistake you made. How did you handle it?
Have you ever set goals for a team? How did it go?
Tell me about a goal you failed to achieve.
Can you tell me about a time when you had to be flexible and adaptable?
Tell me about a time you disagreed with your supervisor.
Describe a time you have to give bad news. How did it go?
Can you tell me about a time when you tried something risky and failed?
Give me an example of a time you set a goal and how you achieved it.
How to prepare for behavioural questions
The steps below serve as a guide to help you prepare answers to behavioural questions you might be asked during an interview:
1. Study the job specification
The job specification will give an excellent insight into what they're looking for in a successful candidate. By looking at the list of responsibilities, you can come up with some mock scenarios of the kind of obstacles and challenges you'll face in a role like that.
2. Research common questions
Following on from the examples above, the interviewer can only ask a finite number of behavioural questions in an interview. Familiarise yourself with them, as even though there are only a certain number of questions, there are many ways to ask them. Take, for example, 'Tell me about a time you worked closely with someone whose personality was very different to yours' and 'Describe how you struggled to build a relationship with someone important'. Both of these questions have the same motive of seeing how well you work with opposing personalities.
3. Write down various examples
It's easy to forget examples when you're preparing for an interview. Writing a few specific examples that you can then tailor to certain questions will help you address what the interviewer is looking for.
4. Practice your answers
By speaking out loud, you can tell if something you're saying does not sound concise or coherent. Practising will help you present yourself more confidently and naturally when giving your answers.
5. If you're new to the workforce
If you don't have any work-related examples to draw from, you can still use this technique. Instead, you can look at any internships or volunteer work you did for examples. You could also use group projects you completed for school to give examples. Some employers ask for non-work-related examples, so don't forget to use your personal life when considering obstacles and challenges you overcame.
How to answer questions using the STAR technique
Here are some examples of popular behavioural questions and answers using the STAR technique:
Have you ever made a significant error in work? What did you do in the aftermath?
Situation: I was a bank teller for an international bank and customer came in requesting ten new cheque books. I went to input them into the system and placed them beside me, but a co-worker had another set that she was using right beside them. I handed her the wrong pile of cheque books without realising, and when she used the cheque book, we took the funds from a different account.
Task: We became aware of this when the customer rang to complain. Another co-worker took the phone call and informed me of the issue. I realised straight away who the customer was and immediately told my manager of the mistake I made.
Action: Once I rectified the accounts, changed the cheque book numbers around to correspond with the correct account, and apologised to the two customers, I devised a system that meant we had to get a co-signer to double-check the numbers before we gave cheques to a customer. They could not be released until the checklist had two signatures.
Result: The customer appreciated my apology, and after a year of this new system being in place, my manager told me that our error rate had fallen by 30%.
Tell me about a time you dealt with conflict at work
Situation: I was in charge of designing a new logo for a corporation with a tight deadline and had to choose a team to help me brainstorm and implement ideas.
Task: One of the team members I chose was excellent at his job, but unfortunately, he was always late and kept missing the deadlines I assigned. When I approached him about it, he grew quite irritated with me and began to shout.
Action: I was taken back by his response, but remained calm. I explained that, while I knew the deadlines I assigned were tight, there was no other way to do it. I told him my reasoning behind the tight deadlines and why there is so much pressure on this. Once he saw I was calm and not shouting back, he calmed down and told me that he was overwhelmed with the number of work projects he had to complete. I asked if there was any way I could help him in this situation and eventually came to the conclusion that his manager needed to know that his workload was too heavy.
Result: His manager assigned his workload to others to help him focus on this project. He stopped being late and his design was the one we ended up using. He thanked me for helping him when he was overwhelmed. Our logo design led to that company working with us exclusively from then on. The contract was worth half a million euro and opened the doors to more opportunities from large organisations.
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