If you’ve been around interview circuits, you know there are many types of job interviews. However, despite the variations, be sure that companies will assess you on competency-based questions in each one.

Competency based interview questions make up a large chunk of your behavioural interviews. It’s a popular approach used to assess your future job performance capabilities based on your response in past instances where you faced similar constraints.

For example, earlier traditional interviews used to ask, “How will you deal with a teammate who’s not cooperating with you?” But now, structured behavioural interviews ask questions like, “Give an example when a colleague didn’t cooperate on a project. How did you deal with it?” This is where the STAR interview technique comes in. The acronym STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Response.

Before diving into the basics of the STAR interview technique, let’s understand where and why it’s used.

Where is the STAR interview technique used?

You can use this interview technique in behavioural interviews. Or anywhere, once you master it. Generally, the questions you can answer with this technique look like:

  • Describe a situation in which you…
  • Give me an example of a time when you…
  • Tell me about a time when you had to…

Why is the STAR interview technique so effective?

Before your interview, the interviewer narrows down a list of qualities/traits which he deems crucial to succeed in that job role. For example, if you’re interviewing for the role of a customer success manager, they’ll assess you on competencies like negotiation skills, conflict management skills etc.

Obviously, you need examples to describe those behavioural qualities. And this is the strength of the STAR interview technique. It combines powerful, methodical storytelling with your past experiences that actually showcase your skills.

Finally, what is the STAR interview technique?

Basically, STAR interview technique is a storytelling framework used to answer a behavioural question. Just like a story is well shaped with a beginning, a middle and an end, the best interview answers need a structure.

Your main goal here is to highlight experiences which best display the skills required in the interview question. Soft skills such as teamwork, leadership, negotiation, communication are some common themes.

1. Situation
Start with a brief background of the situation. You’re trying to give context to the story here (who, what, where, when). Open by introducing the plot. Explain the conditions that led you to develop a solution.

2. Task
This is about the task you were assigned. Remember, it’s not about other teammates, it’s about your role specifically. Explain your task with all variables and figures involved (cost, deadline, numbers etc.). For instance, if you had to raise sales by 50%, mention it. Interviewers love numbers and figures. Additionally, it gives your experience an authentic spin.

3. Action
It’s the most important part of the story. Narrate the specific actions that you took to complete the task. It’s important to note that your actions (not your words) should bring out the desirable traits.

Talk specifically about your role and steps you took to solve the problem (details, figures, methodology etc.) Remember, you’re trying to show how you analysed the situation and decided an optimum response. What’s more, you can easily show leadership and communication skills here. Tell the interviewer how you rallied the team and got a deep involvement from everyone.

Once you sufficiently explain this part, the interviewer should have no problem in noticing your skills and traits.

4. Result
Close with what you achieved. Most important thing to note here is that the result must be a positive outcome. It also helps if you can quantify the result. Like 50% increase in sales, 10% increase in onboarding and so on. By giving hard facts and numbers, you’re actually helping interviewers to accurately judge your efforts. In contrast, vague responses are less likely to make an impression, and thus score less.

Tips to master the STAR interview technique

Tip 1: Take about 6-8 seconds to prepare and structure your response.

Tip 2: Don’t think of new details during the answer. Go with the plan you initially developed.

Tip 3: Focus more on specifics than generic. An experience with unknown characters and undefined parameters for success sounds unconvincing.

Tip 4: Finish the story with a positive spin for a great overall impression. Ideally, the steps should lead from a problem/task to its successful completion.

Tip 5: Be ready for follow-up questions. The interviewer wants to know what you learnt from the experience (Not just the experience).

Tip 6:  For best answers, prepare and practice 6-8 experiences before the interview. And only use recent examples (No points for high school stories for seasoned professionals).

Bonus Tip: Review your resume just before going into the interview room. This will jog your memory.

Conclusion

The best way to describe your achievements is in the form of stories. And the STAR interview technique gives you a way to tell your success stories beautifully. Do it right, and the structure will dissolve from your answer to make the story flow seamlessly.

Finally, we can’t stress enough on the importance of practice. Prepare 5-8 experiences and practice enough to nail any behavioural interview question.

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