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Why the STAR technique is essential for job interviews

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Preparing for an interview is as crucial as undergoing the interview itself. It can mean the difference between getting offered a job or not, no matter how qualified you are.

Even the best public figures, ted talk presenters and stand-up comedians all prepare and practice well in advance to ensure they perform well. That all important job interview should be no different.

 

What is the STAR technique?

One of the segments in a job interview that is often hardest to respond to when ‘winging it’ is the competency based interview questions. This is where you may be asked to explain or give examples of scenarios or work projects that were successful or challenging, rewarding or difficult, and why. 

Such questions help the interviewer determine things like how you deal with certain situations, what specific and relevant experience you have relating to the job on offer, or how you would approach a particular scenario that is likely to come up in the role itself. 

You can use the STAR technique to help you answer competency based questions thoroughly. It provides you with a structure to answer these coherently whilst not scrimping on detail. 

 

So… what does STAR stand for? And what are STAR questions?

 

S – Situation

This is where you explain briefly a project or work situation relevant to the question given in order to set the scene. It would normally include describing (succinctly) what the project, brief or issue it was you were presented with, who was involved and what the desired outcome was intended to be.

 

T - Task

This is where you explain what plans you made and how you decided to tackle the project or situation you experienced in order to try and achieve the desired outcome. It is best to highlight one or two specific decisions that were made, (especially if they were difficult and why), and the thought process behind the plans and decisions. 

 

A – Action

Next you would briefly explain what action took place. Were the plans followed? Did you have to adjust your plans along the way? Did you work in a team or independently? In particular, it’s good to re-enforce your involvement and what role you played in completing the task or project or solving the problem.

 

R – Result

Finally you sum up what the outcome of your planning and action was and if it was successful or not. Don’t forget to include why you think it was or wasn’t successful and what you learned from it. Whether it was a positive outcome or not, and whether the outcome was desired or something unexpected – what you learned from it is one of the key bits of information that your interviewer will be looking for.

 

What is the purpose of a competency based interview?

By including a brief description of a situation, task, action and result relating to your previous experience;

  • your interviewer hears about the experience you have in detail, which will give them a better sense of your capabilities and mindset
  • by giving examples that are relevant, you are showing you have a sound understanding of the job on offer
  • you show that you are capable or seeing a situation or project through from start to finish
  • if you prepare examples in advance you be much more relaxed and confident in the interview and you are likely to be more articulate when explaining how your experience is relevant

You may also find that if you prepare several scenarios in advance of your interview, you can use different experiences to respond to different questions, and preparing several different responses is not much more difficult than preparing one.

Got an interview coming up? Check out our full interview guide for more tips to help you get prepared and make the right impact. 

Best of luck!

 
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