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What you need to know about STAR method

A job interview most often consists of a series of questions that focus on the competencies of the job applicant. In this situation, hiring managers use the STAR interview technique to assess the experience professional and personal qualities of the job applicant. Behavioral interview questions are designed for the candidate to give not just one-word answers but to start a story about their competence.

A professional interviewer often uses the competency-based interview STAR in this situation. With this method, getting a structured answer to a complex question is possible while maximising the detail. You should read our article if you want to use this technique when looking for a decent employee.

Demystifying the STAR Method

Competency-based interviews are one of the most effective tools to assess a candidate. The presented technique involves answering behavioural questions that consist of 4 consecutive stages:

  • Situation – first, you need to describe the situation and when it happened.
  • Assignment – the job candidate should describe what the task was and what result was to be achieved.
  • Action – People should describe their past behaviour and actions to achieve the goal.
  • Outcome – at the end, the job candidate should describe their successful outcome, which was achieved by their actions.

Common behavioural interview questions are designed to test a variety of skills. The candidate has to answer them in the context of real-life events. Interview questions are directly related to the type of position the candidate is applying for, the field of work and the level of professionalism.

Understanding the Situation in the STAR Method

Traditional star interview questions often start with the interviewer asking the candidate about one of the competencies listed in the vacancy. That is why it is necessary to prepare for a competency-based interview in advance, to study the job description in detail to be ready for various competency-based questions. During a job interview, candidates are most often asked what soft skills they have:

  • communication skills and the ability to negotiate with people;
  • teamwork;
  • Problem-solving skills.

Many competency-based interview questions require the candidate to provide a short, compelling story from a past job, which real-life examples should support. Suppose you are looking for an internship at a particular company or have modest work experience. In that case, it is best to prepare to answer questions that describe your extracurricular activities and achievements in school projects that have been performed to the best of your ability.

Tackling the Task in the STAR Method

STAR interview questions provide an opportunity to create a clear and simple story that reveals the essence of a difficult situation and demonstrates how exactly the employee solved it. The presented technique consists of 4 consecutive parts:

  • Situation. When answering competency-based interview questions, you first need to define the scene of the story and provide the specific context and background of the situation being described. If the interviewer is interested in the team effort, you should describe the project, who exactly you worked with, when you started developing the project, and what position you held.
  • Task. The next step is to describe your role in past situations and what your previous roles were. At this stage, make sure that the hiring manager has made key takeaways and understands exactly what you have been assigned to do.
  • Action. Describing the concrete steps taken is the most important part of the story when going through competency-based interviews. At this stage, it is worth describing problem-solving and how you overcame the task. Be sure to mention whether you were a team member or whether you solved the problem on your own. In this situation, it is worth conveying your assessment of the problem and your progress report to the hiring manager. Describe your past experiences in as much detail as possible. At the same time, a good answer should be free of jargon and unacceptable abbreviations for business communication.
  • Result. At this stage, the hiring manager may hear the result finally. In this case, the problem-solving should be described positively, telling how exactly you helped the company. It is worth adding specific figures. For example, describe your positive behaviour in the following way: increased sales by 20% and similar.

Compelling answers should always include concrete examples: real-life situations that you have been able to handle. Job interviews require a lot of preparation, so it’s worth preparing your best answers in advance to demonstrate your professionalism.

Detailing Your Action in the STAR Method

Using the STAR technique requires thorough preparation. If you plan to take a competency interview, it is worthwhile to take the following steps in advance:

  • Think about recent situations you have been in. Decide what details you can provide that demonstrate your positive behaviour or effective problem-solving. It is worth describing how you handled conflict in favour of the company, your leadership skills and other key competencies that demonstrate your positive behaviour and how you took the initiative.
  • Try to answer questions as openly as possible: describe each situation, and be prepared to provide certain details if necessary.
  • The story should always have a proper structure: beginning, middle and end. A competency interview involves describing the candidate’s experience. It would help if you were prepared to describe the situation and how exactly you acted in detail.
  • When answering interview questions, you should remain frank. Don’t embellish your actions, but at the same time, don’t leave out important parts of the story. Most likely, the potential employer has had more than one interview, so they will recognise when a candidate is not honest with them.
  • Make sure the result creates a positive impression of you. Think about how your response looks to the hiring manager.
  • In competency-based interviews, it is necessary to remain as specific as possible in describing situations and give a detailed account of what happened.
  • Use two examples or more. Avoid repeating the same situation several times. A variety of experiences should be demonstrated.

During the interview, the candidate may feel pressure, but competent preparation will allow you to cope with excitement and take control of yourself.

Highlighting the Result in the STAR Method

Using the STAR technique requires a thorough job description of your job outcome. It is one of the most important parts of the answer, as a positive result demonstrates how suitable a potential employee is for a particular position. During the competency-based interview, it is worth talking about your achievements, how you have benefited the company, what you have learnt and how you would do things differently next time, if relevant.

Be sure to provide concrete evidence: how the conflict resolution happened and how much of a win-win result you achieved. If possible, provide specific figures. In addition, the STAR interview can also include third-party feedback – important evidence of your competence. It can be obtained from the management team, the client, colleagues and others.

The Benefits of Star Interview Questions

The Use of the Star method boasts several positive qualities. The main ones include the following:

STAR Method for Structured and Effective Responses

Employers often use the STAR technique to compose competency-based interview questions. This method is combined with a point system for evaluating candidates who apply for a particular position. It means that all new employees receive the same questions. It maximises the interview process, where all candidates have an equal opportunity to demonstrate professionalism.

Behavioral questions require candidates to recall their previous job. Some candidates find it easier to answer these interview questions than the standard ones, which require a fairly original response. During a STAR interview, the employer is looking for 2 things:

  • who can work as efficiently as possible;
  • who can fit in perfectly with the existing team.

Competency-based interview questions offer candidates a chance to show they have enough experience and skills to perform the job duties effectively.

STAR Method’s Impact on Interview Success Rates

Competency questions provide an opportunity to eliminate the risk of bias. In the past, hiring managers hired people based more on their intuition. They may have hired a person based on their appearance and manner of conversation. The STAR approach still leaves the risk of human bias, but it is much lower.

Moreover, experience affects future performance. If an employee has done it once, they will be able to do it again. Employers believe that the STAR interview results in more qualified candidates for a position who demonstrate positive future performance and are best suited for the role.

Mastering the STAR Interview technique

The STAR technique requires a certain amount of skill. It applies not only to the person who will have to answer but also to the person who will ask interview questions. That is why we have prepared a small guide for both categories of people.

How to Prepare STAR Method Examples

To make it easier for you to conduct a STAR interview and prepare for it on a tight deadline, we suggest you read our selection of challenging interview questions:

  • Describe a situation where your leadership skills were able to turn things around and turn things around in a positive way for you/the company.
  • Tell us about your innovations that allowed you to achieve excellent customer service.
  • Tell about a situation where you had to communicate with or lead a large group of people. Please describe how you could effectively communicate your message to them.
  • Tell us about a situation where you took the initiative in your past position.
  • Describe a time in your past work when you had to change your plans to meet a deadline.
  • Tell us about an instance when you had to use your political expertise to complete a complex and time-consuming project.
  • Describe a situation that demonstrates your ability to use the resources available wisely, thereby providing quality service to each client.
  • Tell us about your mentoring or coaching strategy, which you created and implemented in the company. What role did you play in this process, and what results were achieved?
  • Tell about a time when you had to challenge another colleague at work whose views you thought were wrong. Describe the outcome of your challenge, what exactly happened and whether you could get your point across to the other person and change their mind.

The presented interview questions allow you to understand whether the new employee will be able to achieve an excellent result in a particular position. Most often, in addition to all of the above questions, additional leading questions can also be asked: “What did you learn from this situation?”, “Would you have acted differently in this situation?”, “What positive things did you learn?”. The preparation of answers to competency questions also requires special attention.

Tips for Delivering STAR Method Responses with Confidence

It would help if you always found out what questions the interviewing panel will get. But more often than not, this situation focuses on workplace issues. The hiring manager often expects the job applicant to show the skills and abilities needed to be successful in the job:

  • critical thinking;
  • problem-solving;
  • Ability to work under high pressure under stressful conditions;
  • conflict resolution abilities;
  • Having leadership skills to lead a group of people.

During the preparation, it is worthwhile to familiarise yourself with the job description and what skills the best candidate should have. It is also a good idea to find out what challenges and obstacles may arise on the path to be travelled. After that, you should think about the situations you have encountered during your labour that show you from a positive side.

Whatever story you will tell, ensure you have correctly identified the Situation, Task, Action and Outcome. Your answer should fully align with the skills and competencies specified in the job posting.

It also doesn’t hurt to look at ready-made examples of answers to this type of question:

Tell us about a time when you were able to deal with a difficult situation in your previous position. How exactly did you behave?

In my previous job as a night nurse, a colleague quit after interviewing for a position in a private hospital. At the time, I was managing a ward full of patients, and I was sent another patient refusing to be admitted to hospital. He wanted to run away from his ward. I spoke to him, explained the importance of hospitalisation for his condition and reassured him that he would receive round-the-clock care and plenty of attention, which was impossible to do at home. The patient eventually calmed down and spent the next 3 days in the hospital under constant supervision. After that, he was discharged. His wife came to me to thank me for helping a man who, in her opinion, has a very stubborn and difficult character.

Have you ever made a mistake at work? How exactly did you deal with it?

I worked as an assistant property manager for a company responsible for organising house inspections for a while. A man was interested in a vacant house. He put down a deposit and said he would move in 3 days. But I just remembered that I had to book the house and give it to another tenant. I realised my mistake only on the day the man moved in. I immediately started looking for another place for him and found a flat with faulty plumbing. I called the handyman to fix the problem.

I called the man and explained that there had been a mix-up. Afterwards, he apologised and asked if he wanted to move to another flat. It was just as spacious as the first one. Luckily, he didn’t mind. I told my supervisor about all this, and he was pleased that I was able to resolve the problem quickly. After that, I carefully wrote down all the information about tenants and flats to avoid repeating that mistake.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the STAR Method

Using the STAR method has certain disadvantages. Even though, in this way, it is possible to show the best side of a candidate for a position, during the use of the STAR technique, some people make certain mistakes:

  • Some candidates spend a lot of time on how to answer questions during a competency-based interview. As a result, the conversation will unintentionally give the impression of communication with a robotic person – the answers are memorised and not real.
  • Not all candidates like the open-ended nature of questions, so they tell poorly constructed and unclear stories.
  • Not all candidates are prepared for behavioural questions; they may freeze up in this situation, not knowing what to answer.
  • If only competency questions are asked, the candidate cannot talk about their motivation and other positive qualities.

You should have improved communication to answer the interviewer’s questions properly. Also, read the job description in detail so you are aware of the situation.

The STAR technique is one of the easiest and most effective ways to successfully pass the next interview, giving the most convincing answers possible to demonstrate to the employer that you are a great fit for the position compared to other candidates. Please read our article in detail and practise answering during the competency-based interview.

What you need to know about STAR method
Date: 26 September 2023
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Useful materials about job search in your mail
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