Whether you are a school leaver or at the manager level, harnessing the STAR method for interviews of all kinds, specifically job ones, proves effective repeatedly. Most successful job seekers will know about this structure, after all.
Contrary to what you might imagine, understanding this approach is not rocket science. Nor is it a pseudoscience like astrology (get it, space puns? Wow, tough crowd).
The STAR method stands for Situations, Tasks, Actions, and Results. The acronym helps you easily structure and focus your answers to behavioural or competency questions, allowing recruiters or hiring managers to clearly see the skills, qualities, experience, and passion you could bring to a role.
It is a great approach for answering difficult situational questions and encourages an engaging, direct, and story-like response. And since we are not fond of gatekeeping, we are here to show you how it works.
In the first quarter of this method, you will provide context or background to a situation relevant to the question that has been asked. This will include information such as when and where you were working on a project, whom you were working with, and broader details of the project at hand (before you get specific later).
If you do not have any work experience to fall back on, do not worry! Where appropriate, you can frame your answers around hobbies, personal responsibilities, volunteering, schoolwork, or passion projects, where appropriate – whatever allows your skills and interests to shine.
Next, you will want to describe your role or responsibilities in the situation. Were you in charge of leading a team? Maybe you were delegated a specific task as part of a wider group project? This is important to a recruiter or hiring manager in understanding what you oversaw and what you were working towards.
If the STAR method was a Marvel film, this would be the pivotal moment where Thanos snaps his fingers (we would give a spoiler warning, but the film has been out for ages so if you have not watched it yet, that is on you). This is where you will go into detail about how you managed the situation or remedied a problem.
Did you do it alone or work together as a team? If it was the latter, make sure to keep the focus on yourself. Using the words ‘we’ and ‘us’ may be tempting, but it is vital to frame and spotlight your personal contributions. What steps did you take? How did you work towards your goal?
This does not mean taking credit for other people’s work, but the recruiter or hiring manager wants to see YOUR proactiveness, ambition, and intuition. It is YOUR interview. There is nothing ‘cringe’ about tooting your own horn from time to time.
Finally, round off your answer by showing the positive outcome your contributions to the project made. It is also a good idea to showcase your key learnings and takeaways from the experience too.
To make your answer even more effective, you should provide examples of your actions by linking them to data or tangible effects. If you work in business, this could be a 20% increase in sales for the quarter. For social media, you can demonstrate your success by providing social analytics and metrics. Or if you are a Zookeeper, how many walruses did you manage to feed before having your arm gnawed off? They can eat up to 102kg of fish a day – we think that is mighty impressive.
But what is even MORE impressive is preparing answers using the STAR interview method in advance. Here are some examples of questions that you could be asked.
The goal of using the STAR interview method is to showcase essential skills that are valued by employers in the workplace. Sure, holding your phone and scrolling TikTok with your toes is impressive. But will it make you more employable? Or is it an essential skill? That one is debatable.
You will be assessed on your potential future performance at work, so skills to emphasise will include the following.
Now you might be thinking “fantastic, but what does the STAR interview technique look like in practice?” That is a great question. A question so great, in fact, it deserves a great answer.
Question (Q): “Describe a time when you have led a project to success. What did you do?”
Situation (S): “While studying at university, I was part of an elected committee for the award-winning student television production society.”
Task (T): “As an Executive Producer, I was tasked with organising a series of video projects from pre- to post-production, collaborating with a team of student volunteers with a limited budget and time constraints.”
Action (A): “Firstly, I allocated budgets and time to each stage of the production process. This included sourcing props, equipment, on-screen talent, scouting locations, and training volunteer crew members. To make sure the opportunity to take part in the production was as accessible as possible, the budget involved reimbursing travel costs and lunch for those involved. In the allocated timeframe, and after sourcing an international team, we delegated the tasks of storyboarding, scriptwriting, filming, presenting, editing, and marketing by matching each available role to the skillsets and desires of the volunteers.”
Result (R): “With the video series being exported and delivered within the allocated time, I was able to publish it online and submit it to the National Student Television Awards. The series of 4 instalments garnered an accumulation of 80,000 views, was premiered and broadcast through the 8 on-campus university bars, and won the ‘Best News Programme’ category at the awards. Through working collaboratively within a team of multiple nationalities, I also enhanced my cultural awareness and intercultural communication skills, which could be valuable for working in a global company like this one.”
When answering behavioural or situational questions using the STAR interview method, it is also important to be prepared, but not over-prepare. It is a fine line (no, not the Harry Styles song). Following it is especially useful for those of you who find interviews intimidating, get easily flustered, or ramble while you are nervous.
Preparing in advance will ease those butterflies in your stomach, as well as give you a solid structure to recall your highlight situations and skills. To help you in doing this, you can do the following.
With time, patience, and practice will come improvement with interviews. The only possible way to get better at them is by doing them. So, using these tips, get out there and put your best foot forward using the STAR interview method. Save or favourite this blog to use as a handy guide for later too.
And if it is apprenticeships, grad roles, work experience, or internships that you are looking for, you can search through the thousands of opportunities right here at your fingertips on the GetMyFirstJob website. We have got your back. Happy job hunting!
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