What is the STAR Technique?
“Tell me about a time when…”
You’ll come across a number of interview techniques in your job search, from one-to-one chats to workplace tours to the classic across-the-desk formal style. Whatever the framework, the end goal is always the same - to find out if you are the best person for the job. To that end you will, in any interview, be asked a number of competency-based questions.
The interviewer will ask you to tell them about a time when you demonstrated leadership, or solved a problem in a unique way, or faced a particularly difficult challenge. In short they will ask you to tell a story illustrating your competence and resourcefulness.
The trouble is most people are not natural storytellers. It’s easy to miss important details or launch into tangents or simply run out of steam. This is why it’s important to structure your answer to provide a concise, satisfying narrative which answers the interviewer’s question and shows your value.
The STAR Technique
The STAR Technique is a formula for answering competency-based questions, it stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result, these being the four crucial elements of your story.
Situation - Set the scene, sketch out the context and background. What was the problem and what needed to be done about it?
“A customer called up angry that they hadn’t received a follow-up call for a question they had raised over two weeks ago”
Task - What was your specific task in the situation? This isn’t what the team had to achieve (that’s part of the context), just your own specific objectives
“I had to find out why they hadn’t been called back and attempt to resolve their query”
Action - What did you do? This is the meat of your story, how you assessed the situation and decided on a course of action
“I apologised for the delay and checked our call log for the customer’s original query, which had been taken by a colleague who had since gone on holiday. I was unable to resolve the issue immediately but offered to call back the same day”
Result - What happened?
“I was able to resolve the customer’s query within a few hours and called them back as promised to let them know. They were satisfied and continue to do business with the company.”
The above example is intended as illustrative only, and as such is much more vague than your real answers should be. The more definite and specific you can be the better. Avoid unnecessary detail, but the nature and complexity of the problem at hand is important, and if there’s a defined benefit to your result then this should absolutely be expanded upon. A 15% increase in revenue from X is much more impressive than “an increase in revenue”.
You never know exactly what an interviewer is going to ask you, so it’s helpful to have a number of STAR stories prepared to cover your key strengths. Luckily a fringe benefit to a planned structure is that it makes things easier to remember, so once you get started it’s really not difficult to build up a repertoire.