The STAR technique of Interview: A Guide for the Job seekers

The STAR technique is a method of answering interview questions. More specifically, behavioral interview questions.

With the rising competition in the job market, interviews are becoming unbelievably tough day by day. Inside that room, every aspect of yourself gets judged, from your technical knowledge, to your personality, presence of mind, sense of humour, ability to handle stress, and many more.

The STAR technique is an effective way of answering a special kind of interview questions, i.e. the behavioral questions. If you don’t know what behavioral question means, keep reading.

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In this guide, you will find the following answers:

  1. What is STAR technique?
  2. How to use the STAR technique?
  3. What are behavioral questions?
  4. How to answer behavioral questions with STAR technique?
  5. A list of behavioral questions that can be answered using the STAR technique

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What is STAR technique?

STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result.

S Situation
T Task
A Action
R Result

Explanation:

The STAR technique is used for answering Situational and Behavioral interview questions.

We will discuss about what a ‘Behavioral Question’ is and how to identify them later in this article. For now on, let’s see what this STAR technique entails.

Interviewers like throwing you off-guard, and ask you unexpected questions. For example, they often ask you questions like “Tell me about a time when you independently handled a project”. In such situations, you might find it difficult to provide a catchy answer because, well, you probably didn’t prepare it, or possibly haven’t handled a project in the past by yourself.

Most of the candidates try to find an easy way out of this situation and answer, “I haven’t handled any project independently”. This is one of the biggest blunders to make in an interview. You should never answer a behavioral question with “I haven’t handled such a situation” (unless you want to lose the job).

The STAR interview technique comes to your aid in such situations. Here’s a guide on how to use this method.

How to use the STAR technique?

Using the STAR technique will be easy when you learn and practice it enough. By preparing yourself for a few stock questions on behavioral analysis, you can be able to answer numerous interview questions.

We have provided a list of stock behavioral questions later in this article. How one answer can be helpful in providing answers to multiple questions, we will discuss that too.

As we already know, STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. So, let’s take a look into the same question mentioned before: “Tell me about a time when you independently handled a project”. Here’s how to answer this question:

Situation:

First, you describe the situation, like what problems occurred, and what lead you to the situation in question. In this case, you describe why did you have to work alone in a project, and what exactly did it mean.

For example: “We have a team of 2 graphic designers for our usual projects. We had this project in hand and we had a tight deadline. Unfortunately, my teammate was sick and so I had to take up the whole project. That meant added responsibilities and more time crunch for me.”

Task:

The second step is describing the task at hand. Here you can talk about the added responsibilities that you had to take up in absence of your teammate.

For example: “We generally divide our responsibilities well in advance. Tasks like the research part, about what the client wants, what the market needs are, who our target audience is, etc, and then the execution part, we divide all of these between us. But in this particular case, I did all these by myself.”

Action:

Here, you describe what steps you took in order to complete the tasks.

For example: “I made a schedule of things to do and out all my effort on maintaining that schedule. I also made sure that I complete the list of tasks well before the deadline so that I have plenty of time in my hand to correct any mistakes that might take place”

Result:

The last part is describing the outcome, or what came out of it all. It is important to send a positive message when you are describing the result. You can describe one or two minor setbacks, but don’t say that all your efforts yielded a big zero. After all, the whole point of describing all these is proving your competence!

For example: “As I took these steps to achieve my goal, and made sure each step is completed mistake-free, I finally completed the project on time, and with perfection.”

What are ‘behavioral questions’?

To put it in simple terms, behavioral questions are those interview questions that the recruiters ask a candidate to judge how they behave in particular situations.

So, identifying behavioral questions is easy. Imagine the ideal answer. Are you seeing yourself describing your actions in a particular situation? If yes, it is a behavioral question.

How to answer behavioral questions with STAR technique?

That’s why, answering behavioral questions with the STAR technique is pretty convenient. Even if you haven’t prepared for a particular question beforehand, you can quickly create a well-formed answer with the help of the STAR technique.

When you think about any situation in a step-by-step manner, it becomes clearer to you.

For example, take the same question as before “Tell me about a time when you independently handled a project”. If you face difficulty because you haven’t actually faced such situations in your previous job, you can still use your imagination power combined with the STAR formula: 1st, you try to imagine the reasons for this circumstance, and where the circumstance has lead you. That is the ‘Situation’. Then you have ‘Task’. When you are thoroughly familiar with your work, it’s not tough for you to list the things to do in a special circumstance. Next, it is ‘Action’, i.e. how you execute the tasks. Lastly, ‘Result’ will be the outcome of your actions. Tell the interviewers how your actions yielded a positive result.

That’s it. When you break the answer down to these logical stems, answering them in a practical and concise manner becomes very easy.

A list of behavioral questions that can be answered using the STAR technique

  1. Tell us about a time when you had to motivate others.
  2. Did you ever face a failure in professional life? Describe the incident.
  3. Have you ever faced conflict among your team-members? How did you handle that situation?
  4. Give me an example of a time when you had to work under immense stress.
  5. Tell me about the time when you had to make an unpopular decision.
  6. Give me an example of a time when you worked impressively and surpassed the expectations.
  7. Have you ever been challenged in workplace? How did you handle it?
  8. Have you ever had to make a risky decision?
  9. Did you ever have to change your work because of negative reviews? Tell us in detail.
  10. Tell us about the time when you had to collaborate with a ‘difficult’ colleague.
  11. Did you ever fail to meet a deadline? Describe the situation.
  12. Describe the time when you had to handle a difficult client.
  13. Tell us about the time when you had to adapt to a huge change in workplace.
  14. Give me a practical example of using your logical thinking skills.
  15. Did you ever postpone an important work? Why?
  16. Have you ever made a serious mistake in work? What was the repercussion?
  17. Did you ever get into a conflict with a higher level employee? How did you handle the situation?
  18. Have you ever had to take an important decision in a very short time? Describe.
  19. Did you ever have to fire a friend?
  20. Did you ever deal with an upset customer or client? How did you handle them?

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