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How to use the STAR job interview technique

In every job interview, there is a handy method you can utilise to put your best foot forward and land your next career opportunity – the STAR interview technique.

The STAR job interview technique is useful no matter your sector, as it can help employers to understand your skills, experience and where they can be applied to the role you are interviewing for.

It enables candidates to provide answers as a story and is a useful method for practising delivery. At Distinct, we recommend the STAR technique as interview preparation for all of our candidates, as it provides a structured way to answer interview questions.

What is the STAR interview technique?

The STAR technique incorporates competency-based interview questions designed to test the real-life applications of the skills included on your CV. This tests your behaviour, reactions, ability to think on your feet and dives deeper into your past work experience, showing your real-world skills and achievements to prospective employers.

STAR is a structured technique of answering interview questions that you can utilise to explain a situation, how you responded, and the outcome.

For example, let’s say you get asked ‘When was the last time you demonstrated leadership skills?’. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but there’s a reason for that, it works. Even if you aren’t applying for a leadership role, employers want to know about your potential as well as your existing skills as you are an investment.

What does STAR interview stand for?

STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Activity, and Result. This example shows how the STAR interview technique can be applied to the question of ‘When was the last time you demonstrated leadership skills?’ to provide a clear and concise answer:

Situation

When I was an editor at Company/Publication we had multiple printing deadlines to meet in one month, which would never usually happen.

Task 

We had very little time to complete a lot of work, it was doable, but it was going to be very challenging to achieve the deadline to a high standard. We had no budget to hire any new staff, so something needed to change.

Activity 

I organised the team like never before with new delegations, and positioned everyone in their strongest sector, with different teams to usual so everyone could help out. I took a more creative role within the process to help out rather than delegate from behind a desk.

Result

We hit the deadlines, the content produced was some of our best and the team ended up being a closer unit. The new structure stuck and the teams managed to produce exciting content quicker because of the shake-up.

STAR Interview Answer Examples

You can also use the STAR technique to answer broader questions like ‘What are your strengths?’ to help keep your response focussed and timely. This method is intended for competency and behaviour-based questions like the above, however here’s another example of a STAR interview answer:

Situation

We were once attending a conference where my manager was speaking on a project we had been working on for months at the company.

Task 

He fell extremely ill and needed someone to fill in and discuss the project we had been working on.

Activity 

There were a few of us from the team that could have filled in, but I showed initiative and delivered the presentation, and was honest with the audience that we were a manager down.

Result

The presentation went smoothly, his slides had accompanying notes that I could follow, and it showed me that my strengths were knowing how to use initiative, handle pressure, speak in public, and take mishaps in their stride.

What are the benefits of using the STAR interview technique?

The STAR technique may seem like a long-winded way of answering an interview question, however, it structures your responses and is especially helpful if you are suffering from interview nerves. Don’t be afraid to show your personality in these questions, if you found the situation intimidating at first but the result was still positive, tell them, it shows progression and adaptability.

It is best practice not to answer every question using the STAR interview technique, as you can appear robotic and potentially offer too much information. Keep things concise and be yourself, remember that getting the interview is the hard part!

Work with Distinct

At Distinct, we match candidates to their ideal job opportunities across the UK. Contact us today to learn how we can support you to take the next step in your career.

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