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How to Use the STAR Format in an Interview

September 2021 by Tradewind Australia

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Your chance of interview success depends on how well you prepare and answer interview questions. By using the STAR interview response technique to shape your answers, you can not only ensure they effectively and succinctly cover the questions, but also showcase your abilities and experience to your potential new employer.

STAR: What it Means and Why It's Used

The STAR method is a very useful way of addressing those inevitable behavioural and competency questions (e.g. “Describe a difficult work situation and how you overcame it” or “Tell me a little about how you work effectively under pressure”).

Employers ask these questions to help them assess whether you are the right fit for the role and company, as well as to identify the core competencies required, such as your creativity or problem-solving prowess.

The STAR method is broken down as follows

Key Preparation Tips

A great interview answer is a comprehensive one, and by addressing all four elements in the STAR method, you’re sure to provide this.

To help you formulate your answer using this technique, it’s good to do a little prep work:

  1. Review the job ad and description
    Carefully read through these recruitment documents and jot down the required skills and/or experience. Then note down your matching abilities and prior experience.
     
  2. List a few examples
    Once you have this list, reflect back on specific times you successfully showcased the required skills or experience. For each one, list out the situation, task, action and result. As you won’t know the interview questions ahead of time, it’s a good idea to prepare a range of examples for common questions.
     
  3. Review and frame your answer
    Now spend some time thinking about your strengths and weaknesses. Go back to each example and try to incorporate how you used your strengths to solve problems or challenges. If appropriate to the example, you can also mention occasions where you’ve recognised your mistakes and taken steps to address them.

    When formulating your answers, try to focus on just a couple of sentences for each letter of the STAR acronym. However, you can expand on the results section, as this is often an area employers hone in on.

How to Use the STAR Format

To help you see the STAR interview response technique in action, here is an example to give you an idea.

Interview question

Describe a difficult work situation and how you overcame it.

Situation
“In my last role, I had an extremely high workload and my team leader would unexpectedly add to it on a regular basis. This created a fair amount of stress and really impacted how much I could achieve day-to-day.”

Task
“Ultimately it was my responsibility to be able to effectively manage my own workload, but I didn’t feel like I had the power to say no to my manager.”

Action
“After a bit of brainstorming, I decided to install some project management software, so I could see in real-time exactly what I had on. It also helped me realistically estimate how much time certain tasks took. I then scheduled a meeting with my manager to show her, as well as explain how I’d been feeling.”

Result
“By allowing my manager to easily see what my current workload looked like, she had a better insight into my capacity to take on more, and I was able to pinpoint how my time was being spent. It made a huge difference to me as I was able to take back control of my work and achieve what I knew I was capable of.”

Need Extra Support?

That’s our brief rundown of how to use the STAR format to craft your interview responses. If you’d like some further support in this area, please feel free to reach out to one of our recruitment specialists – we’d love to lend a hand.