7 September 2023

Your Guide to the STAR Interview Technique

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Imagine the situation… You’re in an interview for a placement or internship

You are looking particularly dashing on this day. A rival interviewee has already commented on how much they admire your choice of shoe. You immediately build a rapport with the interviewer and are soon exchanging jests and witty gibes. 

The interview is going very, very well.

And then, they ask you a competency-based question…

Read on to find out how to tackle it.

What is the S.T.A.R interview technique?

The STAR interview technique is the best method of answering competency-based questions. Interviewers ask these types of questions to find out if a candidate has the skills and behaviours that are required for a particular job.

The STAR method will help you form a well-articulated response that is based on your previous experience and backed up by examples of said experience.

Competency-based questions include:

  • Can you provide us with an example of a situation when you worked as part of a team to achieve a goal?
  • What is the main challenge you have faced at work? How did you tackle it? Did you learn anything from the experience?
  • What are your main strengths? 
  • What are your main weaknesses? How have you worked to improve them?
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • How would your enemies describe you?

What does S.T.A.R stand for?

SITUATION: What was the situation you were faced with? When did it happen?

TASK: What was the task? What was the objective of the task?

ACTION: What actions did you take to achieve your objective? How did you tackle the challenges you faced? 

RESULTS: What was the result of your actions? How was your success measured? Did you learn anything from this situation?

The STAR interview technique in practice

How can the STAR interview method be applied to a real-life situation?

Meet Noel. Noel is interviewing for a finance internship at Barclays. In the interview, a question is put to Noel…

‘So Noel, describe a situation in which you led a team…’

SITUATION: I was working at W.H. Smiths as a sales assistant when we rebranded the store for National Book Week.

TASK: Footfall in the store is very high during National Book Week. My job was to ensure the rebrand was completed in time, and that staff maintained a high level of customer service as footfall increased. 

ACTION: To support my manager with the rebrand, I had regular meetings, and stayed in contact with the supplier to ensure the cardboard cut-outs of Harry, Ron and Hermione arrived. I managed my time effectively so that I could oversee the rebrand and continue with all of my shop floor duties at the same time. 

RESULTS: Our National Book Week campaign was a great success. Feedback from the rebrand was widely positive; customers were particularly excited about the cardboard cut-out of Ron Weasley. There was a 60% increase in sales (year-on-year) for that week, and I was rewarded with Employee of the Month for my troubles.

Check out this fun video on how to employ the STAR technique in a real, interview situation. 

Application Forms

Application forms typically feature competency-based questions. Here a few things to consider before you tackle them…

Common errors to avoid!

  • Have you answered all the questions? No question should be left unanswered, unless it does not refer to you, or states something like ‘only answer if applicable’. Furthermore, if there are large blank spaces on the form, expand on your responses.
  • PERSONAL AND CONTACT DETAILS… Is your phone number and email address listed correctly? The employer will be unable to contact you if your details are not up to date.
  • CHECK SPELLING AND GRAMMAR! Employers go absolutely mental when they find spelling mistakes in an application form. 
  • Ensure you have used the correct terminology, such as employee, company and product names. If you’re being interviewed by a lady called Belinda, and you call her Barbara, Belinda will not be happy.

Re-read your responses

Give yourself a suitable amount of time to complete the application form. If you leave it until two hours before the deadline, you will be forced to rush it and all will descend into madness. 

Find somewhere quiet where you can fill out the form without distraction. 

It’s also a cracking idea to print off the application form before you begin. You can plan your responses and draw up a rough draft before you submit the form.

Want to set yourself up for success in any future work experience application? Sign up to our FREE Career Coaching Course, a four-day virtual programme in October, to upskill yourself on CVs, applications and interviews.

Save your answers!

Losing unsaved work is a nightmare. It’s like dropping half of your sandwich on a dusty floor, there is no way back.

Write your responses in a separate document, and then transfer them into the application form – the trustworthy copy and paste. This way, if you lose internet connection or your computer dies, you will not have to start all over again. 

If you’re applying for multiple jobs, it can be useful to have your notes saved from a previous application. You can tweak a response if a similar question comes up.

Some application forms allow you to save a draft so that you can return to the form later – save your work like you would save a kitten stuck in a tree.  

The STAR method is the best approach to tricky interview questions. Follow these steps, and soon enough, employers will be fighting over you like a pack of starving wolves.

Before you run off to resume your game of hopscotch, check out the job vacancies – there are opportunities available with some of the UK’s Best Student Employers.