The S.T.A.R. Interview

The S.T.A.R. Interview: A Method for Framing Interview Answers

If you bombed a couple of interviews already, like I did, and are looking for ways to survive the next one, you are in a good place. 

Stick with me here for a couple of minutes and I’ll walk you through the STAR technique and give you a couple of heavy tips.

STAR Interview Answers

I’ll also show you the place I found that taught me the most about, not only surviving an interview, but excelling in an interview; as in “getting hired.”  

Which is, after all, the goal.

I’m getting older now and was not really receptive to the ‘modern’ method of interviewing, where they quiz you with difficult-to-answer questions that never used to come into play.

The new behavioral and situational interview questions are the new standard, or, at least it seems to be trending in that direction.

Actually, I’m fairly certain the reality is -the Genie is out of the bottle and has no intention of going back in.

Can You Relate to This?
After I washed out of a couple of interviews, I did a little research on the topic and found out there is much room for improvement in my interviewing skills. 

I was caught unaware a couple of times and witnessed first-hand how effective the situational interviews are at culling the field of hopefuls.  Combined with the behavioral questions and answers, the unprepared have no chance whatsoever.

An Effective Way of Responding to Tough Questions
The interviewing technique referred to as the S.T.A.R. method is a skill that you might want to acquire if you expect to get a job offer based upon your interview skills.  

Don’t make the mistake of thinking your high-speed degree and resume will provide enough juice to get you the job.  

It won’t.  You need to perform well in an interview in combination with your resume and high-speed degree.

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The acronym S.T.A.R. represents a method of responding to challenging questions whereby you frame the question and response in such a way that, with subtle finesse, shows the interviewer some courtesy and unfolds in fine detail the answer to the question.

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The ability to respond to questions in the STAR format could be advantageous in many situations beyond job interviews.  In all of our lives, we occasionally become involved in what have been called ‘crucial conversations -in which the Stakes are High.  

It is good to acquire a skill enabling you to engage the questioner without allowing emotion to creep in.  (Easier said than done -but, I digress).

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To illustrate the STAR technique, supposing, in an interview you were asked, “Describe a problem situation you had at work (or school) and how you dealt with it.”

The acronym STAR stands for :

S -Situation –what were you trying to accomplish? 

T -Task – What was the goal or target?

A –Action –What action did you take.

R –Result –Describe the outcome.

So then, as an example, you might respond in the following manner

(S.) During the last maintenance  shutdown, we had used up whatever float there was in the outage CPM schedule (due to emergent, unforeseen design deficiencies) that caused the schedule to slip. We needed to find a way to regain that lost time and get back on schedule.

(T.) We were on the hotseat to make up six hours to get back on schedule -which would allow the next activity on the schedule to commence -which was system flush.

(A.) I arranged with the outage manager to have the pipefitters work overtime, along with the mechanics in the valve shop. They needed to replace a seal in a critical 24″ coolant valve. Then the fitters needed to re-install the valve. Additionally, I had the Chemistry Lab and Operations Dept. on standby to do a post-modification test on the system before it was allowed to be put back into service.

(R.) The emergent work was accomplished, the post-mod test plan was conducted and we were able to recover the lost time.  The system flush was conducted and the outage wrapped up on schedule.

STAR Tip
When someone uses the term ‘STAR interview questions’ they are speaking of the style of questioning known as behavioural interviewing.  Those types of probing questions are best organised in a STAR format for clarity and efficiency.

The best STAR answers resemble a story, as you relate your experience.  The use of ‘For example’ helps to segue into your story line.  People like and are able to remember stories.  For more complex situations, the use of props (perhaps to draw a diagram) can be used.  Answers should be fairly short -and focus on you.

This is Worth Pondering

Competition is fierce out there. In recent years there are more good qualified people (in many industries) looking for a job than there are positions available.  To add insult to injury, recent data shows upwards to 40% of recent grads are up to their eye teeth in debt and under-employed.

Which means they’re not working in their field.  They instead took a job for less money just to have some kind of income.  Check the landscaper’s trucks.  They are full of them.

Stakes are High

These are weird times.  When stakes are high, extraordinary measures are warranted.

There are many resources for information on the Internet that will give you the basics about behavioral interviewing, the STAR method, and the like.  That is the information that everyone has access to.

The question in my mind was ‘how do I stand apart from the crowd?’ 

How do I get a ‘leg up’ on the competition?  One position I interviewed for, on which I crashed and burned, I know the successful candidate they hired had less experience than I.  His forte is -he knows how to interview well.

I knew then, I needed something more than the free stuff most people refer to.    I needed something that was several ‘cuts above’ that stuff.

BIG TIP – The Best Place I Found to Educate Myself for a Job Interview

The Ultimate Guide to Job Interview Answers  is a program that will teach you everything you need to know about the process, and coaches you through the process of formulating answers to the myriad of questions that may come up.  I used the product and can tell you, it is what got me hired.  It is the little difference that, for me,  made the big difference. 

STAR Interview: crucial conversation

Crucial Conversations

The Guide has been around since 2004, has been revised regularly to stay up-to-speed with the changing economy and job market.  It has been downloaded and successfully used by thousands.

The Next Step
I would strongly encourage you, at this time, to look over the full review of “the Guideto see if it’s the right thing for you to do.  The review can be found here.

Another STAR Tip
There is a downside to the STAR method of answering interview questions.  If the candidate is attempting to bluff his way through (and is actually not well qualified for the job) it will show up very quickly.  Exaggerations and embellishments are difficult to hide.

The Flip Side
It would seem that the downside for an unqualified applicant is the upside for someone who is well qualified –and skilled at the STAR method.  Think about that.

Final STAR Interview Tip

It’s Show-Time.

When I prepare myself for an interview, I find it helpful to visualize a Broadway stage where I am one of the actors.  In essence, the successful interview is, at some level, no different than an award winning performance.

Not unlike the presidential candidate debates, you need to be prepared as well as they need to be prepared –to respond to any line of questioning and also to respond to the response.

When going into an interview, take a deep breath and mutter quietly to yourself “it’s Showtime.”  Armed with the knowledge and expertise found in the Guide to Job Interview Answers, you will proceed with utter confidence, as I did.

You might win a Tony Award –which, in our world means getting yourself hired!

And Now This
I set-up this website to pass along some things I learned in the process of getting myself hired.  I needed to learn the skills.

Who knows –I may need to use the skills yet again.  In this uncertain job market there is No Security.  The only certainty is that things will continue to change.  I needed to roll with the changes.  You do too.

I hope this information, along with the tips I offered, is helpful to someone. The next step for you is to take a close look at The Ultimate Guide to Job Interview Answers.  

What if it works for you as it did for me?

 

Click HERE to Visit the Website that was Instrumental in my Acing the Interview

 

Recent Visitors to this page ALSO visited these pages:
Being your own best promoter.
Questions to be prepared for.
A tool to get you over the hump.

Other crucial High Stakes job search tools

Do you have any thoughts on, or experience with, a STAR Interview? If so, why not share them by commenting below.

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If you have found some of this information to be useful, please ‘Share’ it, or ‘Like’ it so others can find it, as well.   Social buttons are found in the left margin.  Thank you for spending some time here.

Useful Related Websites:
The S.T.A.R. Interview: STAR
The STAR Interview; or, is it RATS?

Image credits: limonzest / 123RF Stock Photo; USDAgov

15 Responses to “The S.T.A.R. Interview”

  1. Linda C says:

    You are right. I was unprepared and had no chance -what-so-ever.
    It won’t happen again.

    Thanks for turning me onto the Guide to interview Answers.

    Linda

    • Dave Potts says:

      Yes. I learned the way I learn everything -the hard way. :)
      Preparation is ‘key’ -to raise the game to the next level -and stand out in a crowd.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Dave P.

  2. Dan White says:

    Hey -
    Thanks for this STAR insight. It was what I was looking for.

    Framing interview answers like this is beautiful once you get the hang of it.

    I find myself using the method in everyday life.
    People seem to be favorably impressed.

    Thanks again.

    Dan

  3. Bill says:

    I found quite interesting the part where you talk about pretending the interview is a show. I, somehow, agree with that. But, again, I find it hard to measure myself, I don´t want to act it too much as it is not my style. Thanks Dave for these tips for job interviews. It is great that you pass on your experience to the people that are going through the job hunting process.

    • Dave Potts says:

      Thanks Bill. I do appreciate your input.

      I know what you mean. Here’s the thing. None of us were born to do this interviewing stuff.
      I am certainly no actor, nor am I a BS’er.

      What I really mean is -if I’m by nature a shy guy, I need to break out of my shell and ‘act’ as if I’m not.
      No one knows what’s going on inside my head. All they know is my outward demeanor and what they hear me say.

      To act as if we are someone we’re not (professionally) would be a mistake. We shouldn’t try to act as if we
      are knowledgeable about something if we’re not. It will eventually fly back in our face.

      I hope that helps clarify what I wrote earlier. No one likes a ‘phony.’ But we can easily work on our outward demeanor with success.

      Dave P

  4. Ralph D says:

    Hi -

    S.T.A.R.

    Stop
    Think
    Act
    Review

    That’s what it means in the context of industrial safety.

    Just so you know.

    OK. I’ll have to re-learn it now. It sounds like a good concept. And, it’ll be easy to remember, eh?

    Thanks for that. Nice article, I thought, on balance.

    Ralphie
    Seabrook, NH

    • Dave Potts says:

      Hey Ralph -

      Thanks for the compliment.
      You’ll have to remember which hat you are wearing when you need
      to think about which acronym to utilize. :)

      I found the STAR acronym handy to have in my pocket (in the context of interview questions).
      I practiced it about a hundred times -until it was my own -and it made the difference.

      I think you may find the same to be true.

      Thanks for the note. Best of luck to you.

      Dave P.

  5. Meghan R. says:

    I’ve been self-employed for a long time, mostly doing taxes for people from home. Now that my kids are grown, though, I’ve thought about joining a CPA firm. I’m terribly nervous about the interview process. How do I even translate my self-employed experience to their situational questions?

  6. Bob says:

    I never know when to STOP talking in an interview. Maybe if I keep the STAR method in mind, I’ll keep myself from rambling pointlessly.

    • Dave Potts says:

      Ah, Bob. The wisdom is sinking in. :)
      It is said that the difference between a good career and a not-so-good career is about 10 less things said per day.

      Dave P

  7. Melinda B. says:

    I’ve always done pretty good at responding to questions. It’s the follow-up questions (what you call the “response to the response”) I’ve had trouble with.

    • Dave Potts says:

      Thanks for visiting, Mel -

      That’s why it’s good to rehearse until these scenarios roll off your tongue as if by second nature.

      The Interview Answers book gives tons of scenarios and methods of delivery.

      I’ve said it before -the person who can ‘act’ the part in the interview will get the job (all other things being equal).
      Famous actors memorize dialog and step into character and become someone else.

      That is what’s needed today because the reality is -the person best suited for the job is not always the one to get hired.

      Consider using the Interview Answers book. Lot’s of great content there.

      Good luck to you.

      Dave P

  8. Norm says:

    I was thinking of switching firms about a year ago. I did one interview and bombed it. You’re right, questions have changed dramatically since I interviewed for my current job a decade ago! Hopefully I’ll be better prepared next time around.

    • Dave Potts says:

      Hi Norm -

      I don’t know about you but, it seems to me the HR folks would be lost without their corporate HR manual.

      Gone are the days when a smart, intuitive person is evaluating whether you would be a good fit for the company and position.
      HR people, at one time, were excellent judges of character and intellect -which is precisely why THEY were elevated to that position.

      Now, HR people are equipped with a manual. Just like McDonald’s employees. Which is why the American workforce is homogenized, as is the collective American HR Department.

      and is exactly the reason McDonald’s french fries are uniform in appearance and taste whether prepared in Wala Wala, Washington or Wiscasset, Maine.

      It’s all in the manual.

      Unfortunately, that’s who you’re matching wits with, Norm -someone who is Not an excellent judge of intellect and character.

      Which is why we all need the Interview Answers Guide. We need prepared answers to the off-the-wall questions coming our way.

      Thanks for visiting. Good luck with that.

      Dave P

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