STAR is the acronym developed to help master behavioural interviews. It was developed to help people of all experience levels answer behavioural questions in a structured method to ensure all elements of an answer are covered off. It is an essential skill to understand and an ideal skill to master.
So now you have 2 burning questions, what does STAR stand for and what is behavioural interviewing?
Behavioural style interviews (BEI) are used frequently to assess graduates. The answer to a behavioural question can help predict future performance. This is possible as the question requires you to reflect on your past experiences and answer with specific real-life examples. The answer should demonstrate your skills, behaviours and competencies and therefore can act as a predictor for future performance.
BEI questions will begin with phrases like:
- Tell me about a time when …
- Give an example of when …
- Walk me through a situation that …
- Explain an instance where …
You can see that all of the above phrases prompt you to tell a story about an actual time when you have used a particular skill. TIP: Ensure the stories and examples you use are from real life experience as when you start to develop an example that you were never in, you will find building on a fake example is much harder than you think and pretty easy for recruiters to identify.
What to from here?
Now you understand both the BEI and STAR concepts, it’s time to starting preparing yourself well in advance.
We will break down your preparation in 3 main stages.
- Understand the role and company you are applying for
- Develop and write out examples
- Prepare and practice
Understand the role and company you are applying for
As every company and role is different, is it essential that when you prepare your scenarios & examples you can tie in why and how you will be the right fit for that company and role you are applying for. You will get some serious brownie points when you can tie in facts, values and industry knowledge and double points when you tie in why you are the right choice.
Keep in mind the differences and similarities of companies and how to cater your answers accordingly.
Develop and write out examples
We recommend preparing at least 8-10 different examples based on different scenarios including scenarios such as: customer service, conflict, team, communication skills, goals and objectives or deadlines.
Each example you prepare should be planned out and scripted from start to end based on the STAR scenario. Ensure you can identify each of the 4 stages clearly and that the answer directly addresses the question. Too often we hear answers that miss the whole point of the question and just go off on a tangent.
Prepare and practice
Now you have your examples written out, it’s time to practice and practice some more, until you feel confident and prepared… which at that time, you practice again!
Top tips for this stage:
Each question is written out on a different page.
Time your answers to go for no longer 3-4 minutes, but should be no shorter than 2 minutes.
Practice with someone that has work experience, parents, older siblings, work colleagues etc. Basically someone who has the capacity to probe you and ask questions based on the answer you provide. After this, ask them for both positive and constructive feedback and change/ alter your answers based on feedback as required.
If you struggle to think of scenarios, get out your resume and review your experience. We also strongly recommend speaking with current and past managers, sports coaches or volunteer counterparts.
Think about the questions you may be asked by the interviewer, this could help you plug some holes in your answers.
Practice for at least a couple weeks on the lead up to interviews. Granted you typically only get about a weeks’ notice before phone or face to face interviews, so start practicing at the start of the application period so you have plenty of prep time.
Your greatest asset outside of yourself is preparation, so make the most of it.
Below are some great BEI questions to start prepping with:
- Give us an example of a situation where you didn’t meet your goals or objectives?
- Have you ever had a conflict with a boss or professor? How was it resolved?
- Tell me about a time when despite your best efforts, you were not able to achieve a positive result. When did you realise you weren’t going to achieve success and what steps did you take try and overcome this?
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an irate customer. How did you handle the situation?
- Give us an example of a situation where you faced conflict or difficult communication problems
- Give us an example of when you have worked to an unreasonable deadline or been faced with a huge challenge.
STAR stands for:
|Stage||Description||UCGR Top Tips|
|SITUATION||Outline the problem or instance you were faced with||·Explain the who, what, where and when.|
|TASK||Describe what your task was within the situation||·What was your exact part to play in this situation? The response should be your exact role in the situation, focus on the ‘I’ and not the ‘we’.|
|ACTION||Explain in sequential steps what your response was to the situation. What did you do? You should include as much information within this section as possible; while still being concise.
|·What were the steps you took to solve this challenge?
·How did you overcome roadblocks and follow the situation through to get results?
·Highlight any innovative or outstanding actions you undertook that are worth mentioning.
·Ensure you phrase the actions section in a logical step by step sequence.
|RESULT||Explain the outcome and results of the scenario you just explained. This could be either qualitative or quantitative.||·If you want to take things to the next level describe what lessons did you learned from this scenario or how things were better off because of what you did.
·High level of detail is also necessary in the results step so use numbers where possible. In the absence of quantitative results, qualitative results are also insightful in regards to feedback or consumer comments.
Remember some of the main tips below to help you during each answer:
Focus on the ‘I’ not the ‘we’, as the interviewer we want to know what part YOU played in the scenario, not what your colleague achieved.
Keep your answers recent and relevant, ideally within the past 2-3 years. As an upcoming or recent graduate, it is tempting to recall scenarios from high school, but try not to go that far back. In an ideal world, your examples will come from a work scenario, sports, extracurricular or volunteering. Try and steer away from talking about those university projects examples, as trust us, SO many other students use it! You want to stand out from the crowd, so pick examples that display your skills, traits & personality in the best light.
Keep the results and outcomes measurable, qualitative or quantitative. For example, you could say how you increased sales by 20% or alternatively you could refer to a thank you email you received from a customer or a well done email you received from your manager.
Keep it concise- if you stick to STAR you shouldn’t go off track. Try to keep each answer to no more than 3-4 minutes. Ensure you directly answer the question and not get off track. The bulk of the answer should come in the Task and Action section, so ensure you practice and prepare example scenarios and know how to make them transferable to various types of questions that may come your way. Don’t be shy to ask to clarify the question, take a minute to pause (if you need it) or have a sip of water and take that time to gather your thoughts.
Again, we hope you know our theme by now- PREPARE, PREP and PREP some more!
We’ve done some extra homework for you, check out these links below:
Another summary of the STAR approach:
Sample interview questions:
How to answer leadership questions:
UC Grad Recruiter.