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The secret to strong interview answers

By David Brown, CEO of Hays US on Thursday, Mar 22, 2018

During my years in recruitment, I’ve found no better way to state your case and prove you’re the most effective candidate than the STAR technique. A structured, engaging approach to interview answers, STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. The technique forces you to stick to a simplified, cogent framework and back it up with relevant examples.

The STAR technique in practice

Many interview questions, particularly competency-based ones, are designed to gather evidence of your skills and how they’ve been put into practice. Using the STAR technique lets you address an interviewer’s questions directly by talking through exactly how you’ve handled past experiences. A hiring manager doesn’t want to hear vague details – they want to know how you specifically approach a challenge. If you’re getting questions like this:

“You mention here on your resume that you have excellent verbal communication skills. Can you describe a time these skills were put to the test?”

Then here’s how you put the STAR technique to work for you:

S: Describe the situation and set the scene

Start by setting the scene so the interviewer can understand why your skills were needed:

“During my time at X, we launched a new product. This product was going to be pitched to the Marketing Director of one of our clients.”

T: Explain the task you undertook

From there you describe the role you played, and how your skills were put to the test:

“As the appointed Sales Executive for the product, I had to present the pitch. My presentation needed to communicate the unique selling points of our product and how it would benefit our business. On the morning I was to present, I learned that two of our client’s sales directors also wanted in on the meeting.”

A: Describe the action you took

Next you need to help the interviewer understand your response to the task, and how the action you took utilized your skills:

“I adapted my presentation’s focus to address multiple people, and tweaked some of the language for anyone not familiar with the nature of our product – dialing down the jargon so my presentation made sense to both marketing and sales professionals.”

R: Showcase the results of the action

Last, talk about the outcomes of your actions, and how your skills created a positive result:

“As a result of my successful pitch, we secured an initial order for our product that increased our monthly revenue by 25 per cent. The presentation also generated some great feedback from the two additional sales directors in particular.”

Why the STAR technique works

Because STAR is an easy-to-follow framework, it prevents you from wandering off topic or getting caught up in irrelevant details. The STAR technique lets you tell a story to the interviewer, keeping them interested and invested.

STAR also does the all-important job of focusing your mind on the question asked, ensuring that every part of your answer is concise and informative, every time. Practicing for your interview using the STAR technique can also boost your confidence, especially as you discuss your skill set and any past career successes you plan to talk about. You have unique experience and work history – use them to your advantage.

You should also take the time before your interview to re-familiarize yourself with your resume and with the types of interview questions you’re likely to be asked. The STAR technique is most effective when used to exemplify how your skills relate to what an employer needs. So put your best foot forward by adding STAR to your repertoire to show you’re the right candidate for the job.

Feel like you’ve got the hang of the STAR technique and you’re ready to employ it? Then let Hays find you the right company to interview with and put that technique, and you, to work.

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