The STAR Technique

What is the STAR Technique?

The STAR technique is a way to structure your answers to competency based questions in either an interview or an application form. This is when an employer asks you to demonstrate a particular skill by providing an example from your previous experience.

How does it work?

The STAR Technique is split into the following four sections;

S – Situation: Set the scene. Where were you? What were you doing? – pick a specific example of a time when you have demonstrated a skill and give enough information to allow someone to understand the background to your STAR story.

T – Task: Provide details of the task you were faced with/ what you were trying to achieve? What was your desired outcome?

A – Action: What specifically did you do? How did you handle the situation? This should make up the main body of your response and remember if you are discussing working in the team don’t overuse “we” they want to know what you did.

R – Result: What was the Outcome? Try to make this as positive as you can and if the outcome wasn’t good, what did you learn? How would you handle it differently next time?

You can demonstrate your skills using examples from various places including University, voluntary work, work experience, sports activities, societies or hobbies. The point is to demonstrate your skills in a positive manner and to provide a specific example to demonstrate the skill.  In an assessment situation it is best to try varying your examples show a breadth/depth in your experience.

Sounds good but how does it work in practice?

Below are three ways to answer the same interview question and some feedback on each approach. The final example uses the STAR technique.

Question: Can you give an example of when you have used your initiative?

Answer 1: I use my initiative all the time in the Film Society at University; the group didn’t really have any members so I decided to start using social media.

Feedback: This answer is very vague; it’s not really giving the employer a specific example of when the student has used their initiative. Simply stating you have a skill doesn’t provide the evidence an employer is looking for.

Answer 2: Yes, I’m in the Film Club we didn’t have any members so we set up a social media campaign using Snapchat, it looked really cool and we managed to get people to our event.

Feedback: This answer still doesn’t really tell the employer much about the student’s ability to use their initiative or what they did. They use “We” in this so we can’t be sure what their contribution was to the situation, we also don’t know how successful it is as it “seemed to work well”

Answer 3: In my second year at University I was a member of the film society, I had only joined that year and there were 6 members in total at the beginning of the semester. The low membership was problematic and we needed to recruit more students to increase our funding and to enable to society to continue to run events.  

I put forward a suggestion to the group that we host a film night for non-members. Two of the students set up the event and I developed a marketing strategy using Social Media. I decided to create a snapchat story using popular movie quotes and encouraged my classmates to help me to film around campus. To get the story out to as many students as possible, I built a relationship with the University’s social media team who agreed to put it out on the main University Snapchat channel. We had over 1000 unique views of our Snapchat story the day it was released and it resulted in over 100 people attending our first event, we managed to convert 48 into members of the society. The film society still actively use snapchat in our marketing.

Feedback: This answer shows the employer that the student can use their initiative, it highlights key skills like “developed”, “decided” and “built a relationship”. It uses the STAR technique successfully by telling the employer the background to the situation, what the student actually did and what impact it had.