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Be a star with star techniques

If you want to be a STAR at interview, then prep well by learning the ‘STAR interview method’. This behavioural method is being used more and more by private and public organisations.

Why is STAR so important?

It helps paint a full picture of whether you’ll be a great fit for an organisation’s culture and team. It tests how you have performed in the past, which is important since this is most likely how you will perform in the future. The STAR method provides employers with a view of your level of competency, how you work through problems and/or difficult situations.

Where to start

  1. Research what’s important

Study the job description and research the company to determine the behavioural-type questions they might ask.

  1. Develop a list of competencies, attributes, and skills

Focus on what you believe the company is looking for. Your list could include competencies like time management, leadership, attention to detail, creativity. If you’re working with a recruiter, get them to help you here.

  1. Set up STAR scenarios around your experience

Everyone loves a good story so create interesting ones, highlighting STAR’s four elements. Remember to keep to the point. Don’t go walk about!

  1. Highlight the good, the bad and the ugly

If you don’t talk sincerely about challenges at work (and, let’s face it, there are always challenges) then you’ll be seen to be ‘glossing over’ real work life.

How to approach 

  1. Start with a story of what the problem or challenge was and the situation you found yourself in.
  2. Move on to how you found a solution and what you were trying to achieve, highlighting the skills you used to perform.
  3. Describe what you did, what actions you took, why you took them, the alternatives you thought through and how you implemented the solution.
  4. Outline the resulting outcomes and benefits, including how they met the objectives. You can also include anything you learned from the experience.


  • Keep it short. Make sure your response is no more than two minutes long.
  • Rehearse telling your stories in advance, so you sound confident and self-aware.

Example to guide you

Situation—role as research support officer in a super busy, fast-paced private sector organisation where there was never time to sit and reflect. In this environment, managers weren’t being kept informed of updated policies and procedures and this was frustrating them and affecting the organisation’s efficiency.

Task—examined all existing communications channels to determine if any could be used to solve the problem or whether a new one needed to be developed as a solution, bearing in mind budget and production.

Action—initiated a monthly email newsletter for managers. Took responsibility for developing stories (consulting with colleagues), wrote main articles, edited and proofread, coordinated production.

Result—enhanced communication, better understanding of policies and procedures, increased efficiency and received excellent feedback from managers.

So you don’t wander, phrase your response like this:

The situation I was in was xxx.

The tasks I was responsible for were xxx.

The actions I took were xxx.

The result was xxx.

Ten top behavioural scenarios asked at interview

  1. Describe a time you faced a stressful situation and how you overcame it.
  2. Describe a situation when you had to think on your feet to make an important decision.
  3. Provide an example of when you motivated others and how this led to a positive outcome.
  4. Provide an example of a goal you set and how you reached it.
  5. Describe a situation where you knew your boss was wrong and how you handled it.
  6. Provide an example of when you had to go above normal duties to get a job done.
  7. Provide an example of a problem or conflict you had with a colleague and how you resolved it.
  8. Describe a time when you weren’t performing at work and what you did about it.
  9. Detail a time when you didn’t meet a deadline and what you did about it.
  10. Discuss a setback you’ve faced in the last 12 months and how you overcame it.

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