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The new R on STARR interview method

While it might take thought and practice, it’s worth nailing the STARR method before heading into an interview. The double ‘r’ isn’t a spelling mistake. It’s an update on the former STAR method, and the second ‘r’ stands for reflection.

This expert article examines why STARR is important for answering interview questions in a clear, logical, informative and engaging way. It also provides examples for all five STARR elements:

  1. situation
  2. task
  3. action
  4. result
  5. reflection.

Why is STARR so important?

STARR is important because more private and public organisations are using this behavioural method of asking interview questions. Why? It helps employers paint a full picture of whether you’re a great fit for their culture and team. It tests how you’ve performed and indicates how you’ll perform in future. The STARR method also provides employers with information on how you handle problems.

Why has reflection been added to STARR?

Reflection has been added to STARR because it’s a crucial skill. Being able to reflect on what you did well and how you can improve are important traits. So is the ability to handle constructive feedback.

Where to start

Research what’s important

Study the job description and research the company to determine the behavioural-type questions they might ask. Here are three examples:

  • Share an example of how you solved a problem at work …
  • Tell us about a time you demonstrated initiative …
  • Share how you adapt your communications style to different audiences …

Important: See ‘Ten top behavioural scenarios asked at interview’ further in this article.

Develop a list of competencies, attributes, and skills

Focus on what you the company is looking for, such as time management, leadership, attention to detail and creativity. If you’re working with a recruiter, get them to help you with this

Set up STARR scenarios around your experience

Everyone loves a good story. Create one covering STARR’s five elements. Keep to the point. Your response should be between 1.5 and 2 minutes. Don’t wander off topic. If you do, simply tell the interviewer you’d like to go back to your planned response. Interviewers appreciate this type of self-awareness in candidates.

Important: See ‘How to approach STARR in an interview’ further in this article.

Highlight the good, the bad and the ugly

If you don’t talk sincerely about challenges at work,  you’ll be seen to be ‘glossing over’. An employer may assume you don’t have enough experience to deal with challenges.

Rehearse and practice

Rehearse telling your stories to build confidence. Rehearsing reduces nerves and helps keep you on time.

How to approach STARR in an interview

In response to an interviewer’s question, develop a story applying the STARR method.

  1. Situation—describe a problem or challenge and the situation you found yourself in.
  2. Task—move to how you found a solution and what you were trying to achieve, highlighting skills you applied.
  3. Action—describe what you did, actions you took, why you took them, the alternatives you thought through, and how you implemented the solution.
  4. Result—outline resulting outcomes, benefits and how they met the objectives.
  5. Reflection—close the loop by reflecting on what you learned. Focus on insights you gained and what you reflected on for future performance.

Example to guide you – research support officer role in the Australian Public Sector

Situation—I  worked in a fast-paced organisation with little time to reflect. In this environment, managers weren’t updated on policies, which was affecting organisational efficiency.

Task—I examined communications channels to determine if they could solve the problem or whether a new solution could be developed.

Action—I initiated a monthly email newsletter for managers. I took responsibility for developing stories, wrote articles and coordinated production.

Result—The newsletter enhanced communications, improved policy understanding and increased efficiency.

Reflection—I reflected on feedback and listed actions to improve my performance.

Ten top behavioural scenarios asked at interview

  1. Describe a time you faced a stressful situation and how you overcame it.
  2. Describe a time when you had to think on your feet to make a 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.

Learn more

22 most frequently asked interview qs

How to interview like a professional

The thinking behind an important interview q

How to minimise interview nerves

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