How to be a STAR in interviews

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Lydia Liu (Head of HR, Home Credit Consumer Finance Company) recently said: “while hard skills may get a candidates foot in the door, it’s soft skills that ultimately open it”.

With interviews becoming more and more about soft skills and your ability to show problem solving and creativity, focusing on your interview technique is becoming more and more important. In a recent survey by LinkedIn 80% of companies say soft skills are increasingly important to company success and are now putting more things in place to assess the level of somebody’s soft skills.

With this in mind, it is more important than ever to understand how to answer questions to get the correct amount of detail into your answers whilst also being concise. In a face to face environment do this via competency-based questions so expect the who, how and why questions to show depth and detail in your answer.

The best way to avoid falling short on your answer or being too vague on your reply is to use a very simple technique – STAR. In some of the top software companies we work with, this method of answering is expected and they openly say candidates will be unsuccessful if they don’t follow the structure.

What is STAR?

The STAR technique will make sure you answer the question in a methodical way, whilst being concise with information. It also allows you to show your creativity and problem-solving abilities throughout.

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Approach and Results. The biggest positive is, it is so easy to do.

Here is a brief explanation:

When do you need STAR? Questions such as:

  • Tell me about a time you did X?
  • Give me an example of?
  • Talk me through how you won your biggest account?
  • Tell me about a time you have missed target and how you overachieved next month?
  • Give me an example of when you have worked with a difficult customer and what you did to turn this around?

Competency questions are generally used to find out how candidates would react to certain situations, by asking for real-world examples to back-up their claims.

S – Situation: Set the scene

  • What was the situation or background, why was this the case, who are we talking about, when did this happen?
  • Be specific with things like names and dates to help tell the story

E.g. “We were working with the Director at ABC, they had been a customer for 5 years and was our companies most valued account worth around £20,000 per year. They were considering leaving us to use our biggest competitor XYZ.”

T – Task: Build on the background, what needs to be achieved?

  • Describe what you needed to do or what the end goal / objective was from this.
  • What was the important or difficult the situation needed to overcome, as well as any constraints you came up against?

E.g. “The company was threatening to cancel their contract, so I needed to understand their issue and then try to retain their business. I met with all our key contacts to understand the situation, fact find and identify their challenges or the reason for the change in circumstance. Following this I understood how we could turn this in to a positive outcome.”

A – Action: What did you actually do, how did you approach the situation?

  • What specific actions did you take to achieve the desired outcome?
  • It is really important to be specific with numbers, facts and examples
  • Tell the story to allow the interviewer to identify the skills you used throughout the process

E.g. “I managed to change the SLA’s we were working to and increased the training we offered on the solution, so they understood the true value. I had more regularly monthly meetings with all key decision makers on the account as well as discussed additional solutions that would help with their challenges saving around £10,000 per year.”

R – Result: What was the outcome and results?

  • Everyone likes a happy ending and interviewers are no different
  • What were the specifics in the result, make your answer quantifiable and again give specifics?
  • Use facts and figures to back up your answer

E.g. “The client stayed with us and signed an agreement for the next 12 months. Their satisfaction of our service greatly increased by visiting them monthly and this is something the business rolled out across all its most important accounts due to the positive feedback. Finally, they also purchased an additional solution which generated an additional £2,000 revenue per year for the company”.

Our Advice

Following this basic process will ensure you answer questions precisely and accurately without skipping key bits of information or adding enough detail.

The key things to remember are:

  • Use facts, figures and specifics e.g. names to give the client a ‘real world’ answer
  • Be specific and don’t waffle, companies like direct and to the point answers
  • Focus on what you actually did and how you did it?
  • Explain the relationships and why they are important

If you would like to find out more about useful interview techniques or general advice, have a read through our blog page which is updated regularly by the experienced YourPrime Recruitment team. 

Alternatively, if you would like an informal chat, simply get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.



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