How to Use the STAR Interview Technique?

Sep 21, 2021

Elizabeth Houghton

Sutton Full Potential Founder

The “STAR” technique is one of the most effective interview techniques available to candidates attending an interview. It is a technique that allows the job candidate to provide a detailed analysis of a specific task or decision. Simultaneously, it is a powerful technique that allows the interviewer to judge the candidate on both technical and behavioral skills such as:

  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Lateral thinking
  • Collaboration & teamwork
  • Creativity
  • Work ethic
  • Leadership
  • Problem solving
  • Patience
  • Emotional quotient


What does “STAR” stand for?

Situation – The environmental situation you were in when you faced the challenge/requirement. This refers to the context in which you were expected to do something.

Task – The job/responsibility/objective you were asked to achieve.

Action – The steps you took to achieve your task and how you overcame any issues that you experienced while trying to complete the task.

Result – What was the outcome of the result – positive or negative? What lessons did you learn after the action had been performed? Were there any next steps you took after observing your results?


Using the STAR technique to ace your interview Q&As

Here we’ll look at an example to see how you can answer interview questions using the STAR interview technique.

Question: Give us an example of a time when you were able to solve a complex challenge and achieve great results.

Situation – We were planning on organising a fashion show to promote our company’s new clothing line. It was a clothing range designed for people aged 18-26. This fashion show would place us as a younger alternative to older brands in a millennial market.

Task – My job was to hire the models, organise the training prior to the show, find a venue for the event, and set up the event for the show. But the company only had a budget of $10,000, and I had to ensure that the expenses for the show would fall within the budget.

Action – My biggest challenge was the budget. It was much lesser than what was needed. But, I wanted to fit the event into what finances I was given.

So, I first considered who the ideal target customer was. In the company’s case, it was college students aged 18-26 years. I thought – who better to try on younger-looking clothes aimed at college students than college students themselves?

My team and I visited the local university and told them that I was interested in hiring a few of their students for a fashion show. We would pay the students $100 each and also take care of their make-up for the day.

We had to hire a coach to train them in ramp walks. We have been working with a coaching company for, and they agreed to train these students for 2 days, at the subsidised cost of $500 per day.

When I had gone to meet the Dean, I saw that the university had a very large open ground. I asked the Dean if we could use the ground as the venue for the fashion show. You see, since the clothing line was for university-aged students, having the fashion show on the grounds would help us showcase our product line to the right crowd quickly.

In exchange for using the venue at subsidised rates of $200 per hour, we agreed to showcase photos of their university property and the fashion show on our clothing line ads. That would act as a good advertisement for the university and for us. Our show would be 3 hours long – so it was $600.

We used a local organiser for the stage, decorations, and music set-up. That cost us another $2000. We hired 10 models from the college – costing us about $1000. Makeup and hair from a local salon cost us another $1500 for the day. The cost of organising the fashion show was about $500 because we had to visit the college, print forms which the contestants had to fill, etc. We also wanted to offer snacks to them since it’s a tiring process.

Overall, the entire event cost us $6,600. Since we were holding the fashion show in front of our target market, we decided to have stalls selling the products with a launch discount on the day of the event.

Result – My choice to hire college students and use the university premises helped our company save 34% of the allocated budget. Plus, since we decided to have stalls selling products right there, we were able to make sales worth $4500 that day. We found that students had told friends about our brand. We saw a huge demand on our online store, with a 2.5% to 3.7% conversion rate each day, during the rest of the month. I was happy that my team and I were able to achieve this. I’m still good friends with the Dean of the university and have been invited to hire their students and use their premises for any future events.


Analysing the example above

As we’ve seen in the example above, the STAR technique helped the candidate prove to the interview how:

  • Smart the candidate was in managing a challenge.
  • Creatively the candidate found a feasible solution.
  • Proactively the candidate created opportunities for sales.

A few tips to using the STAR technique wisely

You can use the STAR interview technique as well. Remember these few tips to use the STAR technique effectively:

Choose the right example 

Choose a single example to justify your response. Your example should be:

  • Relevant to the question (challenge of having a small budget and doing so much work).
  • Have quantitative results for you to showcase (savings of 34% in the budget + sales of $4500).
  • Impactful (2.5% to 3.7% online conversion rate – additional, secondary impact that lasted an entire month).

Highlight instances of teamwork 

Interviewers want to see that you are a team player. So, if you have sought people’s help, be sure to mention it. In the previous example, you see the candidate saying “We”, instead of “I” – an indication that the candidate values teamwork.

 Showcase humanity 

While it’s important to show interviewers how much you can benefit them, you should also show how much EQ you have. In the example, the candidate organised snacks for contestants during the selection process. This shows what an empathetic person they are.

Describe the creative hacks or software you’ve used 

Your action should describe any smart hacks you used to make your job easier to meet your restrictions. You should also specify any software or tools you used to get the job done. This indicates both technical and people skills.

End the STAR explanation to reflect you in a positive light 

Your explanation should have an ending that showcases you in a positive light. For example, telling your interviewer that you’re on good terms with the Dean of the university tells them that they can leverage your network if they need to in the future. This makes you a very valuable asset to the company.

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