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What Is the STAR Technique?

The word “STAR” is an acronym formed from the initial letters of four words: “Situation,” “Test,” “Action,” and “Result.” These words are the titles of the four stages through which applicants are advised to go when answering competency-based, behavioral, and situational interview questions. It has long been practically proven that if applicants employ the STAR technique during their interviews, they deliver more comprehensive answers and more fully demonstrate such competencies as leadership, organizational skills, and the ability to work productively in cooperation with other members of the team. The evident advantage of using the STAR method in your answers to recruiters is that you draw on your personal experience rather than imagine how you would behave in hypothetical situations. When you refer to the real situation that you faced in the past, your employers gain a more vivid picture of your personality and working style and thereby can accurately predict how you will behave in your new role in the future.   

The STAR technique requires applicants to divide their answers into four parts: first describing a specific situation, then mentioning tasks that they were assigned and elaborating on actions that they initiated, and finally talking about results that they achieved.

The Situation

When you are asked competency-based, behavioral, or situational questions during your interview, start your answer with describing a pertinent situation that you faced in the past. The situation should involve some difficulties that you faced and were called to solve either in your previous workplace, college, or while doing some extra-curriculum activities. It is advisable to think of such situation in advance, before you set foot in the interview room. Look closely at the advertisement of the position for which you applied. It should contain the description of competencies and skills that recruiters are looking for in their future employees. When you read this description, think of the situation from your past, in dealing with which you demonstrated the specified qualities and competencies. Choose it carefully, making sure that you did not demonstrate any behavior or make a decision that may put you in an unflattering light. Your conduct and your decision about which your will talk to your prospective employees should be professional and ethical. Nor should the situation that you focus on be highly specific to your area of expertise or the industry in which you worked. Using technical details and professional jargon may only boggle the mind of your recruiters. If they do not belong to the same professional field, your interviewers will not be in a position to evaluate your contribution and your narrative may thus go unappreciated. The situation you bring up should revolve around everyday experience understandable to everyone.  

The Task  

After you have described the situation in detail, you need to talk about the tasks that you were assigned to do to mend it or the tasks that you asked your co-workers to fulfill, if you were in the managerial position. Remember that no task is too small to remedy a problematic situation. Even if it was as an easily achievable enterprise as compiling a list of loyal customers or gathering relevant information about your company’s competitors, you should still stress its importance, if it led to solving the problem in question. Explain to your potential employers why it was vital to fulfill the task, mentioning also possible negative consequences that could arise from your failure to do so. Emphasize also the uniqueness of the tasks you performed but do not slip into the technical register, when talking about it.  

The Action

This must be the most elaborate part of your answer. Dwell on your actions when you are speaking to your interviewers, because it is precisely through the actions which you take and the decisions which you make that your personality and professionalism shine through most brilliantly. Therefore, you should be as detailed as you can, when you are talking about the actions that you have taken to improve the situation under discussion. Construct your description of actions in such a way that your potential employers immediately see that you possess the competencies and skills that they are searching in their prospective employees. Spend a considerable amount of time talking about your individual contribution to the resolution of the problematic situation, even if you worked on it in tandem with others. Recruiters want to ascertain that you are professional and possess the required set of traits. With this said, do not forget that it is also important for interviewers to know that you can work as part of a team and establish meaningful, productive connections with others. Hence, do not forget to give credit to your colleagues who lent you a helping hand with solving the problem. Equally crucial is to adumbrate an alternative course of actions that you considered taking but left unexplored, because you deemed it unsatisfactory. By giving a sketchy outline of the alternative actions, you will demonstrate to you recruiters your logical thinking and decision-making skills. 

The Results

To sum up your answer, talk about the results that you achieved after solving the problem. Employers want to know that applicants understand what impact their questions produced on the situation. They also want to ascertain that their prospective employees can learn from their experience. When you summarize the lessons that you learned in the past, you implicitly assure your interviewers that you will be able to apply your knowledge to new problematic situations, if you face them in the future. Your potential employers also want to know that you will not make old mistakes but will take them into consideration when you meet new challenges.   

For better results on your interview, consult our high-quality interview materials. Our specifically designed PrepPack™ contains interview questions and answers and valuable tips on how to conduct yourself during your conversation with recruiters.


What Is the CAR Method?

A shorter alternative to the STAR technique is the CAR approach. The word “CAR” is an acronym, formed from the first letters of three words: “Context,” “Actions,” and “Results.” These words are the titles of the sections into which your replies to behavioral and situational questions should be divided.

The Context

When you start answering your recruiters’ question, concentrate first on the context; that is, describe a specific problematic working scenario, emphasizing when and where it happened. Also mention other people helping you with the problems you were called to solve. The “Context” section in the CAR format is analogues to the “Situation” part of the STAR method.

The Action

The second part of the answer focuses on the actions that you or your team took to resolve the issue involved in the situation. This should be the most detailed part of your response, since the actions you initiated speak louder about your personality and decision-making skills than the former job positions you listed on your résumé. When you are talking about your actions, do not forget to acknowledge also your colleagues’ contribution to the resolution of the problem. Expressing gratitude to others for their help will always make you look well in the eyes of your recruiters. Do not forget to elaborate on the alternative actions that you thought of taking but did not, because they seemed to you less effective. By explaining why you discarded certain actions as less promising, you let your prospective employers clearly see by what logical routes you arrive to your decisions.

The Results

After dwelling on your actions, enumerate the results that you achieved by acting as you did. You interviewers want to ensure that you learned from your experience and can act on the conclusions that you derived from the situation in question. They also want to know that you will not repeat the same mistakes, when you meet new challenges.

Answering situational and behavioral questions in keeping with the CAR format will lend clarity and substantiality to your answers. Do not weaken your chances of impressing your interviewers by constructing your answers differently. Practice with our simulations of the STAR and the CAR formats and sail through your interview with ease and success.


How to Answer Questions According to the STAR Method?

Before you come to your interview, think of several situations that you may bring to illustrate your answers to recruiters’ questions. To choose the right situations from your work experience, go over the advertisement of the job position for which you are competing. It usually contains the enumeration of competencies that recruiters seek in their job candidates. The situation you will give as an example should highlight precisely these competencies in you. For only by proving to your recruiters that you fit the bill, can you receive a job offer.

It is also important to be specific in your answers. Generalizations will reveal little about your personality and your working style. If you want to emphasize that after you had taken certain steps to mend the situation, it improved, tell what exactly changed and precisely in what respect it got better. Use numbers and statistics to show that your actions had practical impact on the situation.  

Time management is crucial, when you are replying to the interview questions according to the STAR and the CAR formats. Answering the situational and behavioral questions briefly will do you no favors. You should scrupulously describe the challenging situation and your contribution to its improvement, dwelling longer on your actions. On average, try to spend up to 4 or 5 minutes on each question.

Make your conversation with recruiters natural and free-flowing. While you should definitely keep the STAR format in mind and follow its sections in delivering your answers, avoid being dogmatic and automatic in your replies. The recruiters should not see that you are adhering faithfully to the model lest they think that you are not creative or insincere. It is always better to have the STAR format as your reference and then improve, enlivening your narrative with personal details as you go along. 

JobTestPrep does everything in its power to lead job candidates to employment. Our resources contain accurate simulations of tests administered to applicants during their pre-employment assessment. We have also developed helping interview materials, which you can purchase and explore during your preparation for your upcoming interview. Study with our exclusive PrepPack™ and launch a successful career in the new workplace.