How to use the star technique

12 January 2024 by
Memcom, Rachel Appleton

Memcom’s expert recruiters have been coaching candidates through the interview process for more than 50 years, and they’ve written this handy guide on how to effectively use the STAR technique at interview.

The STAR technique is a structured approach to answering competency-based interview questions favoured by a lot of interviewers across different sectors. It helps you provide a clear and concise response by breaking down your answer into four key components: Situation, Task, Action and Result. 

Memcom’s Director Julian Smith offers the following insight on how to use the STAR technique effectively:

Situation (S):

Begin any answer by setting the scene and describing the context or situation you were in. Provide a brief overview of the circumstances, the setting, and any relevant background information, but remember to be specific and concise.

Example: "In my previous job, we were facing a significant decline in member satisfaction scores, and it was negatively impacting the organisation's reputation and leading to a loss of revenue."

Task (T):

Explain the specific task or challenge you faced. What was your responsibility or role in this situation? Make it clear what you needed to achieve or address.

Example: "As the newly appointed Head of Membership, my task was to identify the root causes of member dissatisfaction and develop a plan to improve our member retention, engagement and recruitment operations."

Action (A):

Describe the actions you took to address the situation or task. This is the most detailed part of your response, and along with the Result or ‘R’ section, the most important. Focus on your personal contributions and emphasise your skills, behaviours, and decision-making.

Example: "I conducted in-depth member interviews and surveys, analysed feedback and extrapolated data to pinpoint the main issues. I cross referenced these with peers within my networks and realised that the problem was more drastic than had previously been thought. I modelled different membership growth scenarios and presented these to the SMT. Once I had buy in on a clear direction of travel, I drafted proposals for a full restructure of the membership offer and worked closely with internal stakeholders and key members to redesign our membership offering and once this had been ratified by the Board, I was able to gain staff buy in and then able to implement and communicate the necessary changes."

Result (R):

This for me is the clincher, since it shows exactly what you’ve achieved. Use quantifiable metrics or tangible achievements whenever possible to illustrate your impact.

Example: "As a result of my initiatives, within three months we had seen a complete stop in member attrition and a 14% increase in member satisfaction scores. Within six months, our membership had grown to the highest it had been within the previous two years and 12 months later, we saw our first increase in all categories of membership, averaging at 8.4% growth across the board. This resulted in an actual net gain of approximately 12% in membership revenue, worth c.£340,000 – and equally importantly a substantial increase in the net promoter score to 74%."

So remember, when using the STAR technique, be concise and stay focused on the specific situation and your role in it. Here are a few additional tips:

  • Firstly, remember to tailor your responses to match the competencies and skills required for the job you're interviewing for.
  • Be honest and avoid exaggerating your achievements – especially if they seem rather generic or unbelievable.
  • Build a Word or Excel document of your responses (for future interviews) and practise them beforehand to ensure you can recall your examples clearly during the interview.
  • Remember to listen to the question being asked and try to work out exactly what the assessors are looking for. It’s not always as simple or straightforward as it seems, so beware the traps that interviewers sometimes lay.
  • If in doubt, ask the assessors if you have answered the question or see if they would like a different example.

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