Why The Interview STAR Technique Isn’t Fit For Purpose In 2021
The STAR technique is by far the most popular interview technique advised by recruiters and employers.
Standing for S-Situation, T-Task, A-Action, R-Result, this structure is put forward as the format in which to answer competency based interview questions such as “Tell me about a time when you have delivered excellent customer service, solved a problem, delivered a successful project” etc etc.
The advantages of the technique put forward are that;
- It provides a simple structure that candidates can follow.
- The structure forces the candidate to explain HOW they approached the scenario and how their actions impacted the outcome, therefore providing more detail for the interviewer to make a final decision.
- It helps PROVE how suitable candidates are, due to the emphasis on the results achieved.
- The structure helps minimize overly lengthy answers, thus enabling interviews to run efficiently.
There are many types of interview question formats, from open, closed, hypothetical and test questioning to name a few, however the choice of using competency based questioning is the most effective format to understand how candidates think, how they approach specific tasks and whether their approaches are successful.
Depending on the examples candidates choose, how impressive the results are and how well they bring the scenario to life, will dictate how suited the interviewer will feel they are for the position. As a result, there is as much expectation on the interview performance and overall delivery, as there is on the examples presented, because the interviewer will also be checking that candidates have the temperament, personality and presence that they feel is required to stand out as the ideal person for the position.
With this in mind, the STAR technique works well for the interviewer, but how well does it work for the candidate?
While the technique provides an easy structure to follow, at best it helps the candidate understand HOW to answer the question and encourages them to prove the impact they might have had. However how well this comes across at interview, depends on the following questions that an interviewer will be considering;
- How well does the example/ scenario fit the question asked?
- How impressive was the result?
- How confidently does the candidate talk about their skills and abilities?
- Does the candidate’s personality and temperament shine through?
- Does the candidate seem like a right ‘fit’?
- Does the candidate come across genuine or as though the answers are overly rehearsed?
Given how competitive the job application process is at present, and the fact that interviewers are aware that they can technically search for the ‘perfect’ candidate depending how clear they are on their criteria, the strongest chance candidates have to STAND OUT and prove that they’re the best person for the job is to have a technique that;
- Shows confidence.
- Helps candidates understand the question so they can choose the most impressive and suitable example.
- Encourages candidates to talk authentically, genuinely and naturally.
- Has a structure that enables examples to be brought to life, for a more memorable delivery.
- Conveys passion and alignment to the position.
- Promotes personality and likability.
- Demonstrates unique selling points that only the candidate could bring to the role, as opposed to their competition.
The STAR technique doesn’t guarantee any of the above because it only provides the structure to answer the question. In fact, the technique runs a large risk of blocking the possibility for candidates to sell themselves because;
- For many it is too structured – forcing candidates to box in their answers, or fit their examples into a rigid structure.
- Candidates can rely on it too heavily, which means they may sound robotic or overly rehearsed.
- It only allows for one example to be talked about, however it may show impressiveness and greater impact to add in more than one scenario/ example.
- Talking in such a structured way may increase nerves and sabotage delivery because the candidate maybe preoccupied with the structure rather than simply bringing their experience to life.
- Not all interview questions will be competency based, most interviews will include a ‘Why or What’ question, such as “Why do you feel we should choose you for the position? Or “What made you apply for this role?” so the technique itself doesn’t fully equip job seekers for the range of questions they may be asked.
- The structure doesn’t include any prompts for showing confidence, passion or personality.
To properly equip, prepare and position interviewees for success, there needs to be a technique that provides a format that not only explains HOW to answer questions, but also truly enables them to SELL their skills, attributes and experience, in a way that dazzles the interviewer, as opposed to ‘adequately’ answering the question.
Based on the STAR technique, even if the candidate were to follow the format stating the situation, task, action and result, this wouldn’t be enough on it’s own to prove how well suited a candidate is for the role, especially if every other candidate was using the exact same technique, therefore it should be used with caution.
Having worked on a one to one intense and bespoke basis with senior professionals interviewing for their next level positions, I view the negative impact of the STAR technique first hand in that the technique more than often underplays and minimizes the positive impact of an individual’s work experience, personality and potential.
By using The Interview Story Impression Technique, clients talk and present significantly more confidently, authentically, passionately and impressively, because the technique encompasses;
- How to choose the right example.
- How to meet the interviewers/ employers needs and expectations.
- How to structure in confidence, passion and personality.
- How to bring examples to life.
- How to leave a positive lasting impression.
Given the impact of the pandemic on employment trends, the need for tools and techniques that fully equip job seekers to remain confident, resilient and successful in the job application process is paramount, hence the need to encourage an honest assessment of how fit for purpose the STAR technique is for 2021 and beyond.
For a detailed video breakdown of my perspective on the pros and cons of the STAR Technique, watch here;
For further details on The Interview Story Impression Technique view here;