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Behavioural Interviews – the STAR Technique

Updated on April 27, 2012

Recently jpcmc and I were discussing behavioural interview techniques in the comments section of a hub on interview techniques. I started talking about the STAR concept that I have used for a number of years to take behavioural interviews to the next level.

Behavioural interview questions are used to predict future behaviour through actual experiences that have occurred in a person’s working life. An example is if you are worried about a person’s ability to write sales for your business you may ask a question such as…tell me about a time when you struggled to make your sales target, what did you do? This then allows the applicant to share a story where they didn’t get a sales target one month, and what were the changes that they made to ensure that were successful in the next month. If they were unable to get the target ongoing then you have real data to make your decision on whether they are a suitable sales consultant for your business.

The key about behavioural interviewing is to not allow the candidate to talk in general terms. If they start responding by saying ‘if I was in that position I would do the following…’ This is not a specific situation, but a generalised textbook answer. So it is important to make sure the candidate is specific and relating an experience from the past.

To this end I use a technique call STAR. This stands for:

  • Situation or Task
  • Action
  • Result

Let’s look at each section in detail.

Situation or Task

This is the scene setting from the candidate. Here you want details about the situation, what was occurring, what is the relevance to the question, why were they in that situation.

Candidates at this point will want to talk in general terms about what they think they might do. This is where you stop them and ask them to provide you with a specific experience. This may take several attempts, but you eventually will train them and they will automatically start relating experiences.

Statements that you are looking for include:

  • When I was a team leader
  • I had to support a staff member who was struggling with

Statements that you want to avoid include:

  • When I am in this situation – stop them, ask them to be specific

Once you understand the situation or task you move into the action section.


This is the section where the candidate will tell you want they did. It may be that they coached someone, had a performance discussion or just spoke with an individual.

This is where you get the core information about the individuals behaviour. If they naturally followed a strong process in this situation you can very quickly assess how they will react in your business.

If, for an example, this is a sales role and they are describing a sales downturn you will be listening for a marketing campaign, outbound calling of past clients, follow ups on all leads, cross selling and approaches to increase their volume. If they said they just waited for the phone to ring then maybe they aren’t right for your team.

For me ‘actions speak higher than words’ and this is the area you want to probe the most during a behavioural interview.


The final part of STAR is the result. Invariably the candidate will say that the result was a success and everyone lived happily ever after. If this was true why are they applying for your job?!

Don’t take it for granted that it all worked out. As for some form of demonstrable evidence. If a contact centre was experiencing poor KPIs and they instituted some changes, what were the new KPIs and why were these better? Feel free to ask these tougher questions to ensure that the result was a bright as the candidate suggested.

Last Word

Behavioural interviews are but a step in many that employers need to consider when employing staff. By using the STAR technique you get deeper information about your candidates that can help to ensure that you get the right person at the right time and you can predict their behaviour in the future.

Cheers Michael


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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      I was not familiar with this assessment system.


    • charmike4 profile image

      Michael Kromwyk 5 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

      Not a problem Eliza. When you are in an interview you'll be able to identify when they want a 'star'' response, it you can do this then it makes the interviewer happier and will remember you for it. It's a nice tip to have. Cheers Michael

    • ElizaDoole profile image

      Lisa McKnight 5 years ago from London

      Thanks for this charmike. I saw this written in an office I worked in on a flip chart and had no idea what it was all about. Another string to my interview bow - thanks to you for writing this.