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The STAR Method: Pros and Cons

Updated on April 28, 2013
The STAR Methods is a chance to showcase your leadership skills.
The STAR Methods is a chance to showcase your leadership skills. | Source

The STAR Method is an interviewing style centered on behavioral interview questions (or imperatives). STAR is an acronym for situation-task-action-result. The theory behind the STAR Method is that the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior.

So questions asked of interviewees are planned with situational scenarios in which a goal or problem was present in order to showcase a person’s role in bringing resolution—“Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.”

  • Situation: A person must describe a situation in which something needed to be accomplished. The description should be very specific and pertaining to work done in the past, whether from a job, civic activity, or relevant experience.
  • Task: What was the goal or the problem encountered and why was it a problem?
  • Action: How did the person respond? What was his or her contribution? The answer should be specific and focused on the person’s work.
  • Result: What was the outcome and what difference did that person’s work make? People can feel free to “spill” about their accomplishments or strengths and weaknesses because the interview is an assessment of their experience qualifications.

Do you enjoy STAR Method interviews or more traditional interviews better?

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Benefits of Behavioral Interview Questions

The primary benefit of the STAR Method, very often used in the customer service field, is the ability to gain detailed information about a person’s past experience. It proves their ability to think critically, solve problems, and interact with others. It is also a big factor for employers in trusting them with future responsibility.

Another benefit is behavioral-based interview questions allow employers to examine the individual in several ways. Leadership and communication skills can be observed. Situational questions can reveal moral or ethical attitudes that determined certain actions and results. This is something important to see because what is right to one is not right by everyone. Also, the interview format forces interviewees to think and respond quickly, something that may be necessary on the job. Further, quick thinking is an indicator of intelligence.

STAR THEORY: The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior.

Mastering STAR Interviews

Disadvantages of the STAR Method

The STAR Method differs from traditional interview techniques that simply accepted one’s answer about their accomplishments and abilities. Yes, it is a benefit that a person must prove their achievements, although they could still lie about it, but it’s really tough.

But competency-based interview questions—especially when they form all or the majority of interviews—ignore and eliminate a prospective newcomer’s chance to explain why they have chosen that company. This is standard in traditional interviewing practice. A jobseeker understood their role of researching the company, understanding its brand and how he or she fit in, and how the two could build success. This is something still important to assess but could never be known in a STAR Method-only interview.

Further—and most importantly—the STAR Method diminishes the role of a strong HR training program. A person explaining past experiences, albeit with some detail, proves little about their future performance. What matters far more than those experiences is whether the company boasts a stellar job training program that successfully instills its values and can transform lackluster John Doe into an incredibly valuable employee, one that other companies would fight to own.

The STAR Method is a great assessment tool to observe a person’s experiences, but knowing where one fits in with traditional company values and essentials matters more when a job is on the line.

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