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How to respond to the dreaded STAR behavioural questions

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

Most people dread job interviews. They don't fully understand how to prepare the required STAR responses to behavioural questions, and end up getting confused.

STAR sounds complicated.

4 letters is a lot to remember! Plus you need to know what they are going to ask you...

Cue freak out. But it doesn't have to be that hard!

Behavioural job interview questions using STAR

Different organisations ask that you prepare your responses using the STAR framework, however some call it SAR, CAR or even SAO.

(FYI these stand for Situation Task Action Result, Situation Action Result, Challenge Action Result, Situation Action Outcome. They are all essentially the same thing!)

In job interviews and in key selection criteria responses you need to demonstrate how you meet the skill/criterion they are asking about by giving an example from your previous or current role.

I think the simplest way is to use the SAR method, with an introductory statement before you launch into your example.

  • Introduction: State you have the skill they are asking about and your general approach.

  • Situation: Describe a specific situation or challenge, including what workplace it was and your role.

  • Actions: Describe what your Actions were in response to the situation. This should be the bulk of your response and include multiple actions.

  • Result: What was the Result, preferably describing the benefit was to the organisation.

So what does this look like?

Here is an example response for a question about selection criteria 'Demonstrated experience in managing diverse stakeholders and clients':

  • Introduction: My greatest strength is my ability to develop relationships and work effectively with different stakeholders, including my staff and other internal stakeholders as well as many external stakeholders. I do this by doing X (describe approach).

  • Situation: For example, when I worked at XYZ I managed a large project that required coordination of teams in several diverse locations in order to implement a new ABC.

  • Actions: I ensured that I got to know the key stakeholders at each location and found out their unique challenges. I then led weekly teleconference meetings, ensuring all voices were heard and any issues were flagged and clear action plans implemented. I also followed up with staff 1:1 to... Then I did WXY.

  • Result: The ABC was implemented on time and with minimal issues. The team worked well together, and I was commended for my leadership of the project by head office.

​​This format (introduction, then Situation, Actions, Result) is easy to remember and will ensure you answer their questions effectively without going off-track!

​I hope this helps you prep for your next interview (or write the dreaded selection criteria responses!).

Need extra help with Job Interviews? Check out my new Job Interview Confidence online program!

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