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Four Steps To Ace Your Interview

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Congratulations on getting your interview. You are one step closer to securing your new job or position. By now you are probably feeling excited or nervous. I tend to feel a bit of both whenever I have an interview. What questions will the interviewer ask? How will I answer those questions? Here are four steps to help you ace your interview.

The STAR technique is an effective model for answering those interview questions. Whether you are doing an interview for a job, scholarship, or research fellowship, you will find the STAR method incredibly useful.

The STAR method consists of four easy-to-follow steps that guide you in describing a challenging experience and the strategy you used to find a resolution. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, and Result [1-2]:


What is a relevant and specific experience from your life? Here you will briefly describe the situation or background of your real-life example. Explain any barriers you faced.


What was your role in the challenge? Here you will explain the task or activity or problem that needed to get done. Explain what you were responsible for.


What did you do to overcome any obstacles? This is where you describe the action you took to achieve the goal, how did you do it? Be very careful and to nor get trapped in giving a grouped example by saying WE DID. That’s a NO-NO. This is where you need to be specific. Explain exactly what YOU did to achieve your objective.


What was the outcome? Summarize and outline the results of action.

Using the STAR method, the interviewer will get some insight into how you used your skills to achieve the desired result [2].

Personally, it has saved me many times from rambling or waffling in interviews. The STAR method helped me to remain focused on answering specific questions and clarifying my responses. It’s typically used to provide answers for competency-based, situational, and behavioural type interview questions.

Recruiters use interviews to gauge your experiences and assess your abilities and skill set. These questions may be in the form of ‘Tell me of a time when…’, ‘Can you give me an example…’ or Describe how you…’. Here are a few more examples [3]:

  1. “Tell me about an instance where you achieved success even when the odds were stacked against you.”
  2. “Describe a project where you had to use different leadership styles to reach your goal.”
  3. “Can you give me an example of a difficult situation with a colleague/customer? How did you manage it?”

Oftentimes, we have loads of experience, but it can be tricky to describe it in a concise way and this is where this 4-part technique comes in handy.

By using the STAR model to prepare for your interview, you can confidently speak and illustrate your knowledge, capabilities, and skill set. You will also be able to tailor and narrow down your experiences to specific examples and relate them to the job description and target competencies the interviewers are looking for.

Some benefits of the STAR technique [2, 4]:

  • Shows how you will be able to add value
  • Provides more details by giving specific and concrete examples of how you developed and used an important skill.
  • Creates a narrative that tells a story from your perspective
  • Creates talking points that may be intriguing and unique only to you
  • Engages your interviewer on a deeper level
  • • Gives you a competitive edge

Although it sounds fairly easy to do, you should be aware of some potential pitfalls. Avoid giving answers that end on a negative note, rather try keeping a positive spin on your experiences and show how you have learned from past mistakes if any.

Now take the time to prepare for your interview and think about common questions that may be asked in your field and use your personal and professional experience to create STAR-based answers that will no doubt enable you to ACE YOUR INTERVIEW.

Dr Chris Francis is a professional career consultant, an educator, and a certified project manager
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