Find STAR Employees With This Interview Technique

When conducting job interviews, it’s important to make the most of every minute spent with potential new hires. This is the time to glean information that can’t be communicated by resumes or references.

In place of asking hypothetical questions (i.e.—“How would you handle a conflict with a fellow employee?”), you should ask specific questions (i.e.—“Describe a time when you successfully solved a conflict with a coworker.”) to elicit concrete examples of desired behaviors from the past. A proven approach to this type of interviewing is the STAR method.

STAR —which stands for situation, task, action and result—is a form of behavioral interviewing that focuses on the past experiences of a candidate to judge his/her response to identical situations in a future role. Instead of allowing the candidate to theorize or generalize about events, you pose questions that illicit three details of each experience:

  1. What was the situation?
  2. How did the candidate deal with the situation?
  3. What was the outcome?

Since the overall goal of conducting job interviews is to determine if a candidate has exhibited required behaviors in past jobs, has applied both knowledge and experience at work, and is going to be satisfied with the job, the STAR method is an effective way to obtain this insight.

Sample STAR questions include:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to reject a client or customer’s request. What reasons did you give? How did you communicate?
  • What was a constructive criticism you received recently? How did you respond to it? Did your relationship with this person change?
  • Describe a situation when your team members disagreed with your ideas or proposal on a project. What did you do?

When candidates respond, their answers should include the following details in each area:


A specific description of a situation they were in or a task they needed to accomplish. The example can be from a previous job, a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.


An explanation of the goal they were working toward.


  • A description of the actions they took to address the situation. The focus should be on their specific contributions (listen for use of the word “I” instead of “we”.)


  • An explanation of the outcome of their actions, including accomplishments and lessons learned.

When conducting job interviews with the STAR method, your questions are just as important as the candidate’s answers. Consider carefully what you plan to ask, and stay away from theoretical or leading questions. Your goal is to dig beneath the surface of a candidate’s resume and discern how past behaviors will influence future performance.

Screening applicants in this manner will greatly increase the your chances of hiring STAR employees every time.

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