If you’ve been interviewed for jobs, you’ve most likely been asked straight-forward questions about past behaviors. This type of ‘formula’ interview is often referred to as the STAR interview method. As we’ve identified in a previous article, the STAR method is an:

“…interview (that) follows the belief past behavior in a job-related experience is the best predictor of future performance.”

Why is the STAR interview method used?

STAR questions begin with phrases like “Tell me a time when” or ”Give me an example of.” Commonly these are referred to as competency or behavioral-based interview questions.

With these types of questions, applicants are being asked to demonstrate their competency using practical skills (judgement, decision-making, communication, leadership, self-awareness, etc.) in work-related situations. For potential candidates who may not have experienced these unique situations, panic sets in when responding to some questions. They may flounder and either give a poor example or, worse yet, no example of their ability to deal with this issue.

Lack of experience with a challenging situation may not necessarily indicate whether they have the ability to properly respond. With a STAR interview, however, candidates cannot prove their competency because they have not yet dealt with this situation on the job. To understand more fully, lets dig deeper to determine if this method is the best choice for measuring top talent.

What is the STAR interview method?

“STAR” is an acronym that stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. An interviewer using this method will listen for a candidate to recall a specific memory, what task(s) were required, what actions were needed to resolve the situation and the outcome’s degree of success.

Does this interview sound familiar? Chances are you have answered behavioral questions at least once in your job searches. Hiring managers are often convinced that competent responses prove an applicant possesses the necessary skills to be successful in a role.

 STAR interviews are a form of structured interviews, designed to give hiring managers a better sense of applicants’ experience. Many believe the STAR method gives the interviewer insights on an individual’s skill because it encourages them to describe a story from their point of view. A simple skills-based assessment would not likely gather this type of information.

Problems with the STAR interview method

There are several potential pitfalls when using the STAR interview method. Any time a hiring manager uses an interview formula that is easily predictable over time, there will be people ready to exploit the process. In fact, there are hundreds of guides all across the internet to help people prepare for a STAR interview.

As a recruiter or hiring manager, it may be shocking to learn that applicants can come with well-rehearsed responses that sound great! But how do you determine if these responses are genuine?

Knowing the authenticity of a response is the greatest challenge within the STAR interviewing model. Formulas can be cracked and in the world of the internet, people have made businesses around coaching people on interview preparation.

The goal of an interviewer is to gain a better understanding of how an individual will perform in the role he or she is applying to. Without authentic responses, it becomes very difficult to sort candidates, leaving hiring managers with a ‘gut feeling’ when making a hiring decision.

Alternatives to STAR interviews

While the STAR method may currently be used in business as a hiring tool, realistically, it may serve better as a tool for growth and development or measuring job performance.

Through the professional development process, managers can tailor questions specifically to situations employees actually encounter in their jobs. This would allow them to gain an understanding of the employees’ thought processes in resolving specific situations, regardless of experience.

True behavioral interviews don’t rely on past experiences as the predictor of future performance. Rather, they focus on determining the behaviors the individual currently exhibits in their performance and interactions with others.

People change as they gain experience. How a person responded to something a month, year, or five years ago may not indicate how they would respond to the same situation today. People will grow and change through their experiences, requiring hiring managers to put forth more effort in the pursuit of talent.

Finding a structured interview process that requires candidates to respond in an authentic way is much more powerful than letting them use perfectly rehearsed responses, preventing a hiring manager from making a clear choice in their next hire!