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The STAR Method wasn’t just created by the public service to irritate you and make your job harder. I used to think that, but now I know just how wrong I was.

The STAR Method, when used effectively, can be a great way for you to provide adequate information in a structured way, within job applications, interviews and even your performance reviews.

To take your STAR Method to the next level, remember to refer to the skills you demonstrated in your examples – this will really sell your experience and impress potential employers!

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TRANSCRIPT

[00:00:00] Hi, there I’m Bec McFarland the host of the Pop Your Career Podcast. As a career coach, I’m most passionate about helping my clients to discover their own personal flavour of career fulfillment. In this podcast, we are going to be exploring ways that you too can feel more fulfilled by your work. So strap yourself in, get ready for the ride. The tips around here are fast and in abundance.

[00:00:29] Hello, hello, Bec McFarland here helping you do better and be better in your career. And in today’s episode, we are exploring the STAR method. I used to think that the Australian Public Service created the Star Method to be a thorn in my side. I was pretty much convinced that [00:01:00] they’d just done it just to be really annoying and to make applicants like me jump through even more hoops in order to get a job. Now obviously my awareness around the Star method has changed a lot over the years, and my opinion of that has also changed too. These days, I actually see it as being a really super useful tool that we can use as applicants in order to be able to sell ourselves.

[00:01:36] So you might be familiar with the STAR method when you’re writing a selection criteria response in order to try and get yourself a government job. They always tell you to talk about your work examples using the STAR method, and similarly to do so when you’re going for an interview. But what is the STAR method and why is it so useful? And then from there, how can you actually use it [00:02:00] to your benefit?

[00:02:01] Well, the Star Method is basically just a structure, so it’s a full letter acronym that stands for situation, task, action, and result. And it’s a way for you to structure the way that you describe things that you’ve done in your career. So when we talk about things that you’ve done in your career, what we are really talking about is behavioural examples.

[00:02:27] So you might be familiar with different types of questions that you can be asked, and I will definitely do another episode to talk a little bit more about that in detail. But when it comes to behavioural based questions, these are questions that are based on things that you have done, because as Dr. Phil says, past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour, right?

[00:02:53] So this is where a potential employer, panel member, whoever that’s assessing you, basically wants to [00:03:00] know what have you proven. It’s not about what you can do or what you think you can do. They want to know what have your actually done. And this is where the star method comes in. So we’ve seen it, as I said, used in selection criteria, responses and also in interviews, but you can use it in lots of different ways, to be honest. You can actually use it in your cover letter. You could also use it in your LinkedIn profile. You could use it in your elevator pitch. There are lots and lots of different places where you would find that a structure like this would really come in handy.

[00:03:38] Now, when I think about the STAR method specifically, what I usually tell my clients is that the Star method is really just a way of making sure that you stay on track. So whether you are writing it in an application or you are describing a situation in an interview, the star method can help you make sure [00:04:00] that you remain on the yellow brick road and that you give that potential employer, all of the information that they need in order to be able to assess whether you are the most qualified an appropriate candidate for that particular role. Now, we all know that when we go for interviews, we tend to get nervous, and sometimes what happens is that we end up going off on tangents, right?

[00:04:26] I’m like the queen of tangents. I go off on tangents all the time. Sometimes I think I drive my team like around the twist with all of the tangents. The difference is that if I was going for an interview, it would be far more important for me to stay on track because that’s part of what I’m being assessed for, right?

[00:04:47] So what I say is, If you go into an interview or if you go into a job application even, and you start describing something that you’ve done in your career, but you don’t use the [00:05:00] star method, 10 outta 10, most of times what’s going to happen is that you are going to wander off that garden path, you’re going to wander off that yellow brick road and you’re going to end up on some tangent somewhere else, and then think to yourself, Oh shit, how the hell do I get back?

[00:05:19] And the thing that I love about the Star method is that even if you do make a mistake and you end up going off on a tangent, at least you’ve got that structure to reign you back in. At least you can stop in the moment and say, Okay, where was I? And you can. Recognize whether you were actually in the S, the T, the A or the R, And then you can come back to that point and continue on with your story to really be able to reclaim your response and make sure that you are delivering your example in the most effective way possible.

[00:05:51] So what are these letters? The S in the start stands for situation. This does not need a huge explanation. [00:06:00] The situation is basically like, how did you get here? How did you get to this point in your example? So in the example of today, how did I get here? Well, my team told me that I needed to record some podcast episodes, so I scheduled some time in my calendar, and then when that time arrived, I sat down in front of the podcasting mic. That is it.

[00:06:28] One to two sentences. Regardless of whether it’s written application or an interview, one to two sentences is going to provide the panel with more than enough information in order to move on. Effectively, your s or your situation is just here to provide the panel with a little bit of context. Just to help them understand like what’s going on. Like how do we get here in the first place.

[00:06:56] When we move on the T I always think that this is [00:07:00] a little bit misleading. T stands for task, but I find that so many people get the T and the A, the task and the action confused and really what I think is that that T probably should have been a G for goal, but the word sgar doesn’t have the same ring to it as star. They did the best that they could.

[00:07:25] It is really helpful though to think about that T as being the goal, because what you want to articulate is what it is that you were trying to achieve. What were you trying to do? So in my situation today, what I am trying to do is to record as many podcast episodes in this time block as I can, because as I’ve talked about previously in episode 11, I like to use batching to increase my productivity.

[00:07:59] So [00:08:00] I’m using this time to get as much recording done as possible, and ideally, I would like to record more podcasts today than I did yesterday. That’s the challenge that I’ve set for myself. I don’t know how I’m going with that, by the way.

[00:08:18] So next up is the A. This is kind of where the meat and potatoes is of your response. So again, the S and the T, each of those only really need to be a couple of sentences because it’s just providing that context. It’s like you’re laying the foundation for when you get to tell the potential employer what you did, which is really what they’re here to listen to, right? This is what they want to know. They want to know what you did.

[00:08:45] So when you get to that action, we really want to dive in and start to talk about what it is that you actually did, and we want to apply that. Instagram filter to it to really emphasize the specific actions that you [00:09:00] took that align with the question that you’ve been asked. So you probably don’t want to just like rattle off every single action that you took because you might have taken a hundred or 200 actions in order to achieve this particular goal.

[00:09:13] What you really want to do is to highlight the ones that are relevant, highlight the ones that are going to help the panel identify whether you are the most suitable candidate for the role.

[00:09:26] One of the big mistakes that I see people making when they get to this action section, particularly in an interview, is that they start to deliver their actions a little bit like a shopping list and it’s like I went to the shop and then while I was there, I bought milk and eggs and bread and tomato sauce. And I can tell you that as a panel member, oh my gosh, it’s so boring. It is so boring. Nobody cares about your shopping list. It’s like, liven this up for me please will you? [00:10:00] Especially when you’ve got like back to back interviews, booked all day, sitting there listening to a whole bunch of shopping lists, like it can be really exhaust.

[00:10:09] So how do you take your example to the next level? Well, in the action section, this is where I like to make it a little bit more complex, but I promise you, I promise you, this is how you can elevate your response and really get your panel members listening. So when you talk about your action, not only do I want you to talk about what you did, but I also want you to talk about what skills you demonstrated. What does this look like? Well, it looks like this

[00:10:44] I sat down at my microphone ready to record my podcast. In front of me, I had a list of the next 52 podcast topics all planned out so that I knew in advance exactly what I needed to talk about. [00:11:00] I made sure that I had a glass of water in front of me because I know that my mouth gets really dry when I have to do lots of talking, and I also made sure that all of my devices were on silent so that my podcast recordings were not interrupted.

[00:11:17] So in doing this, I demonstrated excellent planning skills with the ability to map out or lift the work that I needed to do ahead of time. I demonstrated good organizational skills with the ability to maintain a timely approach to each of the podcast episodes and to be able to tick off a number of podcast episodes on that list during the time that I had batched. I also demonstrated excellent communication skills in the way that I was able to deliver the podcast episodes live on the microphone without a script in front of me and with minimal editing.[00:12:00]

[00:12:00] Okay, so you can see that instead of just talking about what I did, I also talked about the skills that I demonstrated, and of course, to really elevate your response, you want to make sure that those skills that you’ve demonstrated are the skills that are in the selection criteria for the role. Good, huh?

[00:12:25] We really want to emphasize those skills that align back to the job, and that really, really help those panel members to understand what it is that you’re bringing to the table. So the final part of the star is the result. And a lot of people forget this part. And when I think about that, I think about the analogy of like handing over a gift to someone that’s half wrapped.

[00:12:54] That wouldn’t be very nice, right? If you’re anything like me, you want to wrap your gifts nicely and put [00:13:00] a bow on them and dress them up perfectly. That’s what we want to do with our star method examples. We want to use that R to finish it all off, to wrap it up in a bow, to let the panel know that we are finished and to give them some insight into how your actions actually impacted whatever it was that you were trying to do.

[00:13:22] So in the result, we really, again, just want to use one or two sentences to describe what happened at the end of the story. Wherever possible you want to quantify this. So if you achieved 10 podcast recordings then you want to say that. If you saved $1 million, if you hired three team members, you know, wherever possible to quantify it because of the fact that it gives the panel that extra understanding of how your work has made an impact.

[00:13:55] A lot of people struggle with this, though they don’t know what the result [00:14:00] was because it doesn’t feel like it was huge enough, like maybe the project wasn’t completed, or maybe they didn’t win an award, or maybe, you know, some fantastical thing didn’t happen at the end. But usually what I can say to you is that when you finished something, if you’ve got a decent manager, then usually they’ll probably like give you some form of a pat on the head and tell you that you’ve done a good job. Right? If all else fails, that’s a really great way to finish off your response. So if you don’t have another like more impressive result, then it’s totally fine to just circle back around at the end of your response and say, you know, my boss was really impressed with the work that I completed during this time. He took me aside after the project completion meeting and told me how happy he was with the contribution that I’d made to the overall project.

[00:14:59] [00:15:00] Fantastic. Right? At least you aren’t leaving your example open ended. Now another question that I often get asked about the result is, what if things didn’t work out perfectly?

[00:15:10] If they didn’t, I definitely don’t want you to lie and say that they did okay. Lying is never okay. We don’t want to be getting into situations where we’re telling Porky pies because you will absolutely all the time, every day of the week get found out. Don’t do that. But what you can do is that you can tell them what exactly happened, but instead of just leaving it there, it’s a really good opportunity for you to identify some learnings and maybe even explain how you could do things differently next time in order to achieve the result that you had been going after.

[00:15:46] So there it is, the STAR method. I really, really hope that through listening to me talk on this episode, you understand that the star method, it’s not hard. It’s definitely not [00:16:00] rocket science, and you can totally use it to your benefit, right? If you tick off each of those things, the situation, the task or goal, the actions that you took, and the result, then you are giving a really well rounded response, and you are definitely providing all of the information that your panel need in order to assess your suitability.

[00:16:25] That’s all I’ve got time for today. So have a beautiful week and I will catch you in the next episode. See you soon.

[00:16:37] Thanks so much for listening to the Pop Your Career podcast. I hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s tips and that you found value in what I’ve shared with you. If you like your career advice quick and entertaining, I would love for you to subscribe. Also leave me a rating and a review. If you want to continue the conversation, come and join me over on social media. You can find me [00:17:00] everywhere at Pop Your Career. I’ll see you soon.

[00:17:03] This episode is brought to you by the Career Clarity Quest, my absolutely free, seven day program, which is designed to support you in getting so much clearer about your next steps. Find it at PopYourCareer.com/quest.

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About the author 

Bec

Bec McFarland is an experienced HR practitioner, manager, career coach and the creator of Pop Your Career. She delights in sharing practical, straight to the point career advice, spending time with her family and eating Mexican food.