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STAR method: A powerful framework for interview success

With increasing regularity, life sciences interviewers are asking candidates to provide examples of situations in which they have demonstrated the skills that are required of the post. This interview technique is gaining in popularity as it allows interviewers to differentiate between different candidates, assessing not only the competencies that they demonstrated in the situation that they describe, but also their ability to think on their feet in an interview situation.

Whilst this interview technique can be very helpful for interviewers, it can prove overwhelming for candidates who are not sufficiently prepared to deal with a situation based interview. You need to answer coherently and demonstrate the skills and attributes that the interviewer is seeking, in addition to doing so within a constrained time period.

In this article, we will explain what the STAR method is, and how to utilise it effectively in both job applications and interview situations.

What is the STAR method?

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. It reminds you of the need to tell a compelling story with a start, a middle and an end, but more than that, it places the importance of the outcome front and centre.

When an interviewer asks you to describe a situation in which you demonstrated a particular competence, they are interested in the actions that you took and the effect of their actions on the outcome. The STAR method helps you to craft a suitable response.

Situation: Start by describing the situation in which you demonstrated the particular competence. Were you leading a team, part of a team, deputising for a senior colleague, or volunteering for additional responsibility?

Task: Describe the task that you had to undertake. What challenges were you facing and what was your particular level of responsibility in this situation?

Action: Explain the actions that you took, and the reasons why you decided that those actions were the most appropriate solution for the situation.

Result: Describe the outcome that you achieved, any challenges that you overcame, and the way in which you judged the success of the outcome. You should be prepared to explain the lessons that you learned from the situation and how you would handle a similar situation should you encounter it again.

When should you use the STAR method?

The STAR method should be your go-to whenever you are asked to describe a situation, tell the interviewers about a time that you have demonstrated particular skills or competencies, provide a competency-based example or explain the way in which you have overcome a challenging situation.

The STAR method can be used in job applications that require you to demonstrate your level of skill and experience against a defined set of competence criteria or in an interview situation when you are asked a question that requires a competency-based response.

Top tips for using the STAR method

You must be concise but cover every element of the acronym. Do not be tempted to ramble or to include details that are not relevant to your particular actions. Explaining the way in which colleagues or contractors delivered against your instructions will not demonstrate your ability, so tailor your examples to promote the actions and results that you delivered.

Remember, explaining the outcome that you achieved is essential. Without it, the interviewer cannot understand the value of your achievements, skills and experience. If your actions resulted in increased funding for your company, secured a new venture capital investor, or set new standards in innovation, make sure to highlight this to the interviewers.

Preparing for an interview

Make sure you review the job description and your application thoroughly ahead of your interview. This will provide valuable insight into the skills and competencies that you are likely to need to demonstrate at the interview. You should also consider the size and age of the company to which you are applying, as a small startup or scaleup organisation will require their staff to demonstrate a different skill set than that required at a large, established firm.

You can use these insights to craft a number of STAR-based examples that detail the way in which you demonstrated the competencies that are important to the hiring organisation. Practise your examples at home prior to the interview to ensure that you are entirely satisfied that they adequately demonstrate the success criteria associated with each competence and that you are comfortable talking about each situation and your role therein.

Don’t be afraid to make some notes to bring into the interview with you as an aide memoir. Whilst the ability to think on your feet is a desirable attribute in any biotech company, it is essential that you take the actions that are necessary to feel prepared for the interview and to deliver your strongest performance.

In conclusion

The STAR method is ideally suited to situations in which you are required to provide evidence-based responses in job applications and interviews for both early stage European biotech companies and established biotech organisations. It provides a defined framework that helps you to prepare and structure your examples in a manner that is easy for the interviewer to assess and ask follow-up questions.

For help applying the STAR method to your next interview, please contact ScaleX Consulting today. Our expert team of life sciences recruitment consultants will help you to hone your interview skills and secure the job of your dreams.

If you found this insight interesting, we recommend reading How to Answer “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

ScaleX Consulting offer trusted biotech business consulting and life science recruitment services, to help you take the next step in your journey.