Do you struggle during interviews to give full and detailed BUT also concise and to the point answers? Do you find that you either waffle on and talk about a bunch of non-important stuff or that you miss out important details that would have helped you get the job?
The STAR interview technique is recommended by a lot of people to help give clear, succinct and strongly evidenced answers to all competency or behavioural based questions that an interviewer might send your way.
While the STAR technique is great I feel it needs a little tweak to make it perfect. That’s where the B-STAR technique comes into play. The B-STAR technique adds one simple ingredient to the formula (Hint: It’s the B) which really rounds out the answers you give during an interview.
That’s what we are here to discuss today. What is the B-STAR technique, how to prepare for an interview using B-STAR and at the end give an example answer using the B-STAR approach.
What Is The B-STAR Technique
If you are familiar with the STAR Technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result) then you are 80% of the way there to knowing the B-STAR Technique.
The B-STAR method is functionally the same as using STAR except with the addition of the B element. B stands for Belief and comes before the remaining elements when formulating your response.
Let’s take a look at each element in turn:
B – Belief – What are your beliefs (or thoughts/feelings) about the topic at hand.
Do you have a process or methodology you usually follow when challenged with this topic?
This part of the answer is your chance to talk about your high level non-specific view on the subject.
Q: Tell me about a time when a delay impacted your ability to deliver
A: “I believe it’s very important to always be on time, especially in a professional setting. That is why I always take time to accurately set deadlines that I know are achievable. I appreciate there will always be times when this is not possible so I also feel that as soon as I know I am going to be late I need to inform my colleagues to manage their expectations. There was an occasion…[answer continues with STAR]”
Notice how the answer doesn’t have any details. You are giving the interviewer a look inside how your mind ticks and what frameworks/philosophies you live your life (and your working life) by. The interviewer will now know that the rest of your answer was no fluke occurrence, what you did and what you achieved is directly what you set out to do and falls in-line with your beliefs on the matter.
S – Situation – Set the scene for your tale. What was going on, where were you, who were you with, why were you there? When was this?
Basically the 5 Ws.
A: “A few months ago we (my colleague and I) were supposed to give a presentation in the clients office to provide a status update on their project but my colleague’s train was cancelled and they were going to be over 15 minutes late to the meeting start”
T – Task – What was your responsibility, what had you been assigned to do? Or rather what did you now have to do given the situation?
A: “It was now my responsibility to manage the situation with the client. A client that was very important to the firm and who we had only just started doing business with.
A – Action (or Activity) – What did you actually do? Walk through the steps that you took once you realised your situation all the way through to the end result.
A: “I quickly made a call to my manager to advise of the situation. The guidance from above was that the presentation had to go on as planned. I then called my colleague to get caught up to speed on his slides within the presentation. Luckily I had worked with my colleague to produce the presentation so it was a quick information download for me. I explained the situation to the client and reassured them they were in good hands with me while I delivered the presentation.
R – Result – How did everything play out? Did everything go as planned? You should also talk about any lessons that were learned from this scenario that you put to use in the future.
A: “The meeting ended up going quite well. I did struggle in some of my colleague’s areas but we were able to rectify that later when my colleague arrived. The client was impressed that I was able to cover both roles as seamlessly as I did and the relationship flourished from there. In the future I always ensured that I knew the whole presentation so that this issue would not re-occur.
Why is the “B” Important?
Imagine the interviewer asks you a question that you only have limited experience in. The STAR technique will have you relaying an example that isn’t really what the interviewer was looking for.
By starting your answer with your overall feelings you tell your interviewer that your example isn’t just a fluke and if they were to hire you that’s what they can expect each and every time the scenario occurs.
Starting your answers off with the B…
- Shows the interviewer your thought process and not just a recounting of history
- Ensures you get your full ideas across that may not be covered by your example
- Gives you something to talk about if you are unable to come up with an example to share
How To Prepare For An Interview Using B-STAR
The best way to prepare for any interview is to perform mock interviews with yourself. Find a question bank of interview questions (for example this business analyst question bank, or this List of 79 civil service questions)
For each question come up with a B-STAR answer, write it down and work on your delivery. When you are happy with how you present yourself with that answer move onto another.
The same example can be used for different questions (e.g. the example given earlier could be used for “When did you struggle with someone being late?” and also “Tell me about a time you had to present in front of clients”). Just don’t use the same example twice in the same interview.
I recommend having 10 examples ready to go that are easily tailored to a range of different questions.
Use your laptop or camera to record yourself answering the question and play it back to highlight gaps or areas of weakness.
In the end the best preparation is doing. You will get better at interviewing the more you do it. Obviously it would be great to land a job on the first interview but oftentimes that is not realistic.
After each interview take notes, while it is fresh in your head, on what you think went well and what didn’t. Ask your interviewer if they have any feedback they can share with you (mention how, regardless of the outcome to the interview, you are still looking to work for their firm and want advice for your next application – this will make them more likely to help you)
Other than that PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE
Example B-STAR Answer Approach
Tell me about a time when you needed to communicate bad news to a colleague or stakeholder? – Example Answer
“I believe that bad news is best delivered in person and discretely, where it is responsible to do so. I don’t particularly relish giving bad news (I suppose not many do) so I often try to resolve the situation in advance so the bad news never needs to be given.
Obviously though that isn’t possible all of the time. For example in a previous role I managed a team of complaint handlers when word came down from senior management that we were offshoring a large part of our process and this meant layoffs of nearly 40% of the department.
I tried to go to bat for my team and show how our quality and production scores were the highest around and unlikely to be replicated using our offshore colleagues, but the decision had been made and was purely cost driven.
It was my job to determine which members of my team would be let go and which would stay.
We had all joined the department together on the same contract so there was no element of seniority that needed to be accounted for. Instead I devised a balanced scorecard type of approach, ranking each team member against the department’s relevant KPIs (quality, production, skills).
Once I had my list I booked one-on-ones with all of my team members as close together as possible, starting with the colleagues who would be staying. With the colleagues who were being let go I got straight to the point and told them the company would be terminating their contract. I allowed them to ask any questions they wanted and informed them that I would be around for any help they needed in looking for a new role.
During the meetings 2 of the colleagues I wanted to keep informed me that they were planning to leave soon anyway and suggested that they would leave now instead freeing up room for other colleagues to stay.
In the end I had to tell 6 members of my team that they were being let go. They were all understanding of the situation and were grateful that I offered to help them look for new roles.
Going forward if I were to be in the same position I would have gone to the meetings with some open positions that I would recommend the colleagues apply for”