Is the STAR Method Outdated?
The STAR method is to a job candidate what the hammer is to a carpenter. Their respective toolboxes simply aren’t complete without them. STAR has become a ubiquitous part of the interviewing process: candidates are taught to use it, and interviewers design their questions to elicit STAR responses.
But is this method preventing businesses from properly assessing the value of job seekers? Does STAR need an update for the contemporary job market?
To answer these questions, we should update our analogy, for the hammer is, after all, truly timeless. Let’s consider the STAR method as more of an app.
Even if you've never heard the term, chances are you have heard someone use the STAR method before. STAR provides candidates a specific formula for responding to behavior-based questions.
Imagine you ask a candidate a question about a specific challenge she faced at work—something like, “How did you handle your most challenging client?” If the candidate follows STAR, her response will set up a situation, detail the tasks she needed to accomplish, tell you the actions she took, and conclude with the results. Those italicized words provide the acronym, and that is the STAR method.
Like any app, the STAR method serves a particular function and has inherent pros and cons in its execution.
On the pro side, it still serves its basic function—that is, letting you know how candidates think and act on the job. This helps you to assess problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, which may not be evident with credentials alone. Also, when most candidates answer behavior questions using the same format, you can more easily compare and contrast them.
But STAR has its drawbacks, especially in light of the contemporary job market. The near-universal adoption of the method means candidates are prepared for it. They can easily find how-to guides on the Internet and simply parrot desired answers, resulting in less-than-authentic responses.
Also, past experiences don’t necessarily prove future success. This is especially true if you’re using STAR to try to match candidates’ experiences with a particular task. With wide and varied work histories, contemporary job seekers are less likely to have the specific experience you are seeking. With a little training, however, one may be a perfect fit.
Since the STAR method continues to serve its original function, questions designed to evoke behavioral responses shouldn’t be deleted from your interview repertoire entirely. Still, an update may be required to give candidates the chance to speak about themselves, their values, and their skills.
Here are some suggestions that may help you elicit less formulaic, more valuable responses:
- Dig deeper into results: Behavioral-based questions qualify how candidates act, but remember to ask follow-up questions that hone in on performance. Quantifiable information on candidates’ abilities and performance outcomes are valuable.
- Look to the future: STAR only looks to the past, but you should be considering the future, as well. Ask candidates where they see themselves in five years’ time and how they plan to improve at the company.
- Promote your worth: It’s not all about whether candidates can perform the job; they also need to fit into the company’s culture. Get to know your candidates and see if they align with the company’s values.
- Improvise (just a bit): Try to ask questions that candidates haven’t likely prepared for. It will make them more difficult to compare and contrast, but there is value in seeing how they think on the fly.
Incorporate these approaches into your next interview and weigh them equally with your behavioral-based questions. You may find the update lets you see candidates as a more complete employee and person, rather than just a series of potentially valuable behaviors.
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