Why you should not use STAR in your Interview

For years the gold standard for answering behavioral interview questions has been the STAR model and before I jump too deep into this article, I would like to say that yes it is a good model but like everything it can be better. Our HCCARR method is just that! 

At Interview Coaching, I have trained many professionals at all levels of seniority at some of the world’s top tech companies, consultancies and investment banks and for these STAR just isn’t rich enough for these firms to confirm what they are looking for in their candidates. 

First let’s have a look at STAR and unwrap the science and strengths behind it.

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result, it is the beginning, middle and end of any great story. 

  1. The Situation should outline the Time, People and Place to orient the listener and give them an idea of what the story will be about. 
  2. Next the Task outlines what the target of the story is about, what did you need to do, who directed you, what other people were involved etc. 
  3. Moving on to Action, this is the main part of the story, you should allocate the majority of your time speaking about what you did to actualize the task. 
  4. And finally, the Result – is there a happy ending, what was the outcome?

What we’ve discovered is that simply telling a great story is not enough for some of the most competitive and in-demand roles. Companies are looking for greater depth, meaning and insight into your answers. More data, variables and learning opportunities to see if you are a good fit for their team. 

Our HCCARR model delivers just that, taking your stories to another level and outshining your competition’s responses. So let’s dive in and unpack this acronym. 

  1. H – stands for Headline, write this at the end of developing your answers, consisting of a short but laser pointed summary of what the story is about. If you have data from your results, include them here. Imagine a Headline in a newspaper, it gives you a taster of what is to come and hooks your interest on the topic. Many behavioral answers nowadays take anywhere between 3-8 minutes depending on the complexity of the task. In that time it is easy for the interviewer to slip in and out of attention, hey we’re all human, especially when the answer runs over the 5 minute barrier. Including some key landmark features in your Headline will help the interviewer stay oriented and know when to pay extra attention to your main points. Lastly, it’s highly unlikely they will be making detailed notes of every single word you say throughout the answer, but they will write down the first thing that comes out of your mouth, this is your golden opportunity to ensure that what they write down is exactly what you want them to remember. Example: Question “What project have you worked on recently that you are very proud of?” Answer “Last year, I supported a team spread across 6 countries to develop a communication tool which increased the supply chain productivity by 200%” 
  2. C – stands for Context, much like the STAR structure, there is a beginning which starts to paint the picture. In this you want to give as much context to the interviewer as possible so that they can understand the background of your story, Time, Place and People is essential, who are the main actors in the story, when did this occur etc?
  3. C – stands for Challenge. Here you want to illustrate the task set and what were the obstacles you had to overcome in achieving your goal. The pain point of any story is critical so that the listener is emotionally involved in the outcome, they not only hear what you’re talking about but also feel the struggles and join you on your journey to success.
  4. A – stands for Action, just like the STAR model the majority of your answer should be spent here. Be sure to dive into the details, the secret is to focus your attention on the hows and the whys of what you did. The whats will be pretty much the same for anyone in your role, they will have done similar things, carried out similar steps but what differentiates you from the rest were the whys behind your actions and how you approached each task. 
  5. R – stands for Result, again like the STAR model we want to highlight the success of the story. Be detailed and proud of your work, be sure to qualify and quantify the outcome using as much data as possible. This communicates the value you had in the team and company, it shows that you have a wider insight of your impact from a commercial viewpoint 
  6. R – stands for Reflection. Finally, companies are geared towards working with Lean, Agile and Continuous Improvement processes. Finishing off your story with a retrospective evaluation of your performance, what could have been done differently or what you learnt which directly benefited future projects shows that you share the same values and spirit of the business you’re interviewing for. It demonstrates that you are open to criticism and aware of room for improvement. Think about what happened in this story, how did this experience improve you as a professional, the team or the way you approached future projects?

The HCCARR model created by Charles Webb at Interview Coaching has been tried and tested by dozens of clients applying at Fortune 500s, FAANG and the Big Four with great success. 


If you’d like to find out more on how you can apply this model or would like some support in building your own answers for an upcoming interview, book a free consultation with me today at https://interviewcoach.me/discovery-call/ or contact me via email at charlie@interviewcoach.me

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