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The STAR Approach to storytelling


116220835 8fbdd1170e The STAR Approach to storytelling

Photo credit: Brian Talbot

Yesterday I wrote about why storytelling will help you land your next job. This is a follow-up post on how to effective tell your stories in a job search.

The STAR Model is a method of answering behavioral interviewing questions. You can also adapt this method to tell stories about your achievements on your resume (bullet points), a cover letter, or non-behavioral interview questions like the dreaded "tell me about you."

Part of your interview preparation should be to write out several examples of your previous successes - just another reason it is so important to keep track of your projects and work achievements. Anticipate what types of challenges you could face in this new role and create 5-7 stories around your previous relevant experience.

To do this, consider using the STAR Model:

S = Situation - describe a situation. This is a where you will set up the plot of your story for the listener. Give a brief outline of a situation you faced and your role.

T = Task - What was the task you had to accomplish? This is your goal or the hoped outcome.

A = Action - What did you do to accomplish the task? Describe what happened and how you attacked the problem through to resolution.

R = Results - What was the result of your actions? Be specific. Try to quantify these results if possible. The more specific you are, the more convinced the interviewer will be you are the person for the job.

Your stories require some thought and practice. Interview questions that begin with "Tell me about a time when...." are answered best using this model, but you can also find opportunities to tell a relevant story in various points in your job search.


  • When using this approach, be sure to focus on your actions, even if the situation was resolved by the team. It's okay to give credit to your teammates, but don't let the interviewer wonder what part you actually played.
  • Be careful to not ramble on. Give concise, but powerful stories and make sure they are relevant to the conversation. Give a specific, measurable result and be quiet. Let the conversation flow from there.
  • Your stories should be factual accounts that demonstrate your relevant experience. Opinions and theories can be saved for other types of conversations.
  • Don't use the same story for more than one interview question.

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9 Comments - Add yours!

Lindsay Olson | Archivo » Storytelling can help you land your next job (December 9th, 2008)

[...] Part 2: Star Approach to storytelling [...]

David Moye (December 9th, 2008)

This is a very helpful tip. I have used anecdotes for my cover letters and they help keep the eyes on the page.
But with all things, your mileage may vary. Some people just want bullet points. Yeesh.

Lindsay Olson (December 9th, 2008)

It’s true, David. You can’t please everyone.

Christopher Drinkut (December 12th, 2008)

Good stuff, again.

I will admit that acronyms really help direct loose energy. And I’ll also admit that, on occasion, the pressure of interviewing has sent my mind in a 1,000 different directions.

I’ll try and be cool next time and remember the STARs approach. Thanks

Holiday Linky Love | PRos in Training (September 23rd, 2010)

[...] The STAR Approach to Storytelling (Lindsay Olson)When we say focus on results, here’s a great way to think about it and make it happen. [...]

Holiday Linky Love | PRos in Training (September 23rd, 2010)

[...] The STAR Approach to Storytelling (Lindsay Olson)When we say focus on results, here’s a great way to think about it and make it happen. [...]

50 reasons you didn’t get the job | Robbie Abed's Personal Blog (February 3rd, 2012)

[...] didn’t use the STAR Approach to answering [...]

Sam Porch (April 15th, 2012)

I would say the “tell me about you” question is overly ambiguous. I don’t mean it’s open to multiple interpretations, I mean it’s unclear to the point of being unanswerable.

What does that question even mean? “Tell me about you[r personality]?” “Tell me about you[r personal life]?” “Tell me about you[r career history]?” “Tell me about you[r position on cats vs. dogs]?”

Sam Porch (April 15th, 2012)

Also, great post, forgot to say that.

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