Business woman story

Be memorable at your next interview with S.T.A.R. stories

interview research value

People love stories. 

When I debrief clients after they have met with a candidate, I ask them, ‘What stood out most to you about <candidate’s name>?’, and 70% of the time, they say, ‘It was the story they shared about...’ 

We’ve grown up with them and we give Hollywood billions of dollars by watching the stories it tells in movies. Stories capture our attention; they stir our emotions. We believe stories and we remember them. So go ahead and tell the person interviewing you stories about situations where you have:

  1. Solved the problems they and their company are facing
  2. Achieved results that they are seeking
  3. Demonstrated the character, skill and experience they are desiring

If you aren’t sure how to do this, then let me introduce you to the STAR model.


The acronym STAR stands for:

  • Situation
  • Tension
  • Action
  • Result

It’s a simple-to-remember and easy-to-deliver model for telling your stories.


S – Situation

The first step of this model is where you describe a relevant situation from before it became a problem until it was at its peak. Mention the key people, places and components that were contributing to or impacted by the situation. Most importantly, communicate why this was a problem, what could have happened if it hadn’t been solved and by when it had to be solved (if there was a timeframe involved).


T – Tension

The second step is where you describe the build-up, the series of unfortunate events and challenges that the situation would have created for others if it had not been resolved – the people, processes, places, eco- nomic impact etc. What was the tension? What was the severity of the issue? Use appropriate emotion to share how you felt about it, what you thought about it and why you decided to act.


A – Action

The third step is to describe what you did about the issue. How did you take the initiative to solve the problem? Whom did you involve? What was the method you used to steer the situation around/over/through the obstacles to achieve the result you desired? Structure this information in three to five steps maximum.

This needs to be about you and is your moment to shine – so take it.

Acknowledge the team, but keep the focus on your action/s. After all, the team involved isn’t interviewing for your ideal role – you are. The prospective employer is not hiring the team that supported you, they are hiring you, so talk about what you did.


R – Result

The final step in this model is to talk about the results. What was the new situation when the issue had been resolved? What was the evidence of success? What did people say? How did this impact the team, the com- pany, the customers and partners? Use appropriate emotion to share this. What did you learn from it? How did this experience change you? What have you taken from this experience? How has it prepared you for this moment?


Your STAR story does not have to be a ten-minute presentation (although it could be). My advice is to tailor the same STAR story in varying levels of detail for these communication channels:

  • Phone call: a one- to two-minute version of the story
  • In-person conversation: a two- to five-minute version
  • One-to-many presentation: a ten-minute version of the story


You can communicate your STAR story through a variety of formats:

  • In person (at meetings and presentations)
  • Audio (on the phone, via podcasts and recorded expert interviews)
  • Video (via authority videos and testimonials)
  • Documents (via social posts, infographics and case studies)


The biggest mistake people make is not to prepare the stories they are going to share before they meet the hiring manager. As a result, the story lacks the full detail and potential.

You can write a STAR story in a one-page document and email it to the hiring manager after the interview as a means of building a relationship, staying top of mind and becoming a stand-out candidate in their process. This creates influence and a means to address questions that you may not have answered to your best ability in the interview or may have run out of time to discuss.

If you make your story about solving their problems and achieving their results, you will always have their attention.


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