Have you heard of the STAR interview technique? It’s when an interviewer asks you a behavioral question (which usually begins, “Tell me about a time when you…”) and you respond by laying out the Situation, the Task you were given, the Action you took, and then the Result you achieved. It’s an excellent method for MBA hopefuls to leverage in AdCom or alumni interviews.
But the STAR technique shouldn’t be thought of as only an interview-response strategy. We’ve found that it’s also a helpful way to organize essays, short-answer responses and even resume bullet points.
For example, let’s take an essay that asks you to describe your greatest professional achievement—in only 300 words. The STAR method helps you pare down all of the information you could possibly include. You’ll want to set up the Situation for your reader as succinctly and clearly as possible. Leave out industry jargon, acronyms, and “inside baseball” details that the AdCom is unlikely to care about. Remember, they want to learn about what YOU did—not the intricate complexities of your company or client’s issue.
Next, pinpoint exactly what Task you were responsible for. Sure, business schools are looking for team players, but if they’ve asked you to describe your most impressive accomplishment, they want to understand precisely what your marching orders were.
The Action section is where you should expand a bit more. This is your chance to shine by explaining exactly what you did, and ideally showing how you went above and beyond in your role. Then you can wrap up by revealing what Results you achieved. Keep in mind that both qualitative and quantitative outcomes are important to include if possible.
After you’ve got your S, T, A and R information covered in your essay, take a read through it again to ensure the emphasis is on the Actions you took, and then the Results you achieved. We know it’s hard to condense what may sometimes be a years-long project into only a few sentences at the beginning, but it’s better to keep the focus on why YOU will be a welcome addition to any MBA program.
Your final task is to ensure that you’re within the word count limit and that you’ve told the story of your achievement in a compelling, memorable way.
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