By Brian McKay

The STAR method has been popular with HR departments for years as a method for interviewing prospective hires. In case you aren’t aware of what it is or what it stands for, STAR is Situation or Task-at-Hand, Action and Result.

The general rule in a fresh new startup is to avoid anything that involves an acronym in the first place. Acronyms are created by people in large companies that have nothing better to do than say, “Holy cow! This new acronym I developed for this silly new practice is brilliant and the acronym will increase adoption by 10 fold!”

So anyway, let’s get back to the STAR method. HR departments usually have no idea how a job is actually done so they start with a minimal description and develop STAR questions as a way to benchmark applicants that they feel isn’t subjective to the perceptions of the interviewer. Conformity is key. Answer the questions to fit the general ideal and you are in.

One problem with this method is that it is so darn easy to make up a situation and say exactly what the interviewer wants to hear. The interviewee can pretend to ponder for a moment and then say, “Well my customer Mrs. Jones was in quite a pickle so I did an amazing job doing X and then she praised me and the company and I just felt so warm and fuzzy afterward.” If you don’t think people do this, they do. All of the time.

Other methods have been sold to companies as ways to interview from consultants who make really good money. They might work for generalized jobs with Mega Huge Company, Inc., but they won’t work for you. Avoid them all, especially if they use an acronym.

As zenruption articles have frequently espoused the need for diverse skills and attitudes in you company in order to pull off the impossible, a true disruptor has no need for form questions.

What is the best interview method for a disruptor? Well, it is this new and innovative thing that doesn’t use an acronym. It is called a conversation. Amazing concept isn’t it?

Strong candidates deserve a conversation and not a formulaic question and answer session that insults their intelligence and can be easily manipulated. A hiring manager needs to be able to sit down and find out what motivates the candidate, what they like to do for fun and what some of the challenges in their life have been. There is no way to prepare for such an interview but at the same time the candidate feels like she is being treated like an adult.

An accomplished interviewer will find out more about the interviewee than any form method with an acronym. The goal is to go in looking for the complimentary part to your organization and not the exact fit. If the candidate seems very strong in ability to perform the job but original in ideas and lifestyle, perfect. You might have just have found a compliment to your team.

So take a few hours and write down the questions that are important to you and the organization with the cognition that you also want to leave about 10 minutes of a 30-minute interview for “free forming”. That period will be an open conversation that will reveal the important facets of creativity and emotional quotient of your interviewee.

Go look for the compliment, not the conformist, for your team and avoid the acronyms. Have a real conversation.

zenrupt some business.


Brian McKay is a co-founder of zenruption and has his MBA from Boise State University. He obviously hates corporate acronyms and feels they are as heinous as those success posters commonly seen in dentist offices. Hang on Brian. You can do it and realize success.




Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license