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Abstract: The STAR method is a way of responding to behavioral interview questions. It allows the recruiter to verify the candidate's competences and assess their behavior in specific, usually difficult situations. Each letter of the abbreviation S.T.A.R. stands for a component that should be included in the answer: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Most candidates use this technique when preparing for a job interview.
You put on your dress shoes, got there on time, read about the company, and learned who your interviewer is.
You might think: “I’m ready!”
But are you?
Job interviews are stressful, and there are a lot of different interview techniques that may throw you off balance if you haven’t prepared for them earlier.
Ever heard of the STAR interview method?
Well, thankfully we’re just hypothesizing, so you still have time to find out what this not-so-secret formula is.
In this article:
- How to use the STAR method when answering common interview questions.
- STAR method answer examples.
- How to prepare your answers using the STAR interview method.
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Need more interview advice? Check out these guides:
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- How to Answer "Tell Me About Yourself"
- Best Questions to Ask the Interviewer
- Zoom Interview Tips
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1. What Is the STAR Interview Method?
The STAR method is a technique used to answer behavioral interview questions. The name STAR is actually an acronym for each part of the answer (Situation, Task, Action, Result).
During your job interview, you naturally want to highlight your strongest skills and demonstrate that you are the most suitable candidate for the position in question.
But how do you do that without bragging and without being too modest?
Use the STAR method to talk about a challenge you overcame in your professional experience. Choose a situation that really shows your hard or soft skills.
Here’s how you’d want to tell the story using the STAR method:
What Do The Letters S.T.A.R. in “STAR Method” Stand For?
STAR is an acronym for "Situation-Task-Action-Result", which is a formula that can help you structure your responses during a job interview:
What kind of situation did you find yourself in? What problem needed to be addressed? First, it’s important to describe the exact situation in which you were able to successfully apply your skills. So, for example, if the situation focused around a work project, mention what kind of project it was, who you worked with, and when and where it all took place.
What goal have you set for yourself? Roughly describe the specific role that you played in the situation. The interviewer should get a picture of what exactly your responsibility was.
What steps and actions did you take? The point here is to describe in detail what exactly you did in order to reach your goal. What you want to communicate at this point is how you assessed the situation and decided what kind of reaction is appropriate for the given circumstance. It’s also important to explain how you got your team members to participate or get involved, which can nicely highlight your communication skills or your leadership skills.
How did your actions help solve the problem? Ideally, the result should be positive and measurable. Examples of positive results include a revenue increase of X%, a good grade, winning a competition, etc. In addition, your interviewer will also want to know what you have learned and what you would change or do better next time if you were in a similar situation again.
STAR Interview Questions
The STAR interview technique has one clear goal:
Finding out who is the star among applicants.
The STAR technique is best suited for answering behavioral and situational questions.
Behavioral interview questions deal with situations from a candidate’s past, and typically start with Tell me about a time…, Have you ever…, Give me an example, and the like. For example:
- Give me an example of a time you faced a conflict while working on a team. How did you handle that?
- Tell me about a major mistake you made, and what you did to correct it.
- Have you ever had a problem with a co worker? What did you do?
- Tell me about a time you needed to motivate a co-worker.
See? All of those questions, though phrased slightly differently, are intended to get you talking about a situation from your past.
Conversely, situational interview questions are to do with hypothetical situations in the future, often starting with What would you do if…, How would you handle, etc. For example:
- How would you motivate people on your team?
- What would you do if your workload was more than you could handle?
- What would you do if you couldn’t meet a deadline?
- How would you handle a conflict between two of your subordinates?
You can (and should) use the STAR interview method to answer both types of questions. Put simply, whenever you’re asked about a situation (past, present, or future), the STAR method is your friend.
2. STAR Method Example Answers
Now that you know when to use the STAR method during job interviews, let’s look at how to structure your answers. Check out these examples:
Situation: 2 years ago, the company worked for was restructuring. In particular, it was in the process of reorganizing and digitalizing all of its services. There was a decision from upper management to quickly set up an IT department.
Task: As the HR manager, I was therefore in charge of recruiting a whole new team of developers.
Action: So what I did was: create a recruitment campaign, implement the CSR policy, develop a new recruitment and profile rating process, develop a new onboarding plan to help guide new hires’ first few months, and hire an IT recruitment expert to conduct the pre-screening interviews.
Result: I set up the IT department in less than 4 months by putting together a team of 10 people. Of the 10 employees recruited, we felt that 9 of them were the best fit for the jobs. I also assisted with employee and manager development through coaching, advising and implementing training sessions. Through this project, I tackled all the HR activities: recruitment, integration, training, and skills development.
Situation: Last year, I was tasked with increasing our SaaS sales.
Task: The company had just released a new version of the product, and we needed to get media coverage and generate more sales.
Action: I worked with some of our larger clients to make sure they smoothly transitioned to the new version. I also implemented a guide for our brand and increased media coverage by 67%.
Result: As a result, we noticed a 25% increase in sales overall and had over a hundred new customers during launch week.
Situation: At my previous job, we usually had specified deadlines for our work given ahead of time. We were to submit a very important project by February 9, so we had 4 months to complete it. We had enough time to carefully plan out the work. A month and a half in, it turned out that our manager mixed up the date and the deadline for the project was January 9th.
Task: We had to fit two months of work into one. Fortunately, we predicted the margin of error in advance, but it wasn’t that big, so we wouldn’t be able to fit in a month's worth of work. I gave up preparing materials for the next project and postponed other less important tasks. I was only dealing with this particular project. Colleagues from my team did the same.
Action: For a month, we focused only on one thing, and sometimes even worked overtime.
Result: Thanks to a few overtime hours, postponing non-urgent tasks, and focusing only on one project, we were able to successfully meet the deadline.
Situation: I was in charge of coordinating a company workshop for 60 people. One week before the event, it turned out that the conference room, where the workshop was supposed to be held, wouldn’t be available.
Task: On a short notice, I had to find another location for the workshop and inform all the participants.
Action: I contacted several workshop groups on social media, compiled a contact list, and called every conference room I was suggested.
Result: I was able to confirm a new conference room within 2 days. The event was a success and all the participants arrived at the right place.
Situation: Once, my coworker had an accident and was on long leave. The situation took place just a few days before the deadline of an extremely important project, which, incidentally, was left without a manager.
Task: Since I was the one to take over his daily responsibilities, I had to take over the management of the project as well.
Action: First, I got acquainted with the project, re-formulated the goals, delegated the work to other team members and set deadlines for each team member's unique tasks. I divided my own daily tasks into urgent ones and less important ones that could be done after the project’s deadline. I took care of the very urgent ones on my own and those that I knew I could delegate, I delegated.
Result: By reducing my daily responsibilities, I was able to spend more time on the high-priority project. This allowed me to finish it on time and with complete accuracy. My supervisor appreciated my attitude and motivation.
3. How to Prepare Answers Using the STAR Method?
When preparing for your job interview, it’s wise to practice the STAR method at home, for example with a friend, so you're familiar and comfortable with the questions.
Consider which qualities and experiences seem important for the job. Then, while preparing your answers, try to highlight the examples in which you demonstrated these exact skills.
It gives the conversation a positive turn if you can not only clearly articulate your suitability for the role, but also prove it by giving concrete examples from your past.
Here’s a little cheat sheet:
- Read the job posting carefully. Choose three or four skills or traits that you think are most important for the job.
- Think about your current job situation or your previous work experience and analyze them according to the STAR structure.
- Specify individual challenges and approaches, then summarize the results. For each skill or requirement, describe an appropriate situation from the recent past.
- Practice a sample story where the listener can follow and understand your behavior. Be ready to give details if asked.
- The outcome should be positive for you, even if you weren’t able to achieve the goal. What did you learn from this situation? Did you acquire any new skills?
Don’t have enough professional experience?
Your academic experience and other activities, such as voluntary work or sports, are as important.
…and you’re ready to ace that job interview.
Now let’s summarize what STAR interview method tips you’ve learned today:
- The STAR method is used by interviewers to assess your competency, skills, and qualities for a role.
- You can use the STAR method to answer job interview questions by following specific steps that will turn your response into a compelling and powerful story that backs up the claims in your resume.
- For your stories, you can use all different kinds of experiences: professional, academic, internship, volunteering, etc.
- Get familiar with behavioral and situational interview questions and practice answering them with w friend using the STAR method before the actual interview.
Thanks for reading! Not sure about something to do with STAR method interview questions? Still got some concerns regarding how to use the STAR interview method? Perhaps you have some pointers of your own you can share? Drop us a line in the comments, we’re ready to chat!