You are in a job interview and you have been doing well so far. Then, as you start to build up your confidence, the interviewer asks you to “Tell me about a time when…”
This type of question throws you off base, and you are unsure how to respond. That’s where the STAR interview method can be useful.
The STAR interview method provides a structured approach to answer interview questions. This method of answering questions is based on sharing examples that you possess a certain skill or character trait that qualifies you for the job that you are interviewing for.
In this guide, we’re going to discuss the basics of the STAR interview method, how it works, and how you can use the STAR method to prepare for an interview.
What is the STAR Interview Method?
The STAR interview method is an approach you can use to prepare for behavioral questions in a job interview. STAR stands for situation, task, action, and result.
Behavioral questions are questions that relate to your character and how you have responded to specific citations in the past. Employers ask behavioral questions to get a better sense of what skills you have, and what experience you have in applying those skills on the job.
For instance, if you are applying for an administrative assistant job, an employer may want to know that you have strong problem solving and organizational skills. To learn more about your experience with these skills, an employer may ask you a behavioral question.
Here are a few examples of behavioral interview questions that could come up:
- Tell me about a time when you had to get information from someone who was not responsive. How did you handle this situation?
- Talk about a scenario when you were under a lot of pressure. How did you navigate being in this position?
- Tell me about a time when you failed. What did you learn from this encounter?
- Tell me about a time when you worked with other teams on a project.
- Describe a time when you had to manage numerous different responsibilities. What did you do to stay on top of your commitments?
- Tell me about a time when you gave a successful presentation. What made the presentation go well?
- Tell me about a time when you were dissatisfied at work. How did you navigate this situation?
These are all examples of questions to which you can respond using the STAR framework.
Using the STAR framework is useful because it is easy to follow, and provides you with a clear set of steps you can use to navigate common interview questions.
How to Use the STAR Method
The STAR method has four main components that you can use to create a narrative as you answer behavioral interview questions. Let’s break the method down into each of its components, and discuss them individually.
Situation: The situation is the context around a problem or a challenge you have faced. For instance, you could mention a time when you were working on a team, a time when you had to be organized, or a time when you had a conflict with a coworker. The situation you describe can either be from work experience, school, a volunteer position, or any other event relevant to your personal or professional development.
Task: The task is the responsibility that you had over the situation. For instance, you may have had to help someone meet a project by a deadline, hit a target, or learn a new skill within a certain timeframe.
Action: The action is where you explain what steps you took to overcome the challenge or address the situation you were facing. If you worked on a team, be sure to discuss your individual contributions.
Result: The result is the outcome or result that was generated from taking a particular action. At this stage, you’ll want to discuss what you have accomplished and how you evaluated your success or failure.
How to Prepare for an Interview Using STAR
The STAR method can make it easier to prepare for an interview. While you won’t know exactly what questions you will be asked, the STAR method can be applied to most behavioral interview questions. This is because behavioral questions focus on character traits like organization or dedication, which can all be discussed using STAR.
Before your job interview begins, take some time to read over the job description and make a note of any skills that you think are particularly relevant to the position. Then, take some time to consider what experience you have using those skills.
Once you have decided what skills you think are particularly relevant to the job, you can break them down using the STAR framework. For instance, suppose you have noticed that a theme throughout the job description is creative thinking. If you think a question about your strengths could come up in the interview, you could ask yourself these STAR questions to help you prepare:
- What problem or challenge did I resolve by thinking creatively?
- How was I involved with that problem?
- What action did I take using my creative thinking skills to address the problem?
- What was the result of my creative thinking?
You can use any example you want in your response. However, you should make sure that the examples you give are closely related to the job for which you are applying. For instance, if you are applying for an executive assistant job, you would want to think about how your examples relate to the day-to-day responsibilities of being an assistant.
Examples of Using the STAR Interview Method
To help you use the STAR interview method, we have chosen three common behavioral questions and provided an answer using the STAR method.
Tell me about a time when you effectively worked under pressure.
“I was working as an executive assistant at a paper company in my last job. My boss tasked me with reorganizing the filing system of executive memos, which was a massive project because a backlog of memos had emerged.
In order to address this task, I first worked with my boss to address the scope of the project. Then I employed the organizational system we discussed and reorganized the relevant memos. After two months of work, I was able to successfully reorganize the memos, which resulted in the process of retrieving executive memos becoming significantly faster.”
Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it.
“When I started working at XYZ, I was tasked with increasing the number of active users on our platform by 5% each month. To do so, I was assigned to work on the new notification system for our mobile app.
In my work, I first identified opportunities to send notifications to users. Then, I implemented a few example notifications and used A/B testing to determine which ones were most effective. Finally, the most effective notifications were rolled out to our entire user base. This helped us increase active users by 5% every month, and the project was completed on time.”
Give an example of how you worked on a team.
“In my last job, I was working on an event planning team for our company’s annual corporate retreat. I was tasked with determining what team-building exercises our team members should participate in on the retreat.
This involved working with other people on the team to identify what exercises have worked in the past and to create a list of new exercises we could try. Then, I took the initiative of running small team building sessions with a few of the organizers to see which ones worked best and reported my results to the rest of the team.
The result of my work was that we were able to choose five team building activities that were well received on the retreat. The executive team told us that they were so impressed with the program that they wanted to repeat it on the next retreat.”
The STAR interview process may sound intimidating, especially considering there is so much work you have to do to prepare for a job interview. However, once you’ve practiced answering a few behavioral interview questions using this approach, you will find it easier to use this approach.
Before your interview begins, practice answering some common behavioral questions using the STAR approach. You could also ask a friend or a family member to hold a mock interview for you, so you can get real-time feedback on your responses.
While it’s impossible to know exactly what questions will come up in an interview, using the STAR framework can help you prepare answers to common questions in advance. In addition, the STAR framework can give you a good model to use to respond to any behavioral interview question.
By using the STAR approach, you should have no trouble delivering a complete and confident response to the questions asked in a job interview!