How to Use the STAR Method to Nail Your Job Interview
Job interviews are getting longer and tougher and hiring managers expect more detailed answers to their questions. Among all different techniques, especially when it comes to competency-based interviews, the STAR method is one of your best choices to structure your responses. It’s loved by interviewers since they can gather relevant and useful information, and by interviewees to reduce any tendency to ramble and for those who suffer from interview stress or anxiety.
But what is the STAR method and why do companies and candidates alike place so much importance on it? In this article we’ll show you how to use this technique to your advantage, as well as some common STAR method interview questions and answer examples.
What is the STAR Method?
The STAR or S.T.A.R. interview method isn’t named after an astronomical object, but is an acronym that stands for ‘Situation, Task, Action, Result’. It is sometimes also called the CAR method, which stands for ‘Context/Challenge, Action, Result’. By following the STAR interview method, you can provide structured answers that tell a story in a simple yet powerful way. Each word of the acronym indicates, in order, what all your answer should include and how to focus them. The goal is to create a story that is easy to follow and offers a taste of what you are capable of.
Let’s break down each part of the STAR interview technique:
- What were the workplace circumstances? Think who, what, when, where, and why.
- What was it you needed to accomplish? How did you decide on this course?
- How did you execute and complete your task? Be specific.
- What happened as a result of your actions? What successes did you gain for the business and what did you learn?
Why is the STAR Method Useful?
Applying the STAR method of interviewing means you can help recruiters understand how close you are to their ideal candidate and therefore, help yourself land the job The STAR method interview allows your listeners to identify your strongest skills and learn important aspects about your behavior. You might not even realize it at first but a well-structured response can actually answer more questions than the original one asked, for example:
- How good of a listener you are?
- Are you proactive or afraid to take initiative?
- Do you have great instincts?
- How do you handle stress, deadlines, or conflict in the office?
How to Use the STAR Method
When called for a job interview, prepare yourself ahead of time by practicing answers to common job interview questions. You can use your own resume and the original job listing to help you formulate questions. Identify the main skills the company is looking for in an ideal candidate. For example, are they looking for someone with great team working skills? An innovative leader, an analytic mind, or both perhaps? Whatever skills and qualities the company is looking for, make sure to demonstrate them in your answers.
Use these tips to successfully apply the interview star method:
- Focus on you, even if it feels uncomfortable. A lot of people work in teams and engage in collaborations, but it’s crucial to stress what you personally did even in a team environment. Managers can’t hire the whole team; they can only hire you.
- Turn a negative into a positive. If you’re asked about a difficult experience in the workplace, that’s not a bad thing. It’s your chance to show how you perform when everything’s not going right. Explain what you learned and walk the recruiter through how you would prevent the situation from happening again.
- Plan ahead. In many instances, companies post information and sample questions on the jobs section of their website, so take advantage. Have someone you feel comfortable with do a mock interview with you beforehand.
- Know when to zip your lips! There’s a delicate balance between being thorough and being succinct. From your situation to the final results, keep your story between three to five minutes or you’re likely to lose the recruiter.
- Be specific. Ban phrases such as, “I usually do this” in your answers. Instead, talk specifically about what you actually did and avoid any generalizations.
Common Questions and How to Answer Them Using the STAR Method
The best type of questions you can answer using the STAR technique are those typical of behavioral interviews. You can recognize these as they focus on your past experiences and require you to answer with examples of specific situations where you had to use certain skills.
STAR questions typically begin with phrases like:
- Tell me about a time when...
- Give me an example of...
- What do you do when...
- Have you ever...
- Describe a situation where...
Below we expand on two common STAR questions and give you an example of the proper way to answer.
- Have you ever faced conflict when working with a client?
Situation At my last place of employment, I had to face an angry client due to a project not being delivered to the deadline. We found ourselves understaffed in the office, with multiple keys employees leaving at the same time to pursue a different path.
Task Although those who left gave us a two-week notice, we still had to find and train replacements. That required extra time that the client, initially, didn’t want to wait for.
Action After consulting with management, I personally reached out to the client, carefully explained the situation, and offered an extra service free of cost.
Result The client appreciated our honesty and care and was so happy and satisfied with the extra service that they ended up purchasing it for the following months as well.
- Describe a challenge you have faced at work and how you overcame it.
Situation When working as volunteer for a shelter we strongly relied on donations, especially those gathered at events. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions in place at that time we couldn’t host any events. Our funds were running so low that we would have to close the doors within 1 to 2 months.
Task I knew we needed to find alternative methods of fundraising quickly, so I researched what other similar organizations were doing to face those hard times and discovered that they were mainly using social media.
Action I sat down with the other volunteers and management and suggested redirecting time and efforts once spent in events towards social media campaigns and fundraisings.
Result As a result, our fundraising actually increased by 10% in the following year. That shelter is still in business today and, thanks to all the work we did online, they receive donations and attention not only from locals but from people all over the world who were able to find them on social media.
The STAR method for interviewing helps you to tell a good story and distinguish yourself from all the other candidates, since each person has their own story that makes them unique.
Now that you know how to structure a response using this technique, use the following questions to which you can apply STAR method examples to prepare for your next interview:
- Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do, and you were required to prioritize your tasks.
- Describe a situation in which you were able to persuade and successfully convince someone to see things your way.
- Tell me about an assignment in your career that required the greatest amount of planning and organizing effort.
- Describe a time when your plan didn’t work out, explaining why, what you learned and what would you do differently today.
- What do you do when someone else’s idea is implemented over your own?
- Have you ever identified a potential problem and resolved the situation before it became serious?
- Tell me about the most creative solution you ever came up with to solve a difficult problem.
- Give me an example of a particular problem you enjoyed solving at work and describe how you did it.
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