How To Use The STAR Method For Interview Questions

Interviewers are looking for specific examples when they ask about your work history. Don’t be caught off-guard and meander. Instead, be prepared to answer with the STAR method!

The STAR method is a helpful tool for framing your accomplishments for behavioral and situational interview questions. By thinking in terms of situation, task, action, and result, you can quickly and efficiently express your achievements and impress your interviewers. Be ready to shine by embracing the STAR framework and be prepared to excel in your next interview!

“These questions are easy to spot as they focus on actions that you have or have not taken and often start with phrases like: “Give me an example of a time…”; “Describe a moment when…”; “What do you do…”; “Tell me about a moment when you…”” –ResumeHelp

Situation

You’ll start with the situation, or the broadest stroke of what happened. This is where you set the scene and clearly establish the problem that needed solving. Think of the situation as the overall plot or the “fade in” moment—the big picture.

“Be brief in your setup. Give just enough background or contextual information for your story to make sense.” –Duke Career Center

While context is important, don’t go overboard with the details. A STAR example should quickly get to the point and show what you accomplished. The situation can clearly be as simple as “I had a customer who was upset,” according to Chris Drew of Helpful Professor.

Task

Next, you’ll need to show what your task was. What is the specific challenge you, the protagonist of the story, need to address? If the situation was the overall plot, the task is the surrounding details. In the above “upset customer” example, the task would be that you needed to appease the customer and would include any barriers that prevent you from accomplishing that goal.

Zety’s Roma Kończak uses the example of someone needing to lead a project after the original manager was unable to. The task then is that the worker needed to take over the project with no extra time given because of the circumstance. This shows where you come in, what you needed to do, and what obstacles were in your path.

Action

With the plot of our tale set, we move into the action step. What did we actually do to resolve the situation and the task at hand? This is the part where you really get to shine and leave your mark.

Here, you’ll explain what you did and what your thought process was, according to Forbes’ Lidija Globokar writes. Just like how teachers in school wanted you to show your work, you’ll show your work here. Simply lucking into the solution isn’t particularly impressive.

In the “upset customer” scenario, the worker apologized to the customer for a delay while offering an alternative. They acknowledged the customer’s frustration, and, while they couldn’t go back in time and prevent that delay from happening (which would make for an interesting story), they offered a different sort of deal to make up for the issue. This action clearly shows how the worker processed the situation and then took action to resolve it.

Result

Finally, what were the outcomes of your action? The result is the finale, and it’s where you can stick the landing and impress your interviewer.

“Don’t end your story with a cliffhanger! Share the results of your actions – what was the outcome?” –Lidija Globokar

At the end of the “upset customer” example, the worker’s acknowledgment of the customer’s issue and finding an alternative option did enough to leave the customer pleased and satisfied. Instead of losing a customer, the day was saved. This climax shows your interviewer how you processed the problem, found an appropriate solution, and reached a successful conclusion. Because you used a specific example, they’ll know that you can achieve similar feats with their organization.

“Be sure to quantify your results if possible.” –Sam Maiyaki, Linkedin

The results part of the framework provides you time to provide any lessons you learned along the way. Generally, you’ll probably use a story where you found success at the end since you want to impress. But we can learn a lot from our mistakes and failures, and they provide good opportunities for growth.

Wrap up

That’s how simple using the STAR method can be! The “upset customer” example told a full story, including ending with tangible results, in just a few moments. While we jazzed up the language for fun, a STAR story doesn’t need to be a cinematic experience. It merely provides a detailed and organized way for you to take your work accomplishments and frame them in a way that best expresses the value you can bring to an organization. Practice telling your stories within this framework so you’ll be comfortable regaling your interviewer, and soon you’ll feel like a STAR!

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