The basics of the STAR method
When you have an upcoming interview, it's important to prepare beforehand with the STAR method. Most employers ask behavioral questions to evaluate your problem-solving skills and understand how you've handled challenges in the past. Learn how you can use the STAR method to answer these questions in a powerful, yet simple way.
What is the STAR method?
The STAR method is a method for answering behavioral interview questions in a manner that’s structured and well-thought-out. Behavioral interview questions are designed to help employers understand how you’ve handled past situations, how you think, and what you would do is specific situations presented themselves. In essence, they help employers understand your skills, abilities, and personality and whether they align well with a role. By using the STAR interview technique to answer, you can give a simple but informative answer for specific situations and challenges you’ve faced.
Learn more: 50 Most Common Interview Questions
Parts of a STAR method response
Here is a look at the different parts of the star interview technique:
- Situation: A challenge, project, or event that you were faced with
- Task: What responsibilities you held in relation to the event
- Action: What steps you took to resolve the situation
- Result: The results of those actions
How to use the STAR interview technique
Follow these steps to use the STAR interview technique:
1. Describe the situation
Answer the interview question by describing a relevant situation where you faced a challenge or completed a project at work. The situation you describe could be taken from an experience at work, a volunteer experience, or some other relevant situation. Be specific but also keep your story brief, especially if you’re describing an obstacle you encountered.
2. Explain your responsibility in the situation
Next, explain to the interviewer what your responsibility was in the situation. For example, maybe you were part of a team working on completing a project on time or you were responsible for resolving a conflict between employees.
3. Describe how you completed the task
After that, describe the specific steps you took to resolve the problem, meet the challenge, or complete the task. Focus specifically on the role you played rather than the responsibilities of your team. Also, be cognizant of how you phrase your explanation. For example, instead of stating ‘we addressed the problem by…,’ instead say ‘I addressed the problem by…’ By using ‘I’ over ‘we,’ you’ll show that you played an active role in resolving the issue at hand.
4. Explain the outcome
Finally, explain to the interviewer what outcome you achieved. It’s important to discuss what you learned and what you would do differently, especially if you’re describing a situation where you weren’t happy with the results. For example, the interviewer could ask about a time that you failed at something. In this situation, the interviewer wants to see how you handled the situation and what you learned as a result.
Star interview technique examples
Question: ‘Tell me about a time you were tasked with completing a project on a tight deadline. How did you handle it?’
Answer: ‘I usually like to plan out my work in advance so there’s never any need to rush through my work. However, on one occasion a few years ago, an employee left the company unexpectedly and the project he was working on had a deadline that was only a few days away. I was asked to take on the project and had only a few days to get up to speed and have it ready for the client.
This was definitely something I couldn’t handle on my own, so I put together a team from my department and delegated specific tasks for each person, so there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of work for any one person that would throw off their current workload. Incredibly, we managed to complete the project with one day to spare. Even though I prefer to have plenty of time, I learned that I actually thrive under the challenge of a tight deadline, as did the whole team.’
Question: ‘Tell me about a time you made a mistake.’
Answer: ‘I was developing a website for a new client and made the mistake of writing the wrong date down for project completion. When I realized the mistake, the deadline was only days away and I knew that there was no way it could be done in time. I apologized to the client and explained my mistake. I gave them a new deadline for when the site would be finished, one that was only a week behind schedule.
I also added some of our premium features at no additional cost. It meant long hours working on the weekend to get the website completed, but it was done by the new deadline and the client was thrilled. They appreciated the transparency I showed in admitting my mistake and the steps I took to resolve it for them. I also put a process in place by providing a clear written timeline for clients so it can never happen again.’
Question: ‘Describe a stressful situation you encountered at work. How did you handle the situation?’
Answer: ‘I was working in a restaurant and learned, with only a few hours notice, that we were about to be inspected. Because I was the restaurant manager, I was responsible for making sure everything was in order, from the kitchen to the dining room. I called several employees who were off that day to help get everything in order, leaving the staff that was already on duty to prepare dinner for guests that evening. Because of how well-trained the team was, we were able to get everything ready in time and received high praise from the inspector. I was also able to make that happen at a lower cost than if I was paying our team for overtime hours.’