You’re in a job interview, things are going well and you’re nailing your answers to the questions you’re being asked. Just when you start thinking you have this in the bag, you hear the interviewer say, “Tell me about a time when…”
These types of interview questions are tough to answer. The good news is there is a special formula that works every time when tasked with answering behavioral interview questions: the STAR Method.
What Is the STAR Interview Method?
The STAR interview technique offers a proven format you can use to answer behavioral interview questions. Behavioral interview questions are questions about specific situations in your past work experience and how you handled them or behaved.
The company interviewer or hiring manager assess your answer to see if you are capable of taking proper initiative and action should a similar situation take place.
These questions are easy to recognize, they often have telltale openings like: Tell me about a time when…What do you do when…Have you ever…Give me an example of…Describe a…
When thinking of a fitting example for your response you need to share the details in a compelling and easy to understand way. That’s exactly what the STAR interview method enables you to do. Let’s break down that framework.
STAR stands for Situation–Task–Action–Result:
Situation - An event, project, or challenge faced
Task - Your responsibilities and assignments for the situation
Action - Steps or procedure taken to relieve or rectify situation
Result - Results of actions taken.
Answering Interview Questions Using STAR Method
We know what behavioral questions in interviews are and how to answer it, and we know the basic concept of the STAR method. Knowing what the acronym stands for is only the first step—you need to know how to use it.
1. Find a Suitable Example
The STAR interview method won’t be helpful to you if you use it to structure an answer using a totally irrelevant anecdote. That’s why the crucial starting point is to find an appropriate scenario from your professional history that you can expand on.
There’s no way for you to know ahead of time exactly what the interviewer will ask you (although our list of behavioral interview questions can help you make some educated predictions). With that in mind, it’s smart to have a few stories and examples ready to go that you can tweak and adapt for different questions.
Brainstorm a few examples of particular success in your previous job, and think through how to discuss that success using the STAR framework. Repeat that exercise for a few types of questions.
If you’re struggling during your interview to come up with an example that fits, don’t be afraid to ask to take a minute.
2. Lay Out the Situation
Your goal here is to paint a clear picture of the situation you were in and emphasize its complexities, so that the result you touch on later seems that much more profound. Keep things concise and focus on what’s undeniably relevant to your story.
The STAR method is meant to be simple, focus on just one or two sentences for each letter of the acronym.
3. Highlight the Task
You’re telling this story for a reason—because you had some sort of core involvement in it. This is the part of your answer when you make the interviewer understand exactly where you fit in.
This can easily get confused with the “action” portion of the response. This piece is dedicated to giving the specifics of what your responsibilities were in that particular scenario, as well as any objective that was set for you.
4. How You Took Action
Now that you’ve given the interviewer a sense of what your role was, it’s time to explain what you did. What steps did you take to reach that goal or solve that problem?
This is your chance to showcase your contribution, and it’s worthy of some specifics. Make sure that you give enough information about exactly what you did. Those are the things your interviewer wants to know.
5. The Result
The final portion of your response should share the results of the action you took. Of course, the result better be positive—otherwise this isn’t a story you should be telling.
Interviewers don’t only care about what you did—they also want to know why it mattered. Make sure you hammer home the point about any results you achieved and quantify them when you can. Numbers are always impact full.
Putting it All Together
The STAR interview process for answering behavioral interview questions might seem a little overwhelming at first. But it will become second nature with a little practice. And make no mistake, practicing is definitely something you should do.
With just a little preparation and strategy, you’ll soon view behavioral interview questions as less of a burden—and more of an opportunity to emphasize your qualifications.