The STAR Interview Method is a tool for answering tough behavioral interview questions.
At the end of this article, you’ll understand the STAR Interview Model and why you should use it when answering behavioral interview questions. We’ll also look at three example behavioral interview questions commonly asked by interviewers and show you great example answers to these questions.
At the end of this article, you’ll understand the STAR Interview Method and when you should use it. You’ll have examples of STAR Method answers to interview questions you can adapt to suit your needs. Finally, you’ll learn a simple 3-step process you can use to better prepare yourself to use the STAR Method in an interview.
These types of questions require you to give specific examples of how you handled tricky work situations in the past. They typically begin with phrases such as, “Tell me about a time when…” and “Give me an example of a situation where…”.
From an interviewer’s perspective, these questions allow them to ascertain if you have the qualities, behaviors, and experience they are looking for. These qualities can be difficult to determine from your resume alone, covering areas such as team working, problem-solving, working under pressure, and overcoming setbacks.
From your perspective, they allow you to let your past work performance show what you could do for this employer. They also give you the opportunity to differentiate yourself from other candidates applying for the same role.
Examples of behavioral interview questions include:
When you encounter behavioral interview questions, the STAR Interview Method can be a great way to help you quickly yet comprehensively answer the question in a way that shows you in the best light.
STAR is an acronym standing for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Each word of the acronym is a step, and you perform each step in order.
The meaning of each step of the STAR Interview Method is as follows:
In this first step, you describe the situation you were facing. You are setting the scene for your answer by explaining how you found yourself in this situation.
In this second step, you describe what your task was, given the situation you just described.
In this step, you describe the actions you took to meet your target. Essentially you need to explain what you did and the challenges you overcame to succeed at the task.
In this final step, you describe what results were attributable directly to your actions. You should describe the results in terms of the benefits delivered. This is also the time to explain any learnings you had from the experience.
Let’s jump in and look at three behavioral interview questions and their answers using the STAR Interview Method.
|Question||Describe a time when you showed initiative at work?|
|Situation||I worked as a customer support representative at a firm that manufactured and sold remote control drones. I noticed that with every drone we sold, we provided a hefty written manual.|
|Task||I wondered if it might be possible to eliminate the manual and instead provide an online version to save paper. The task obviously had nothing to do with my job in customer support.|
|Action||I began by reaching out to key executives one by one to discuss the idea. Once they were on board, management set up a project to create the online manual, and they asked me to manage it. Managing a project wasn’t something I had done before, but I really enjoyed it.|
|Result||Because of my initiative, we could replace the in-box paper manual with an entirely online version. The outcome was not only more environmentally friendly, but it also saved the company $3 per unit. That added up to hundreds of thousands of dollars saved per year.|
|Question||Tell me about a time when you had to work under enormous time pressure. How did you handle the challenge?|
|Situation||I was a software developer working on a rewrite of the company’s most important system. We had a hard deadline that couldn’t be moved. Everything was progressing to plan, but then one of my colleagues got sick and had to take time off just a few weeks before the project was due.|
|Task||I had to pick up their workload as well as my own.|
|Action||To ensure we didn’t miss the deadline, I had to ruthlessly prioritize tasks to ensure only the absolutely essential ones got done. I also deligated where I could.|
|Result||It was intense pressure, but I immensely enjoyed it, and we were able to complete the software on time.|
|Question||Describe a time when you managed a challenging project?|
|Situation||In my last job, the company brought me in to replace the previous project manager. The project was failing because of conflicting personalities within the organization.|
|Task||My job was to get the project back on track quickly. This was a difficult task because poor relationships are difficult to mend.|
|Action||I started by having meetings individually with each stakeholder to understand their issues. From this, it became apparent that the different stakeholders’ win-conditions had not been taken into account when putting the original project plan together, so no wonder the project was failing. I restructured the project to better meet the win conditions of all stakeholders.|
|Result||Having met the needs of all stakeholders, the project had support from across the organization. The previously problematic stakeholders encouraged their teams to get behind the project. After that, the project ran relatively smoothly. The experience really brought home to me how important it is to structure a project for success from the outset.|
Imagine this scenario: you have a job interview tomorrow. You’re nervous because you know the interviewers will surprise you with all kinds of random questions.
You’re now familiar with the STAR Interview Method, but because you’ll be nervous and performing under pressure, it’s worth taking some time to prepare.
Since you don’t know what questions the interviewer will ask you, you’re going to prepare a list of several scenarios. The steps you’re going to take are:
By preparing in this way, you’ll be more prepared than you might realize because even if your interviewer asks you a completely different question to the ones you’ve prepared for, you might find that one of your prepared answers works as an answer.
For example, if you’re asked to talk about when you displayed leadership, maybe your answer for using your initiative can work as an answer. If you’re asked about a time you handled a difficult colleague, possibly your answer for a time you displayed leadership will be appropriate.
The STAR Interview Method is a great way to answer interview questions about how you handled situations in the past. You can use the method to concisely yet comprehensively answer questions about how you have behaved in past situations.
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