STAR Method: How to Use It & Ace Interview Questions
Situation, Task, Action, and Result — the STAR method is a way of responding to behavioral interview questions. How to use it to your advantage? Read on.
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What’s the strategy you should go for when answering questions at a job interview? A heads-up: fake it till you make it won’t work.
What will work is the STAR method—a special formula for moments like these: Tell me about a time when you…, Give me an example of…, or Have you ever…
Get ready to ace your upcoming interview with this guide on using the STAR interview method.
This guide will show you:
- What the STAR interview method is, and how to apply it in your next job interview.
- How to tackle interview questions using the STAR method.
- Over a dozen examples of interview questions and answers using the STAR method.
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Looking for more guides to succeed in your interview? See:
- Situational Interview Questions
- Phone Interview Questions
- Common Interview Questions
- What Is Your Greatest Weakness Interview Question
- Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years Interview Question
- Why Should We Hire You Interview Question
What is the STAR Method?
The STAR method is an interview strategy of answering questions that require a real-life example of how candidates dealt with a challenge in the past. The method defines the Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Candidates often use it to explain how they handled specific work-related situations.
- Situation: An event, project, or challenge you faced at work.
- Task: The tasks and responsibilities you had in the situation.
- Action: Steps you took to fix or complete the task.
- Result: Results of the actions you’d taken.
Most often, the STAR interview method is a way to answer behavioral interview questions, but there are other, less popular methods, too. They’re CAR (Context, Action, Result) and PAR (Problem, Action, Result.) In the end, however, most experts recommend using the STAR method.
Pro Tip: The STAR method is perfect for all aspects of the job hunt because it lets you talk about professional achievements rather than duties and responsibilities.
How to Answer STAR Method Interview Questions
Now that the brief theory about the STAR method is behind you, you can put it into practice. Let’s use this question for starters:
Tell me about a time when you performed well under enormous pressure.
Below you’ll see a suggested answer using the STAR method, with each part of the answer highlighted to present the situation, task, action, and results:
STAR Interview Method: Sample Answer
One time, at my last job, my coworker had a family emergency and needed to miss work for some time, and their super-important project was left unfinished and without a manager.My supervisor instructed me to take on the project, and with no leniency on the deadline, I had days to complete a project that originally should have taken several weeks.I requested and was granted a reduction in my weekly goals, allotting me more time to attack the special project. As far as my weekly goals, I was able to delegate them out evenly to some of my teammates.With the reduction in my daily goals, I could dedicate more time to the special project. This allowed me to finish it on time and with complete accuracy. My supervisor appreciated my attitude and drive, and I was given several more projects after that, along with an eventual promotion and pay raise.
See that? It might have been a long story for an answer, but following the STAR format will give you the detailed responses your interviewer expects. And it’s not too hard to do, either. As long as you work out each step in the STAR method in order, you’ll nail your answer and impress them while you’re at it.
Pro Tip: When using the STAR technique, bring up stories where you were the main actor, and use the first person singular in your answers, like this, “I did…” rather than “We did.” Keep the focus on you.
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Common STAR Method Interview Questions And Answers
Let’s look at a list of typical STAR interview questions and answers:
1. Tell me about a time you had a conflict at work.
There was a disagreement I had with a coworker, which originated from a miscommunication. To keep our work environment professional and positive, we had to discuss it and make amends. I sat down with them one day during lunch, paid for their meal, and took the initiative by apologizing for my part in the whole mess. Now, we work together well and are often praised for our impressive teamwork.
2. Can you describe a stressful situation and how you handled it?
At my last restaurant, I once found out mere hours in advance about a health inspection. As the head chef, I was in charge of making sure everything was in order in the kitchen and the BOH before the inspector arrived. I quickly called in employees from the last shift to help out, leaving the others available to prep for that evening’s dinner. As a result, we were able to ace the inspection, less costly in the long run compared to giving employees a few hours of overtime.
3. Can you detail a mistake you made and how you reacted to it?
One time, I switched the packing labels of two packages I sent to customers. I had to correct the problem without angering the clients. I called them both up and provided them with shipping labels with the correct addresses while offering each of them a small gift certificate to use on a future order. The customers not only helped me fix my mistake, but they were both satisfied and will return and shop again.
4. Tell me about a time when you performed well under enormous pressure.
At my last job, my coworker needed to miss work for some time, and their project was left unfinished and without a manager. My supervisor instructed me to take on the project, and with no leniency on the deadline, I had days to complete a project that originally should have taken several weeks. I requested and was granted reduced weekly goals, giving me more time to finish the special project. As far as my weekly goals, I was able to delegate them out to teammates. With my reduced goals, I dedicated more time to the special project. This allowed me to finish it on time and with complete accuracy. My supervisor appreciated my attitude and drive, and I was given several more projects after that, along with an eventual promotion and pay raise.
5. Have you ever dealt with a sticky situation involving another department?
Previously, my department had a misunderstanding with members of our accounting department. We needed to correct the issue to keep office morale from plummeting. I gave my team a small budget and instructed them to each pick out a thoughtful present for their counterpart in accounting. Later that night and from then onward, we became friends and strong colleagues.
6. Give me an example of a goal you met.
Last October, I had to write six articles for the month to keep our blog fresh. I created an action plan for myself, with deadlines as to when each article should be published. I finished that month with six articles written and ahead of schedule.
7. Give me an example of a goal you couldn't meet and how you handled it.
Last November, I had to write six articles for the month to keep our blog fresh. Throughout the month, I was tasked with small responsibilities that took time away from my goal. I was unable to complete my six posts, but I talked to my supervisor and detailed all my extra work completed, and I was praised for my accomplishments, as well.
8. Tell me about a time when you had to placate an unsatisfied client.
As a flight attendant, I had a passenger who seemed to hate his seat next to a wailing infant. I decided to see what I could do to ease his suffering before he complained. With unoccupied seats in business class, I upgraded that passenger, and he was thrilled at his luck while the mother and infant were given more room to spread out.
9. Have you ever had a disagreement with an immediate supervisor?
I once disagreed with my supervisor on the wording of her instructions. As her employee, I had to balance my respect for her with my English lessons at school. Instead of shoving a dictionary in her face, I apologized for the confusion and told her that I saw where we became confused. She respected me much more after that and even recommended my promotion.
10. Describe a time when you went above and beyond.
Earlier this year, there was a day when I had to come into the garden center on a Saturday and take care of some tasks on which we were behind. I came in, listening to my headphones the entire time, and ended up finishing everything before lunch. As I was in such a productive mood, I stayed the full day and eventually completed tasks that were meant for the following few days. Since that day, the garden center has never fallen behind again.
Pro Tip: Some interview questions may not literally be questions at all, such as “Describe a time when…” They could still require a STAR response, though!
How to Prepare for the STAR Method of Interviewing
Congratulations, you got invited to a job interview. So, how do you prepare for it? Of course, you need to know what you’ll wear to the interview, but even the best looks won’t grant you a job if you can’t answer the questions. So what else is left to do?
- Read the job description closely: Underline the required skills and think about situations in the past when you had to use these abilities. Try to come up with one or two examples for all the required skills.
- Review sample behavioral interview questions: Just like the ones mentioned above. Think how these questions can be paraphrased, and try to come up with your own answers for each one. You can even write your answers down so you can read them later.
- Practice your answers: Try talking out loud, even when looking in the mirror. You may also record your answers and listen to them after. You should sound confident but natural, don’t recite everything like a robot.
Pro Tip: You can find specific descriptions of the recruitment processes of many companies online, especially if they’re corporations hiring large numbers of people. Try websites such as Glassdoor. There’s a pretty good chance of other jobseekers sharing the questions they heard during their job interviews.
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Keep these points in mind as you figure out how to prepare for a STAR method interview:
- Remember: Memorizing the STAR acronym makes it much easier to answer a list of interview questions, but you must still make sure to remember it in the proper order to give the perfect answer.
- Practice: Spend time getting the formula right by giving yourself some practice on STAR questions and answers before the interview.
- Prepare: Prepare for your interview but avoid getting blindsided by endless lists of interview questions and answers.
Do these, and you’ll know exactly how to ace your next interviews.
Still not grasping the STAR acronym or what is the STAR interview technique? Not sure how to prepare for STAR interviews? Give us a shout in the comments below, and we’ll answer your question. Thanks for reading!