• Layne Daniels

How to Use the STAR Interview Response Method to Ace Your Next Interview


Two women sitting at a small table having an engaging conversation

Do you struggle to give concise answers to interview questions? Are you unsure how to share your accomplishments during an interview without sounding boastful? What's the best way to let the interviewer know that you're the right candidate for the job?


The STAR interview response method can help address these potential fears and issues. Using this method of answering interview questions allows you to provide concrete examples or proof that you possess the experience and skills for the job at hand. You'll be able to share examples of how you successfully handled situations at work.


WHAT IS THE STAR METHOD?

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Using this strategy is particularly helpful in response to competency-focused questions, which typically start out with phrases such as, "Describe a time when..." and "Share an example of a situation where...."


This method is a way of answering behavioral interview questions. Behavioral interview questions are questions about how you have behaved in the past. Specifically, they are about how you have handled certain work situations. Employers, using this technique, analyze jobs and define the skills and qualities that high-level performers have exhibited in that job.


Since past performance can be a good predictor of the future, interviewers ask these questions to determine whether candidates have the skills and experiences required to excel in the job.


For example, employers might be looking for proof of problem-solving skills, analytical ability, creativity, perseverance through failure, writing skills, presentation skills, teamwork orientation, persuasive skills, quantitative skills, or accuracy.


Examples of behavioral interview questions include the following:

  • “Tell me about an occasion when you had to complete a task under a tight deadline.”

  • “Tell me about a time you failed at a task you were assigned…”

  • “Have you ever had to work with someone you didn’t like? How did you handle that?”

  • “How do you handle setting goals? Can you give an example?”


Some interviewers structure their questions using the STAR technique. However, job seekers can also use the STAR interview method to prepare for behavioral interview questions.


STAR KEY CONCEPTS

STAR is an acronym for four key concepts. Each concept is a step the job candidate can utilize to answer a behavioral interview question. By employing all four steps, the job candidate thereby provides a comprehensive answer. The concepts in the acronym make up the following:


Situation: Describe the context within which you performed a job or faced a challenge at work. For example, perhaps you were working on a group project, or you had a conflict with a coworker. This situation can be drawn from a work experience, a volunteer position, or any other relevant event. Be as specific as possible.


Task: Next, describe your responsibility in that situation. Perhaps you had to help your group complete a project within a tight deadline, resolve a conflict with a coworker, or hit a sales target.


Action: You then describe how you completed the task or endeavored to meet the challenge. Focus on what you in particular did, rather than what your team, boss, or coworker did.


Result: Finally, explain the outcomes or results generated by the action taken. It may be helpful to emphasize what you accomplished, or what you learned.


HOW TO PREPARE FOR AN INTERVIEW USING STAR

Since you won’t know in advance what interviewing techniques your interviewer will be using, you’ll benefit from preparing several scenarios from the jobs you’ve held.


Make a List of the Job Qualifications

First, make a list of the skills and/or experiences that are required for the job. It may help you to look at the job listing and similar job listings for indications of the required or preferred skills/qualities and match your qualifications to those listed in the posting.


Create a List of Examples

Consider specific examples of occasions when you displayed those skills. For each example, name the situation, task, action, and result.


Match Your Skills to the Job

Whatever examples you select, make sure they are as closely related to the job you’re interviewing for as possible.

You can also take a look at common behavioral interview questions, and try answering each of them using the STAR technique.

When it comes to behavioral interviews, the STAR response technique will help you craft responses that are compelling and succinct while thoroughly answering the interviewer’s question. Just make sure your answers are honest and share only positive outcomes.


Consider writing your stories down and practice saying them out loud, editing to make them short and clear where necessary. While questions may vary, having at least three to five experiences to draw from will ensure you’re able to deliver a confident response no matter what the interviewer asks.


EXAMPLE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS USING STAR

Example Question #1

Tell me about a time you had to complete a task within a tight deadline. Describe the situation, and explain how you handled it.


Example Answer

While I typically like to plan out my work in stages and complete it piece by piece, I can also achieve high-quality work results under tight deadlines. Once, at a former company, an employee left days before the imminent deadline of one of his projects. I was asked to assume responsibility for it, with only a few days to learn about and complete the project. I created a task force and delegated work, and we all completed the assignment with a day to spare. In fact, I believe I thrive when working under tight deadlines.


Example Question #2

Tell me about a time you showed initiative on the job.


Example Answer

Last winter, I was acting as an account coordinator, supporting the account executive for a major client at an ad agency. The account executive became sick and was out of the office for three weeks before a major campaign pitch.


I volunteered to fill in and orchestrate the presentation by coordinating the input of the creative and media teams. I called an emergency meeting and facilitated a discussion about ad scenarios, media plans, and the roles of various team members in relation to the presentation.


I was able to achieve a consensus on two priority ad concepts that we had to pitch, along with related media strategies. I drew up a minute-by-minute plan of how we would present the pitch that was warmly received by the team based on our discussions. The client loved our plan and adopted the campaign. I was promoted to account executive six months later.