When most people walk into an interview, they’re waiting for the usual questions. I’m talking about things like “Tell me about yourself” or “Explain a time when you oversaw a project.”
The trouble is, most people also get flustered with these types of open-ended questions. Instead of coming up with a concise answer to the question, they go on long-winded tangents that lose the plot—and the interviewer’s attention.
That’s where the STAR method comes in. This interview technique gives you ways to answer the question, keep your interviewer’s attention, and make yourself look good in the process. So, without further ado, let’s go over a couple of STAR method interview answers to help you ace your next job application.
But First, What Is the STAR Method?
The STAR Method is a type of interview answer method that helps you come up with compelling and useful answers to behavioral interview questions.
STAR, as you might have already guessed, is an acronym. STAR stands for:
Now, let’s break down each of those letters in a bit more detail so that you fully understand what this method is and how it works.
Situtation is the first part of the Star Method. In this part of the method, you’ll be painting a picture about the situation that you were in. Situation can also refer to an event or a challenge.
Explain what task you had to tackle and what your role was in handling it. This is where you break down what the problem was in the situation.
Delineate the action you took in order to accomplish the task at hand. This includes any and all steps that were needed in order to resolve the task.
Describe the outcome of your actions and how they affected the task. This is your opportunity to highlight your achievements and successes.
Okay, But Why Is the STAR Method So Important?
Now that you know what the STAR method is, let’s get into the why’s. The main reason why the STAR method is so important to know about is that employers love using behavioral interview questions.
Don’t get me wrong—you’ll still come across questions like “what are your strengths and weakness?” However, behavioral questions tend to be more popular because they give you a better understanding of how an employee will behave in the workplace.
As Dr. Phil says, “the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” When employers can understand how you’ve previously behaved in work situations, they have a good indicator of how you’re likely to behave in your new workplace, ie. their company.
Because behavioral interview questions have become so popular, knowing how to use the STAR method is important, too. That way, you’re fully prepared for how to give engaging, concise, and positive answers during these interviews.
What Are Some Examples of STAR Interview Questions?
If you’re wondering what some examples of STAR interview questions are, I hear you. After all, if you don’t know what to look for, how do you know it’s time to engage the STAR interview method?
The good news is that these questions are actually pretty easy to spot. STAR interview questions typically start in one of the following ways:
- Tell me about a time when…
- How would you handle…
- What would you do if…
- Have you ever…
- Describe a time when…
- Give me an example of when you…
Of course, these are just a couple of the lead-ins that might indicate that a STAR interview question is coming your way. Still, knowing how these questions sound can help you understand how to respond.
Tying It All Together: How to Answer STAR Method Interview Questions
Once you know what to look for, it starts to get pretty easy to prepare for STAR interview questions. All you have to do is properly implement the STAR acronym.
Let’s go over how to do so.
Step One: Describe the Situation
Before just jumping into the situation, you’re going to want to think for a moment about what the interviewer is really asking. Think about what skills they’re looking for you to showcase and how you can tie that into the situation you choose.
Next, you’ll want to give a little bit of context. Make it clear what the background of the project was that you were working on and how you arrived in a particular situation.
This part of your answer only needs to be a sentence or two, to give enough context about the situation to paint a picture and help the interviewer understand what was going on.
Step Two: Break Down the Task
For the second step of your answer, you want to explain what your role was in the situation. Make it clear what task was assigned to you or what problem you had to solve and how you fit into solving it.
Once again, this piece can be brief. You just want to make it clear what the assignment or problem was that you had to solve.
Step Three: Explain What Action You Took
The action is the real meat and potatoes of your STAR answer. This is where you get to show off your skills and highlight different areas of expertise.
Explain how you accomplished your task and give a breakdown of the steps you took to get there. Make sure to use “I” statements, which keep the focus on you and your achievements. This helps avoid leaving the interviewer feeling that the team was who was really in charge.
Step Four: Showcase the Result
Lastly, it’s time to talk about the impact your solution to the problem had on the organization. Always make sure to finish with a positive outcome, even if there were negatives along the way. For example, even if the project got completely derailed, make the focus a lesson that you learned.
It’s also great to include any measurable results in this part of your response. Measurable results help show employers what you can do, and give them a better feel for the types of outcomes your work can lead to.
Pro Tips for Creating Great STAR Method Interview Answers
Although just having the STAR method for interview answers under your belt is a great start, there are a couple of tips you can implement to help ensure further success.
Let’s look at a couple of quick tips for acing STAR interviews.
1. Tie Past Experiences Into Future Roles
For one thing, try to tie your answers back into the company you’re applying for. To give you a better idea of how this works, let’s look at a quick example.
Say you’re applying to be a receptionist at a bank. However, your only past work experience is working as a server an ice cream shop. To make your past experiences relevant, perhaps you can focus your answer on handling cash at the ice cream shop’s till.
Or, perhaps you can explain how your skills at keeping the ice cream parlor clean translate into a tidy desk at the bank. Whatever your answer, tying relevant skills back into your future position helps show the hiring manager that you’re a good fit for the job.
2. Practice, Practice, Practice
Although there’s no way to know what questions an interviewer will ask you, you can still practice beforehand. Think about a couple of different behavioral interview questions that you might get asked and some situations that you could use to answer them.
Having a couple of situations in mind before going into the job interview will make you more likely to come up with a solid answer to the interviewer’s question. It also helps you from floundering in the moment and struggling to come up with any answer at all!
3. Think About Past Achievements
Another easy way to prep for STAR interview questions is to think back to some of your past achievements. Consider the steps you took to get there, what your role was, and what the circumstances surrounding the achievement were. Just like that, you’ll have a STAR interview answer up your sleeve!
Use STAR Method Interview Answers to Get Your Next Job
The STAR method is a way of answering behavioral interview questions that can help you fully answer questions and show off skills to hiring managers. Although it’s not the only key to landing a job, knowing how to use it could be the difference between you or the next guy scoring your dream job.
Next time you go into an interview, remember the STAR interview method. Try practicing it beforehand on a couple of situations so that you’re ready to rock and roll once you’re in the interview room.
Knowing about the STAR method is just one way to help you hit a home run on your next job interview. Check out our other posts for more tips and tricks for job seekers, and start to transform your professional life.