How to Shine Using the STAR Method
Interviews are often comprised of two types of questions: straight forward inquiries and open ended behavioral questions. Of the two, I find behavioral questions are more difficult to answer. After all, I can easily tell an interviewer where I went to school or how long I was employed at my previous company in one sentence, and explain why I am looking for a new job in two. What I (and many other applicants) struggle with is concisely expressing how past experiences lend themselves to future success.
If you have struggled to impress interviewers with your answers to their behavioral questions, try using the STAR Method to improve your responses.
What is the STAR Method?
The STAR Method is a four-part system used to organize responses to behavioral questions with the intention of forming a comprehensive, organized, and easy to follow answer.
What does STAR stand for?
Situation: Start by giving the interviewer a glimpse into the professional experience that you will be drawing from. When in doubt, go through the five Ws and briefly describe the who, what, when, where and why of the situation.
Task: Describe what your role was in the scenario you are referencing and what was expected of you. Be detailed in order to give the interviewer a complete picture of the task and your part in seeing it through.
Action: Detail the steps you took to finish the task or project. This is your time to shine and explain exactly what you did to overcome challenges, reach resolutions, complete projects, and form positive professional relationships.
Results: Conclude your response by describing the results of your actions. Was the situation resolved? What resulted from your success? What did you learn from the experience?
When is the STAR Method effective?
The STAR Method is especially effective when answering behavioral interview questions such as:
- Can you describe a time that you had to overcome a challenge in the workplace?
- Can you tell me about a time that you worked with a difficult client? What did you do to ensure that their needs were met?
- Can you tell me about a project with a strict deadline, that you completed despite your time constraints?
What is an example of the STAR Method?
Question: Can you tell me about a time that you had to prioritize multiple projects?
Situation: During my first week at ABC Corp, I was assigned several projects and quickly realized that their deadlines fell within the same week. Needless to say, as a new employee I felt the pressure to meet my manager’s expectations and meet deadlines.
Task: Despite being new at the company, I knew how to prioritize projects to ensure that they were all completed on time.
Action: I started prioritizing these projects by determining which were the most urgent, assessing how much time would be needed for each, creating to do lists and scheduling benchmarks to ensure that each project was completed efficiently. I also talked to my manager and team members to assess what resources were available to me as a new employee. I ultimately chose to complete the projects that required the most time, energy and effort first, followed by those that were within my comfort zone.
Result: Although it was a stressful first month at the company, prioritizing the projects early on set me up for success. They were all completed on time and my manager was very impressed with the quality of my work, especially as a new employee.
Behavioral interview questions will most likely fall into one of these five categories: teamwork, problem solving, initiative, conflict resolution, and stress/pressure scenarios. Before your next interview, think of an experience that you have had in each of those categories so that you aren’t stumped when they ask you to give specific examples. Make sure to practice phrasing these examples using the STAR Method so that it sounds conversational during the interview.