Interviews. The dreaded 45-minutes Q&A that stands between you and moving up the ladder or successfully making that career switch. They are often stressful, can stir up anxiety, and sometimes make you question if you have what it takes to do the job. The truth is you do. And once you’ve learned the winning technique to impress in your interview, the job will be yours. So, whether you have an interview lined up or need to simply brush up on your interview skills, the STAR interview method is the answer you’ve been looking for.
What is the STAR Interview Method?
The STAR method is an acronym (Situation, Task, Action, Result) used to answer open-ended behavioural questions in interviews. It’s a four-step system that guides you in how you should think and structure the questions posed to you in an interview. The letters stand for:
- Situation: Fully describe a situation you found yourself in. Or explain the task you were required to accomplish.
- Task: Explain your specific tasks, responsibilities, and the goals you were working toward in the above-mentioned situation.
- Action: Outline the different steps and actions you took to resolve the situation.
- Result: Narrate what the result and outcome of the situation was.
This method allows you to answer questions in a structured and compelling way. When you do this well, you put yourself in a positive light and indicate that you can handle pressure – in real-life work situations and in an interview.
When Should You Use the STAR Method?
Knowing the STAR method is important going into the interview. However, knowing when to use it is more important. Not every question you will be asked will need you to answer using this format. It’s important to be able to identify behavioural questions so that you can give the right answer at the right time. These behavioural questions are easy to spot, and you’ll recognise them when you hear questions leading with the:
- Have you ever…
- Can you describe a time when…?
- Please share an example of a situation when…
- Tell us about a time when…
- Give me an example of…
We have all come across these kinds of questions in an interview. And if you aren’t fully prepared and caught off guard, a messy response won’t reflect the skills and achievements you showcased in your resume. By using the STAR method, you prepare yourself for the inevitable questions with answers that will impress the interviewer.
Sample STAR Interview Question and Answer
Okay, so now you have a pretty good idea of the STAR method and will be able to recognise the behavioural question when asked. The question then becomes, how exactly do I answer it? Let’s go through one example together below:
Interview Question: Can you give us an example of when you had a tight deadline and had a task to complete?
Step 1: Situation
Recently, the company decided to redirect its marketing strategy by focusing on email marketing and thus wanted to aggressively increase our email marketing list.
Your objective is to set the scene, provide perspective and provide the foundation of the rest of your answer.
Step 2: Task
In my role as a Communications Officer, my team was tasked with increasing our email subscription list by 30% by the end of the next quarter. Here, my goal was to create email content that would be compelling, interesting, and result in sign-ups and boost subscriptions.
Answer this part of the question with some specifics about your role in the scenarios presented and the objectives you had.
Step 3: Action
I did this by introducing a few strategies to lure our customers and visitors to subscribe. I focused on three key aspects to achieve this. I actioned incentives to email subscriptions, upgraded and repurposed content that we had and worked with the team to host monthly webinars with industry leaders on interesting topics that needed email addresses to sign up and thus be added to our email mailing list.
Clearly describe your input, contribution, and the part you played in meeting the objectives. Expand on what steps you took, what measures you sought and more detail on the monthly plan to achieve these action items.
Step 4: Result
As a result, my strategies helped us increase our email subscriber mailing list by 25% within the four-month period. While we didn’t fully meet the 30% target, the growth showed value and to that end, monthly webinars have been introduced and our subscriber list is increasing.
Don’t be afraid of mentioning the challenges, but always be sure to highlight the high notes, successes, and lessons learned from this. This indicates that you take ownership and are willing to learn and improve.
STAR Method Interview Tips for Success
You do not want to sound robotic, but your answers should flow. This requires some preparation on your part. As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
- Review job description: This highlights the key skills they are looking for and thus allows you to recall stories that will align with these and emphasize your skills.
- Choose your stories: Have several stories that will be useful to answer the range of possible behavioural questions that will come up. Choose stories that are relevant and meet the STAR targets.
- Jot down key points: Nerves are a common feeling in interviews. With nerves, comes forgetfulness. Note down key points of each story and make sure they follow the STAR. If you have figures to support your story, even better.
- Practice: Yes, practice does make perfect. Or it will get you relatively close. This will help you “feel the flow” of the story, speak effectively, feel more natural and boost your confidence.
In behaviourial psychology, the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.
By using the STAR interview method in your answers, you demonstrate your ability to handle various situations. And achieve results. When you do this, you show them you have the skills, experience, knowledge, and success record to handle any similar future occurrences.