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How to use the STAR interview method

STAR is a well-known method for answering behavioural questions in the job interview. Here’s how to use the STAR interview method.

Do you know that you’re supposed to prepare answers and stories before the job interview but struggle to do it? Have no fear. The STAR method is here. A tried and true trick to help you answer tricky job interview questions, the STAR method will make your life easier and help you stand out in the job interview. Here’s how.

Situation, Task, Action, Result

STAR is an acronym for:

Situation
Task
Action
Result

How to use the STAR method

The method is a strategy that can help you structure your responses to behavioural questions that require stories and examples of your conduct in professional situations (though sometimes you might have a great story about something that happened outside of a professional setting and that can be great too). These questions might start with “Tell me about a time …” For example, “Tell me about a time when you solved a problem,” or “Tell me about a time when you faced opposition at work and what you did about it.”

These questions are asked based on the assumption that how you have behaved in the past is a predictor of how you will behave in the future. They’re looking for stories that include examples of the hard and soft skills and qualities they want in an employee, like people skills, communication skills, ability to work independently, creativity, flexibility, problem solving skills, and all the other good stuff employers are usually looking for in a new hire.

Your answers should contain narratives that paint you in the best possible light and make you sound like an efficient problem solver who works well with others and gets results.

The STAR method allows you paint this picture and frame it just so.

How does it work? Say the interviewer asks you to talk about a time when you accomplished a goal. First you describe the situation, set the scene, and give details. Then you talk about the task that was yours to undertake, or what your responsibility was in that situation. After that, you describe the action(s) you took to accomplish the task and the results of those actions.

So, it might look like this:

“When I took over the job, social media engagement was at an all-time low [this is the situation]. My job was to increase audience numbers and engagement quickly, and turn social media into a source of lead generation [ the task]. I performed a complete audit of the accounts and did an overhaul by removing inactive accounts, creating fresh educational content, posting on a daily schedule, and actively engaging with other accounts, including those of key micro-influencers [action]. Our social media audience tripled, our engagement increased, and social became a source of 10% of our marketing qualified leads within the first year [result].”

You can also give these answers when asked “what would you do if…” or “have you ever….” Questions, as they are essentially the same thing. The interviewer might ask what you would do it you were asked to pull off a difficult task on a tight deadline and you can say you have an example of this happening and describe how you did it.

How to prepare STAR answers

You can’t know what an interviewer is going to ask but you can prepare stories to fit pretty much any question or situation. Look at the job posting for skills and qualifications highlighted in the role. As mentioned above, most employers are looking for the same soft skills and you can pretty much guess what they are. These include people skills, communication skills, ability to work independently, creativity, adaptability, problem solving skills, and others. Find stories that demonstrate that you possess these skills.

These stories can all usually be used to answer more than one question. A tale of how you solved a problem might also fit as an answer to dealing with a conflict and for a time you dealt with adversity or had to get creative. Prepare five or six of them that could act as responses to different questions and make sure you have enough of them that you don’t run out. Write them down, memorize them and practice telling them.

Keep your STAR method stories at the ready. They are an important part of the interview.

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