How does the STAR method work?
Set the stage for the story by sharing context around the situation or challenge you faced. In most cases, it’s best to describe relevant work situations but depending on the amount of directly transferable experience you have, it might also be appropriate to discuss academic projects or volunteer work. It’s also imperative to talk about a specific instance rather than your general responsibilities.
You should spend the least amount of time on this part of your answer as interviewers are more concerned with the actions you took and results you got. Share the right amount of relevant detail by identifying the two or three most important pieces of information necessary to give the interviewer enough context about the situation.
Example: “In my last role as lead designer, there was a point in time when my team was short-staffed and facing a significant backlog of work. The account managers were setting unrealistic deadlines, which was causing stress for my team and affecting morale.”
Describe your responsibility or role in the situation or challenge. In other words, discuss the goal or task set out for you. This section requires a minimal amount of time similar to the situation component. Again, consider just one or two points that best illustrate the task you needed to complete.
Explain the specific actions you took to handle the situation or overcome the challenge. This part of your answer requires the most in-depth description as this is what largely indicates your fitness for a role. Identify and discuss a few of the most impactful steps you took to find success.
Often, workplace challenges are addressed by a team; however, it’s a common pitfall to use the word “we” to describe how you achieved your goals during an interview. In any case, it’s important to focus on what you did in the situation. It can be helpful to remember that the employer’s intention is to hire you for the role rather than your team, so you should use the word “I” to highlight your particular contributions.
Example: “I set up a formal creative request process including project timeline estimates to set better expectations. I scheduled weekly meetings with account managers to discuss my team’s bandwidth and share progress updates. I also kept my team informed of the new processes, so they could have some peace of mind knowing the issues were being addressed.”
What was the outcome you reached through your actions? This is also an important part of your response to focus on. You should spend only slightly less time discussing the results than your actions. Decide what the two to three most impressive results were and talk about these.
Quantify your success or provide concrete examples of the effects of your efforts if possible. In addition, discuss what you learned, how you grew and why you’re a stronger employee because of the experience.
Example: “By providing more transparency into my team’s processes and setting better expectations with the account managers, we were able to re-prioritize the design team’s to-do list and complete everything in our backlog. I took these learnings, continued to apply this structure and as a result, in the following quarter, we shortened our average project timeline by two days. I also learned just how important it is to communicate clearly across teams.”
How to use the STAR method to prepare for an interview
While you won’t know the interview questions ahead of time, most behavioral interviews will focus on various work-related challenges that demonstrate critical thinking and problem solving, and situations that showcase leadership skills
, conflict resolution and performance under pressure. Here’s some additional background on behavioral questions and a few tips to help you leverage the STAR method when answering them.
STAR interview question examples
Steps to prepare your STAR interview response
similar to the list above. While the phrasing of these questions may vary from interview to interview, the general intent of the question typically remains the same so it can be helpful to prepare your answers with that in mind. For example, the interviewer might ask about “a time you were under pressure,” or they might ask about “how you handle stress.” Either way, their goal is to understand how you deal with tense situations.
Write down the various situations you’ve handled in your professional history that would display the sorts of strengths you’ll need to succeed in the role and that address some of the most common behavioral interview questions. Prepare each example using the STAR framework.
Practice talking through your answers out loud to make sure each story is as concise and coherent as possible. This will also help you feel more confident and natural when delivering the answers in an interview.
If you’re new to the workforce and don’t have a long professional history to draw from, consider examples from internships, volunteer work or group projects you completed for school. In some cases, employers may ask you to share a non-work-related example, so consider challenges or obstacles you’ve overcome in your personal life, too.