STAR interview method featured image

Mastering the STAR Interview Method – Real Interview Questions & Answers 

This article is about the STAR interview method, a technique candidates can use to answer any behavioral questions employers ask during a job interview, even if the question is a surprise. 

Interviewing is, by far, the most intimidating part of the job search process for most people. That brief forty-five minutes feels like it could make or break your chances of getting hired.

But how are you supposed to prepare for an interview when you know what kind of questions will be asked?

That is where the STAR interview method comes in.

By using the STAR interview technique, you will be armed and ready for any interview question that gets thrown your way.

By following the four easy steps, you will be able to come up with impactful interview responses on the fly, no matter what the questions actually are. You will also be able to prepare some interview responses ahead of time that will be sure to blow the hiring manager away.

This STAR interview prep guide will tell you everything you need to know about this response technique, covering:

  • What is the STAR interview method?
  • Why you should use this response technique? 
  • How to prepare for behavioral questions during an interview
  • 7 real-life examples of STAR interview method questions and answers
  • Common mistakes of the STAR interview technique

What Is The STAR Interview Method?

STAR interview technique definition

The STAR interview technique is a fail-proof method for answering behavioral questions during an interview. By using the STAR method, you are guaranteed to give the hiring manager the type of information they are looking for.

STAR is an acronym that stands for:

  1. Situation
  2. Task
  3. Action
  4. Result

By structuring each interview response using these four steps (1. Situation, 2. Task, 3. Action, 4. Result), you are sure to respond to an interview question with impactful and relevant information.

Why Use The STAR Interview Method?

Interviews are a big step in getting hired. If you impress the hiring manager right away, you will be on your way to a new job. Fail, and you will be quickly sent out the door.

One of the biggest mistakes job seekers make is to not provide clear and concise answers to interview questions. If unprepared, it is our human tendency to talk in generalities, which doesn’t give a hiring manager a clear understanding of what you are capable of.

By using the STAR technique, you will be equipped with a step-by-step guide to giving measurable, specific, and impactful interview answers that will make a positive impression on hiring managers.

STAR Interview Method – Real Interview Questions & Answers | Resume.com6

When To Use This Job Interview Technique

Interview questions can be broken down into two different categories: Historical and Behavioral.

Historical Questions

During an interview, historical questions typically come first. Historical questions are questions about your work history, education, and experience. When asking historical questions, the interviewer will typically start with your most recent position first. They will then chronologically work backwards through each of your positions.

When answering historical questions, it is important to speak positively about your experience and to walk the hiring manager through an average day on the job. This includes the specific functions you performed and the results you achieved. When explaining your past roles, use as many numbers, figures, and specific stories as possible.

Behavioral Questions

After chronologically reviewing your job experience, it’s time for behavioral questions. Behavioral questions inquire about how you behave in certain situations.

Some of the most common behavioral questions are “What are your strengths?” and “What are your weaknesses?”.

Other behavioral questions include “How to you handle a challenge?” and “Tell me about a time you disagreed with a coworker”. 

When asked a behavioral question, it’s time to use the STAR technique.

when to use the star interview method

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How To Prepare For A Job Interview Using STAR 

Although it’s impossible to predict the questions you will be asked during an interview, preparing and practicing the STAR technique ahead of time will allow you to answer any behavioral question confidently.

Let’s walk through the four steps included in the STAR interview response technique.

To practice STAR, we will use the common interview question, “Can you describe a stressful situation at work and how you handled it?” as an example.

#1 Situation

When answering a behavioral question, start by explaining the specific situation that you were in.

As if you were telling a story, use plenty of details when describing your situation. When you’re speaking, try to address some of these storytelling principles:

  • WHO – who was involved, including the job titles of the people you are talking about
  • WHAT – what was the situation, .e.g. the exact project you were working on
  • WHERE –  where this situation occurred, e.g. the company you worked for
  • HOW – how you addressed and/or overcame the situation

Here is how we would start responding to the question above using these storytelling principles (above):

“In 2018, I was working as a Junior Project Manager at ABC Construction Company. We were 6 months into a new shopping complex buildout and our clients were growing increasingly angry because we were running behind and they hadn’t received an updated timeline. On top of that, the Senior Project Manager in charge of the project had to leave early for maternity leave, leaving our group with no one in charge.”

#2 Task

The next step is to describe your specific tasks or responsibilities.

“I had been training with the Senior Project Manager for a few months and was responsible for updating our project status on MS Project, as well as taking meeting minutes and following up on action items.”

#3 Action

After describing your specific tasks, it is time to describe the subsequent actions you took.

“When stress was rising in the group after the Senior PM had to leave, I decided it was time to take charge. The first step was to schedule a meeting with the construction team leads to prioritize deliverables, delegate tasks, and to create a new, realistic timeline. After updating the project status in MS Project, I set a meeting with the client to give them the update on where the project stands.”

#4 Results

To finish the STAR interview response technique, explain the results you achieved from your actions. These results should show the positive outcome of the way you handled a situation.

“Although the client was upset things were being pushed back, they were very happy to have a new timeline that they could work with. For the next three months, I lead the construction project and was able to keep everyone on task with daily and weekly meetings. In the end, we ended up finishing the buildout a few weeks earlier than planned.”

STAR interview method questions and answers example

7 Real-Life Interview Questions & Answers Using STAR

When you break down the four steps – Situation, Task, Action, Result – answering behavioral interview questions becomes easy.

Let’s review more real-life examples. As you follow along, practice writing down what your STAR responses to these interview questions would be.

Q: Tell me about a time when you had to work under pressure.

A: Last year I was a server at a sports bar during Super Bowl Sunday. The restaurant was slammed and one of the servers called in sick last minute. The pressure was high because it was our biggest day of the year and we had multiple parties of 10+ people that were paying a lot of money to be there. I already had 8 tables when one of our large parties walked in. We soon realized that the server they requested was the one that had called in sick. Hating to see customers disappointed, I asked our FOH manager if I could take them. I always believe transparency is the best, so I informed the 8 tables I already had of the situation we were in. I offered to get them refills on their drinks ahead of time because I needed to be away for a while getting the large party settled in. I left that night with the biggest tips I had ever received, and my customers thanked me for being proactive and transparent.

Q: What do you do if you disagree with a team member?

A: It’s impossible to always agree with team members, so I have created a useful strategy for disagreements – Listen, evaluate, and make a decision. This happened in my last role as a software engineer. Our team was creating a new website front-end for an ecommerce client and a team member and I didn’t agree on how to tie the shopping cart functionality in. Instead of getting worked up, I took time to sit down with my team member and to listen to his opinion. After he felt heard, I gave him my opinion. Giving each other space to voice our opinions, we evaluated the pros and cons of our respective strategies. In the end, we decided to move forward with my strategy because it would create more ease for our client.

Q: Give me an example of a time you had to work with a team.

A: Teamwork is crucial, no matter what type of position you are in. Most recently, I was working on a business class project with three other students. I have a type-A personality, and am usually the one to take the lead, but I noticed someone else in the group that wanted to take charge. Instead of taking over, I asked my classmate if she wanted to delegate tasks. She was extremely excited about the opportunity and ended up doing an excellent job. It was a valuable learning process for me to let someone else manage. In the end, I learned much more than I would have taking the lead, since I already know how to do that.

Q: What do you do when you are “in the weeds” at work?

A: I oddly feel like I work better under stress. When there are a million things to do, I like to take a deep breath and prioritize the tasks at hand. Just yesterday, while bartending at ABC Craft Cocktail Bar, we got slammed with a party of 25 just as our shipment of inventory came in. Instead of freaking out, I prioritized the tasks at hand. Customers came first, because handling them is more urgent. Restocking the bar would come second. After signing for the shipment, I asked the delivery guy to store everything in the liquor closet for the time being. I then took a deep breath and started taking 3 to 4 orders at a time, making drinks as fast as I could, while providing friendly, cheerful service. In the end, the bar cleared out within an hour. The customers were very happy and I was then able to get back to restocking and taking inventory.

Q: Tell me a goal you have set for yourself and how you achieved it.

A: I like to set goals on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Having both short and long-term goals helps me stay motivated while also keeping an eye on the bigger picture. Take today for example. My goals for today are always written in the form of a to-do list. On my list for today is coming to this interview, sending you a nice follow-up email, finishing my online portfolio, and washing my car. For the week, my goals are to have three interviews, apply to 10 positions, and add 30 new connections on LinkedIn. My long-term goal is to find a company that I can call home within the next month. Breaking down goals incrementally makes each task attainable, rather than just having a bunch of goals that are long-shots.

Q: Why do you think you would make a good cashier?

A: I will make a good cashier because I have a lot of experience with customer service. Being a cashier isn’t just about ringing people up. It’s about ensuring that customers have an enjoyable experience while they shop. For the past six months, I have been volunteering in the kitchen of a local homeless shelter. In addition to serving food, it is my job to interact with our guests and to see if there is anything we can help them with. Much like cashiers, I make sure to approach each person with a friendly demeanor and a big smile. I then take time to listen to their needs and to ask questions about their desires. Because of my personality, I have guests that come back to the shelter to chat with me time and time again. Although the environment is different, I feel my experience with providing exceptional customer service would make me a great cashier.

Q: Describe a time when it was important for you to make a good impression with a client. What did you do?

A: As an account executive at ABC Staffing, it is extremely important for me to make good impressions. Most recently, I set a huge meeting with the VP of HR at ABC Corporation. Needing to make a good impression, I did extensive research into her role and the company. I soon found out that they were going through massive re-orgs, which means she was putting in lots of hours. Knowing she didn’t have much time to take a break, instead of doing the usual lunch, I offered to take her to get her nails done over the lunch break. The meeting was a huge success. She told me how tired she had been and that having some time to take care of herself was much appreciated. Because of that meeting, we landed a huge contract and she is now one of my favorite clients.   

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Common Job Interview Questions To Practice

Now it’s your turn! Practice answering the following questions using the STAR technique.

List of common job interview questions that you can use the STAR technique with:

  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Tell me about a challenge you have faced in your life. How did you overcome it?
  • If you were a superhero, which would you be?
  • Tell me about a time you went above and beyond to help a customer.
  • Tell me about the first job you had. How did you learn the ropes?
  • Tell me about a time that you failed at something.
  • Tell me about your biggest professional accomplishment.

Common STAR Response Mistakes

When using the STAR interview response technique, avoid the following mistakes.

Focusing On The Negative

When using the STAR method, it is important to answer every question positively. Avoid using examples where the results were negative. You should also never talk negatively about a coworker, supervisor, customer, or client.

Not Using Enough Specifics

The STAR technique is all about specifics. When answering behavioral questions, pretend you are telling a story or writing a book. Include details, names, numbers, and specifics.

Forgetting the Results

When answering behavioral questions, many people forget to talk about the results. The results are the most important part of the STAR technique. You shouldn’t just explain your actions – you need to explain the positive results that came from them.

star interview technique quote

Other Ways To Use The STAR Technique 

Although the STAR technique is primarily used for interview questions, STAR can also be used in your cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and resume.

When describing your past experience in your resume and cover letter, explain specific situations, tasks, actions, and results. For your LinkedIn profile, incorporate the STAR steps in your bio and professional experience sections.

If writing a resume from scratch, or if it’s time for a resume revamp, try using this free and easy-to-use resume builder. The ‘Traditional’ and ‘Large’ templates are perfectly formatted to incorporate the STAR steps in.

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