If you’re brushing up on your interview etiquette while you prepare for your next interview, you might have heard about “the STAR method” or “the STAR technique”. But what is the STAR method, why is it so important for your interviews, and how can you use it? Don’t worry, as we’re here to explain all.
- What is the STAR method?
- When do you use the STAR method?
- How do you use the STAR method?
- Examples of the STAR method.
If you’re looking for a more comprehensive guide on interview questions overall, you can find our guide on interview questions and answers with examples here.
But first things first, is explaining what the STAR method actually is and when you should use it.
What is the STAR Method?
The STAR method is a framework you can use in your interview to answer “behavioural interview questions”: Questions that ask you to describe an example of a time you performed a task or showed a certain characteristic.
When an interviewer asks these questions, they want you to tell a story. A story that shows a real world example of a time where you were successful, overcame a challenge, and learned any lessons (if there were any).
The STAR method is an acronym that stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. What this means in reality is:
- Situation: This is where you lay the foundation of the story. What was the situation that needed resolving and where did the conflict arise from?
- Task: What was your responsibility in this story? For example, were you a part of the team that found the solution?
- Action: What actions did you take to come to a resolution? This should be a detailed breakdown with no necessary details spared.
- Result: And what results did your action achieve, and was the situation resolved? If not, why not? And what lessons were learnt?
Following this structure will help you give concise and clear answers to your interviewer that are backed up with evidence and real-world examples. You can’t prepare for every possible question. Despite how much you prepare. But the STAR method gives you the structure to be confident in answering any behavioural or competency based interview question that you are asked.
When do you use the STAR Method? And what is a Behavioural Interview Question?
Behavioural interview questions are a staple of interviews and a favourite of managers. They are used to find out about your past experience, as a reference of your ability to do the job you are interviewing for. What they are also, is a test of your storytelling ability.
Some examples of behavioural interview questions are “Give us an example about a time when you went above and beyond for a customer”, or “When have you ever disagreed with a colleague, and what steps did you take to resolve this disagreement?”. Questions like these can address any facet of your previous experience: Your attitude to your work, your technical ability, or to see how you work with colleagues.
So while they can be targeted at any area, fortunately, they all start with the same tell-tale signs that make them easily recognisable:
- Can you tell me about a time when you…
- Describe a time you…
- What’s an example of a time that you…
- Can you remember a time that you…
How Do You Use the STAR Method? Using the STAR Method in Your Interview.
The STAR method can be incredibly useful in an interview, and can ultimately, play a part in helping you secure your new job. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s discuss how you can actually use the STAR method with some examples.
Step 1: The Situation
The first step in using the STAR method is setting the scene. Like with any story, you need to by introducing who all the players are, and what their role is.
You should keep the introduction of your answer brief. You don’t need to spend 10 minutes of your answer purely on the introduction. Ideally keep it to one or two sentences, that give all the information the interviewer needs to understand the situation.
Step 2: The Task
Now you’ve discussed what the actual situation is, it’s time to focus on what your part in the solution was. You should state here what your individual responsibilities were. After all, the interviewer is interested in what you did to solve the problem, not on what the team did.
Again, unless it was a complicated situation, this should be one or two sentences at most.
Step 3: The Action
Here we’re getting to the more important parts of the question: the actual actions you take to solve the problem, or achieve the desired outcome.
Here the interviewer will be looking for specifics about your planning process, actions you took, and problems you encountered. While it may be awkward, this is your chance to really brag about how impactful your work was to the solution.
Step 4: The Results
And now is time for the conclusion to your story. While the steps before this are absolutely necessary, this is the part the interviewer is most interested in: The results!
Here you should detail the results and discuss what your actions achieved (ideally, solving the problem or achieving the goal). Ideally, you should use statistics to back up your argument and help you make your case. It’s not always possible to remember every useful statistic from the history of your career, that would impress an interviewer. But, having a few to hand that can cover a few different past examples or statistics that can be adapted to multiple questions is much easier.
But if you don’t have any useful statistics to hand, don’t stress too much. Interviewers recognise that you can’t be prepared for every question they have.
One trap that people fall into is only giving answers about a time they were successful. While this is ideal, it’s not always possible. Sometimes interviewers will even purposely ask you about times where things went wrong or not according to plan. After all, everyone has had projects that weren’t as on time or on budget as they would have liked, or clients that weren’t happy. But what’s important to show here is that you learned something from your failure.
STAR Interview Method Example
Now, following all the information we’ve just given, we’re going to show you a few examples of the STAR interview method in action.
STAR Method Example #1
First, let’s look at one of the most common behavioural interview questions, and one you are very likely to hear (if you haven’t already).
“Tell me about a time you went above and beyond in your work.”
Situation: “We brought on a new client who wanted a brand new Enterprise network, and they wanted it fast.”
Task: “As Technical Project Manager, it was my job to lead the technical team, liaise with the customer, and handle any escalations or problems they had. This meant being available at any time, as they wanted this done faster than our usual time frame allowed.”
Action: “Because they needed it done faster, we had to be more efficient with our time as a team, and I needed to be more available and work faster than I usually would. This meant working outside of my regular hours, being available at any hour, and working closer with the teams to make sure the delivered product needed less rounds of revisions than we normally would have.”
Result: “Because of being more available for the team and the client, working extra hours in the day, and by having greater control over the technical, design and implementation teams, I managed to ensure that the customers’ needs were satisfied: And quicker than we had ever done before. And as an extra bonus, we’ve managed to remove areas of inefficiency from our process moving forward, and streamline our process moving forward.”
STAR Method Example #2
Now let’s look at an example of a time where you’re asked to look at a negative aspect of your career. Because these are the questions that no one wants to really answer. But they show the interviewer important characteristics that they want to see: How you react to a negative situation, that you learn from your mistakes, and whether you are honest about your failures.
“Can you tell me about a time when things didn’t go to plan?”
Situation: “In my first role working as a Service Desk Engineer, I was offered a promotion to a Service Desk Manager position. My supervisor at the time was really impressed with my work, and because they were wanting to grow quickly, I was offered the promotion despite having only been in the job for 8 months.”
Task: “As Manager, it was now my responsibility to oversee a team of 6 Service Desk Engineers, some of them who had been in the position less time than I had. So not only was I responsible for my own work, I was in charge of training junior members of the team.”
Action: “I said yes to the promotion, but honestly, I didn’t feel ready for it. I made some mistakes from a team management perspective, and was struggling to balance my new responsibilities with my pre-existing ones. My performance started to drop, which affected the performance of my team overall. I decided that I had to say something to my supervisor and ask for some help.”
Result: “Because I spoke up to my supervisor about how I was struggling, we managed to start working towards a solution. My responsibilities were scaled back, and I was given training and support to get me up to speed in the areas I needed. My step up to management wasn’t the huge success I wanted. But it did teach me about the need to communicate more with my superiors when I didn’t feel I had the training or support I needed.”
Interviews can be overwhelming. But confidence in interviews comes from preparation. Researching interview techniques like the STAR method means you’ll be ready for the questions you have prepared for. As well as being more confident coming up with answers in the moment for the questions you hadn’t considered.
The best thing you can do to prepare yourself for an interview, is speak to a career expert. Here at Dynamic, we coach people through the interview process everyday. This includes offering insights into the job market, and insight into what interviewers wants to see from you. Look here for our list of open vacancies, and find your next job today.