Preparing for Your Interview: The STAR Method

Let’s face it, interviews are hard. Knowing what to say, when to say it, and how to say it can be daunting as an interviewee. Luckily, with some preparation, you can harness your abilities and ace your interview.

When preparing for interviews, keep in mind the STAR Method. The STAR Method is a layout for answering questions that shows your progress in a work setting. When an employer asks a question, responding in the STAR Method format provides a complete picture of your ability to handle situations. Employers often ask situation-based questions that require some storytelling to answer fully. This is where the STAR Method come in, as it is a format for answering situation-based questions in a clear and concise manner. Here’s the format:

S– Situation

First, give a backstory for context of how you will answer the question. Describe in detail the situation and what the problem you were facing was at work. Try to keep it to a few sentences while still giving enough information for the employer to grasp why you had to act accordingly.

T– Task

Next, describe the task at hand. This primarily means describing what you had to do to improve the situation you were facing. This is typically only one sentence.

A– Action

After laying out the task at hand, you’ll want to talk about the actions you took to achieve that task. This is the most detailed section of your answer, so you want to go into some specifics. The employer wants to see what you are capable of when it comes to problem-solving within a role.

R– Result

Lastly, lay out the result of your actions. This is short and consists of a sentence or two describing what happened because of the actions you took. This part of the answer shows the employer what you learned from the steps you took to solve a problem.

Let’s look at an example for context. An employer might ask you a question like “tell me about a challenge or conflict you’ve faced at work and how you dealt with it.” This is the perfect question to answer with the STAR Method.

First, lay out the situation. An example could be “One day I was working at a local retail store and a customer became upset that I was unable to accept their expired coupon. It was over two months expired, and company policy states that we can only accept coupons through their expiration date.”

Next, lay out the task. “I needed to find a way to calm the customer and offer a solution to the expired coupon.”

The next part of your answer is the action phase. This is the most comprehensive part of your answer and requires you to go into some detail. “In order to achieve the task at hand, I offered to look online for some other coupons that were comparable to the customer’s expired coupon. I scoured the internet and was able to find a coupon that offered a discount for another item they were purchasing.”

Last, describe the result of the actions you took. “The customer was so grateful that I went out of my way to help them. They were able to save money while still purchasing all their items. They felt cared for as a customer and promised to return again.”

This example highlights how effective the STAR Method is when answering questions in an interview. This model is the most straight forward way to show an employer that you are prepared for the interview and have the skills required for the job at hand.

Now that you know have a model on how to answer these questions, it’s time to practice these skills! Below is a list of the top interview questions that you can use the STAR Method for:

  1. Tell me about a time you went above and beyond for a customer.
  2. What’s a time you disagreed with a decision that was made at work?
  3. Tell me about a time you were really stressed at work and how you overcame that.
  4. Give me an example of a time when you had to make a difficult decision at work. How did it turn out?
  5. What’s a time where you made a mistake at work. How you corrected it?
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