Learning the STAR interview method

When you are preparing for an interview, one of your goals is to make sure you feel ready to answer any question that is thrown your way. However, for many, it can be difficult to know how to quickly build an engaging answer to broad questions.

If you have ever struggled with rambling your way through an interview answer and found yourself wishing that you could do better, the STAR interview method can help. With the STAR interview method, you can share your success stories effectively and strategically.

In this guide, we’ll help you learn more about using the STAR interview response technique, along with concrete examples of how you can put this method to work. With this information, you’ll feel better prepared for your next interview, regardless of what questions you are asked.

What is the STAR method?

The STAR method is a tactic for answering interview questions. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Using the STAR formula, when you are asked an interview question, you build your answer around this framework.

These four components can be broken down as follows:

  • Situation: You will begin by describing the situation you were in, such as a project you worked on or a challenge you had to overcome.
  • Task: Next, you’ll describe the role you played in this situation, such as any key responsibilities you had.
  • Action: From here, you’ll share the actions you took in the situation described, such as steps you might have used to achieve your desired goal.
  • Result: Finally, you’ll explain the exact results of what happened due to your actions.

As you can see, breaking apart your answer with the STAR method makes it easier to share a story in a clear and concise way. Instead of rambling your way through an answer, you can stick to the point and share concrete examples of your experience with the interviewer.

Examples of STAR interview questions

Once you understand the STAR method, you can use it to answer numerous questions during your next interview. What are examples of STAR interview questions? Generally, this method is best for behavioral or open-ended questions that lend to storytelling. This method helps you share an experience effectively.

The following are all examples of interview questions where the STAR method would be an appropriate fit:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a conflict with a coworker.
  • Give me an example of a situation where you went above and beyond your role.
  • Describe to me a time when you were asked to train another employee.
  • Talk to me about a project where you had to meet a stressful deadline.
  • Can you share with me one of your greatest achievements?
  • Explain a situation where you had to make a difficult decision at work.
  • Have you ever been asked to take a leadership role? What happened?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you made a mistake at work?

When deciding whether or not the STAR method will work for an interview question, pay attention to the goal of the question. If the interviewer is looking for you to share an experience, along with the end results of that situation, STAR is the perfect fit. If you are asked a skills-based question, such as “Are you proficient in Microsoft Suite?” you don’t need to launch into the STAR method for your response.

Example of a STAR method response

Putting the STAR method to work is simple. With the STAR method, you can turn any open-ended interview question into an easy-to-follow storyline. The beauty of the STAR method is that it helps you lead an interviewer through a story to an achieved result. The following is an example of a STAR method response.

Interview question: 

Talk to me about a project where you had to meet a stressful deadline.

STAR method answer: 

In my last role as a digital marketing specialist, I had to turn around a large client project in a week. I was responsible for ensuring that keyword research was done, the client’s website content was built-out, and they had six articles ready to go live at launch. Knowing I would be working under a tight deadline, I spoke with my boss about moving a lower-priority job off my plate for the week. I also asked my coworker who had a light load if they would be willing to assist me with content. We sat down as a team at the beginning of the week, and I outlined the work I would accomplish each day, with dedicated review periods for the client. The week was hectic, but we got the work done. I was able to turn in the project on time, and we met the client’s expectations. 

As you can see in this example, the interviewee begins by setting the stage for the event. They explain the specific Situation they faced. Next, they outline what they were responsible for in the situation — their Task. From here, they talk about the Actions they took to resolve the situation. Finally, they provide the interviewer with the Result of their actions.

Tips for using the STAR method

Using the STAR interview method can help you provide concise, easy-to-follow answers to open-ended interview questions. To make sure you are ready to put this strategy to work, use the following tips:

  • Practice: Before a real interview, try using the STAR method in a practice setting. Ask a friend or family member to hold a mock interview with open-ended questions. Test out answering with the STAR method.
  • Stay focused: The key to using the STAR method effectively is to keep your story focused. Make sure that you think through answers by breaking them down into each key segment. As you talk through each section of STAR, keep the story concise and geared toward reaching the end result.
  • Be personable: While the STAR method is a formulaic response to interview questions, don’t answer questions robotically. STAR should simply be a framework for your answer, but be sure you still let your personality shine through as you tell a story.
  • Don’t exaggerate: The STAR method leads you from explaining a situation all the way to the end result of what happened. However, be sure that you don’t exaggerate or make up details to improve the flow of the story. Stick to the facts. If your situation didn’t resolve into a simple result, be honest about the end of your story.

Using the STAR method, you can prepare for some of the toughest interview questions you’ll face and respond in a way that impresses. And when it comes time for you to be invited to ask a few questions, yourself, make sure you are prepared for that, too!