STAR Method: Ace Your Behavioral Interview Questions [With Examples]
What Is STAR Interview Method?
The STAR method is a method of answering behavioral interview questions by describing a specific situation from your past work experience in a simple, straightforward and structured manner.
What Are Behavioral Interview Questions?
Behavioral interview questions are questions where the interviewer asks you to describe how you handled a particular situation or challenge in one of your previous jobs.
The interviewer evaluates your soft skills such as teamwork, communication, leadership, conflict management etc. based on how you handled challenging situations in the past.
Behavioral interview questions are easy to identify. The questions are usually in the format such as...
“Describe a time when...”
“Tell me about a time when...”
“Give me an example of ... when ...”
“Have you ever ...”
How to Use STAR Method To Answer Behavioral Interview Questions?
Behavioral interview questions are tough to answer if you are not prepared for them. You will be taken 'off guard' and will struggle to think of a situation from the past, and stumble your way across with a long narrative - without any proper structure and meaningful outcome.
Luckily there is a better and easier way to answer these questions - The STAR method.
The STAR method provides a framework to answer these questions.
STAR is an acronym that stands for:
Situation: Describe the situation you were in.
Task: Describe the task you had to complete.
Action: Describe the specific actions you took to complete the task.
Result: Share the result of your actions.
Let's look at each of these four steps in detail below.
The STAR format begins by inviting you to place yourself within the context of the problem that you have faced. This is important because it allows your interviewer to gain a sense of the problems which you faced at the outset.
For example, John a budding Engineer, describes a time when his manager brought forward a deadline by two weeks while he was already engaged with work.
The task element invites you to state the problem: what was it that you were required to achieve?
For example, we can build on the previous example of John the budding Engineer. John would not be able to complete his manager's work without neglecting his primary duties as an on-site technician. As a result, John has to consider how to manage the conflict of resolving both objectives for his manager and himself.
This invites you to state what it is that you did to resolve the problem that you were facing.
For example: John decides to complete his manager’s task in his spare time while on lunch breaks or allocating time when he is out of work. This is significant for John, because it does not disturb the productivity of his primary role. Therefore, because of the actions taken by John, he is able to overcome the hurdle of being able to contribute to both tasks.
This is where you state the outcome of the scenario. You are invited to describe what it was that you achieved through your actions and whether or not you realized your goal. This is important for prospective employers, because it allows them to see how you handled the situation and whether or not the actions you took allowed you to resolve the situation. This lets them gain a glimpse as to how effective your problem-solving abilities are.
Communication style For STAR Method.
Behavioral questions give you an opportunity to show-off your communication skills and show-case your achievements, skills and traits that the interviewer is asking for. Do not lose this opportunity by being modest. Following tips will help you craft an impactful answer.
1. Use 'I' (or 'My', or 'Me') as much as possible instead of 'We' (or 'Our'). You want to highlight YOUR achievements and traits.
2. Be bold in highlighting the task you had to do - “I had to lead...”
, “I had to deliver...”
3. Use impactful words for the actions you took that match question. If the question is about leadership then showcase the leadership traits in your actions -“I led the team...”
, “I took the lead...”
4. End your answer with a concrete, measurable result - “I delivered 2 weeks before deadline...”
,“I reduced costs by 5%”
5. Mention how your achievement impacted you - “I got a pay raise...”
, “I got a promotion...”
Example Of An Answer To A Behavioral Question Using STAR Method.
Let's see how Jason, a junior engineer in XYZ Auto company, answers a behavioral question. Notice how Jason provides well crafted answers highlighting the key traits that the interviewer is looking for.
Question - Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership skills.
Situation - As a Junior Engineer in my previous role, my lead manager tasked our team with providing more efficient ways of carrying out diagnostic problems on automobile testing. Despite not having experience in a leading capacity, I was subsequently placed as manager of the Engineering team with the instruction to implement a solution.
Task - I was tasked with implementing a more efficient diagnostic method. This was problematic because my manager required that the process should be at least two seconds shorter than our current testing framework. This required me to employ a firm understanding of theoretical physics, the supply-side process as well as my cumulative experience having worked at 'XYZ Auto Company'.
Action - order to make my team feel more comfortable with tackling the solution, I invited them to an informal consultation where we could pitch ideas and feedback from each other’s suggestions’. This helped to defuse the unease as a result of the enormous responsibility placed on us and engage in more productive tasks. I suggested that we break down the task by placing ourselves in a specialized area, best optimized to dealing with subsets of the task individually. My suggestion as the lead was significant, because it allowed us to employ our skills where we were best suited instead of wasting time familiarizing ourselves with different abstract concepts and becoming pressured by skill gaps. When colleagues were having problems, I made it a priority to listen to their concerns and suggest ways which they could improve or implement methods which as I understood in my experience, could potentially be used to solve the problem. This was invaluable time-management wise and helped us to finish the task as the project deadline loomed.
Result - We finished the project on time, surpassing my lead manager’s requirement of '2 seconds' with a new diagnostic method which cut inefficiencies by 4 seconds. As a manager, I learnt a lot about the importance of collaboration while dealing with the concerns of my colleagues seriously and empathetically. My suggestion to breakdown the task into areas of specialization proved invaluable to producing a solution within the required framework, which conformed to the high industry standards of the XYZ Auto's engineering program.
Preparing For STAR Interview Questions - The Art Of Creating Well Crafted Stories.
Best way to prepare for behavioral questions in STAR format is to list down stories from your past work experience for each trait (leadership, teamwork, most challenging etc.). One way to do this is to use a grid system and for each trait you jot down the highlights of the story in terms of situation, task, action and result. This will help you to immediately relate and identify a story when the interviewer asks you a behavioral question.
Example below shows how this looks in Jason's case.
Once you have this list, practice on you story telling using impactful words and well-crafted sentences.
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