Going for a job interview can be nerve-wracking regardless of how much you prepare for it. But as William Shakespeare wrote in “Henry V”, “All things are ready, if our mind be so.” So let’s talk about one of our favorite strategies to tackle any interview question, the STAR method. The STAR method breaks every interview answer into four parts, situation, task, action, and result.
The benefit to using this method is that it gives you a structure to follow when answering many behavioral questions, basically, anything that starts like ‘describe a time when’ or ‘give me an example of’. So we’re going to breakdown each step so you can nail your STAR interview answers like a Rockstar!
To start, you want to paint a picture of the situation and the circumstances leading up to the problem. This is also where you’ll give any background that is necessary for the interviewer to follow along. Keep in mind, your examples don’t have to always be work-related, particularly early on in your career.
Maybe you were a leader on a team, a council member in Greek Life, or led a school club. Pulling from these experiences are also a common way to tackle the issue of not having much work experience.
Prompts to consider when answering:
What has happened?
What led to the event?
Who were the key players?
What was the primary problem?
Here’s where you show what your role is in the situation. Perhaps you’ve been hired for a specific reason or you’re mediating a crisis. This is the part of your answer where you should take some level of ownership or accountability for the problem. You’ll want to be sure to describe how that came about, whether you were specifically asked to handle it or you took initiative on your own. Prompts to consider when answering:
What role did you play in beginning to solve the problem?
How did you become responsible for that task?
What tasks did others have at this point?
So now that you’ve set the scene for the problem, describe what did you do to solve it. Here you’ll go step by step in exactly how you went about tackling the issue. Here is where you really what to highlight skills (both tangible and intangible) that will speak to your aptitude. This is where the recruiter or hiring manager will learn the most about you and how you handle challenges and problem-solving. Emphasize areas where you can show technical skills as well as interpersonal skills. Prompts to consider when answering:
What was your first step?
What was the response to your action?
This is the part where you tie it all up with a nice bow and show how the problem came to be resolved. You really want to highlight the positive changes that came from your actions. Even if challenges remained or it didn’t work out perfectly, you’re really trying to put your best foot forward in this section. In their notes, the interviewer will likely summarize by writing something like “John Smith made _____ happen for his team/department/company”. Any metrics or numbers you can contribute are super helpful in this section. Bonus points if you can show the continued long term impact of your solution. Prompts to help answer:
What was the solution?
Did this lead to anything further for you?
What feedback did you get from peers/leaders?
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