STAR Method | Main Region

What is the STAR method when interviewing?

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If you’re looking for a new job, chances are high you’ve heard about the STAR method for job interviews. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. It’s a technique you can use to strengthen your answers in job interviews. We recommend the STAR interview method to candidates who want to tailor direct and concise answers to impress interviewers. 
As we’ve shared in our job interview preparation advice, the key steps in the STAR method for interview answers are: 
Situation: Describe to your interviewer a relevant situation you have experienced. For example: You were responsible for a colleague who was making a lot of errors processing product orders. 
Task: Summarise for your interviewer what you decided to do. For example: You resolved to create a template to further guide your colleague on order processing. 
Action: Describe what you did. You walked through the guide with your colleague, for example. 
Result: Explain the outcome of your actions. Your colleague reduced his error rate from 2.1 per cent to 0.4 per cent.

STAR method examples – full answers to interview questions

What might your answers to interview questions look like when you develop them with the STAR method? The following examples show the STAR method for interview answers in action.

Interview question: Can you give an example of a problem you have helped your organisation resolve?

STAR interview answer: “Our email marketing click rate was well below the industry average for the past financial year [Situation]. My manager wanted me to turn this around [Task]. I refined our email marketing template, so it was more intuitive and direct in calling our audience to action [Action]. Our click rate exceeded industry averages in the next financial year, we performed better than we had in four years and our sales revenue from emails increased [Result].”

Interview question: Give an example of how you showed initiative and took the lead?

STAR interview answer: “My colleague had to take sick leave in the middle of a high-priority pitching project with an urgent deadline [Situation]. I suggested to my manager I would shuffle my priorities to pick up the project [Task]. It meant some overtime, but I made the project my top priority to meet the deadline [Action]. We completed the project on time and won a new client out of it [Result].”

Interview question: Can you talk about a difficult decision you’ve made in the past year?

STAR interview answer: “My organisation runs a very popular event. This year, we were uncertain if we should proceed with the event given external uncertainties [Situation]. My manager asked me to propose a range of alternative options [Task]. I researched all feasible options and stated the case for pivoting to a virtual event [Action]. Our virtual event was more successful than our previous three physical events – in fact, we even decided the event would be virtual again next year [Outcome].”

STAR method interview questions and answers

The STAR method is a valuable technique you can apply to answer behavioural and competency interview questions. Employers ask behavioural interview questions to surmise how you’ll perform in specific scenarios. They ask competency interview questions to ensure you have the specific competencies required for the job.  
The following examples highlight how you can incorporate different aspects of the STAR method to prepare for common job interview questions.

Tell us about a mistake you made at work that you still remember today

When answering this common question, don’t be afraid to share a real life mistake. You’ll win more trust from a hiring manager by being transparent and honest. But you must carefully frame the way you describe your mistake. Use the STAR method to show how your mistake was formative in your career development.  
With the STAR method, you can also describe what happened after your mistake. Remember to focus on the quantifiable results that ensued. For example, "I completed a short customer service course. Since then, I’ve led our customer service team to respond to customer enquiries 30 per
cent faster than we did in the previous 12 months.”

Describe a time when you experienced conflict in the workplace

Highlight to your interviewer that you know how to resolve conflict at work by firstly setting the scene. For instance, you might say, "My colleague was very unresponsive to emails, and other colleagues had complained." From here, shape the rest of your answer into a few sentences: "I scheduled a short meeting with my colleague to see if we could discuss a resolution. What emerged was that different employees in our organisation had different communication styles. Our conversation led to a wider conversation in the organisation about timely communication. We uncovered a larger issue and dissipated a lot of friction as a result."

Talk me through a situation where you have worked under pressure

Use the STAR method here to explain the main task you were responsible for. Maybe it was responding to 20 customer calls in an hour. Focus on a key action you undertook to reduce the pressure. Perhaps you broke the overall task into smaller tasks. If the result was that you served 20 satisfied customers, share that quantifiable information to show your interviewer how well you worked under pressure.

What is an unpopular decision you made at work? Why did you make it?

This is a good opportunity to craft an answer that shows you make decisions with integrity. You could construct a STAR-based answer like the following: “Safety compliance at our workplace was extremely poor. Staff members had even been making fun of others who followed all safety requirements. I tried to lead by example by calling others out for violating the safety rules. In the end, I called a meeting with my manager and our HR staff. It led to widespread cultural change. I wasn’t popular for this, but I was OK with that. My colleagues were at much lower risk of having accidents.” 

What’s the closest you’ve come to experiencing burnout at work? How did you address that?

Here, you can incorporate the STAR method to show an interviewer you are resilient and capable of making changes to improve your wellbeing and performance. Describe what led to your burnout and then the actions you took to manage it. For example, perhaps you took a short sabbatical and afterwards returned to work to deliver strong sales results, which you credit to your newfound wellbeing.

Benefits of using the STAR method

Keep the following benefits of using the STAR method in mind, too, when preparing your answers to common interview questions: 
  • STAR method answers help you demonstrate how you can add value to an organisation; 
  • Job candidates who use the STAR method often give more specific and explicit interview answers; 
  • When you master the STAR method, you make a confident impression in interviews. That’s because you know what to say. You know why you are saying it and you know how to say it; 
  • The STAR method is great for self-discovery. It's a way to ask questions of yourself you haven't before. By asking these questions, you uncover high-value insights about yourself to share with your interviewer; 
  • You can also showcase strong communication skills with the STAR method. It helps you answer interview questions clearly, which shows your potential employer you can bring valuable communication skills to the organisation.

Practice your STAR method answers

When using the STAR interview method, we encourage you to rehearse your interview answers ahead of a job interview. There are several standard interview questions, so use the STAR interview method to prepare and practice answering them. 
When using the STAR method for answering questions it's common to discover that your written answers sound somewhat unnatural when you initially recite them verbally. Refine your answers through repetition, until they sound natural. Also practice them until you have memorised the main messages.

Use the STAR method in cover letters, resumes and job applications, too

Finally, this technique has benefits beyond solely a job interview. The information you prepare for STAR interview questions is great for repurposing. For example, you can tailor the answers you create for a job interview to populate your cover letters, resumes and job applications, or vice-versa.  
Consider this information a resource to revisit and recycle throughout your job search process. Good luck.

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