STAR interview questions: How to use the STAR interview method

January 08, 2023  •  Reading Time: 10 min.

Have you ever heard of the STAR interview technique?

The STAR acronym stands for SituationTaskAction and Result. This will actually help you a lot when preparing for behavioral interview questions. How? Well, read on!

In this article, we’ve put together a useful guide to answering an interview question using the STAR method. We’ve also included real-world examples of the most common behavioral questions and set you up with a primer on how to answer them. Don’t forget to read to the end to learn our top tips for your upcoming STAR interview!

🚀 Let’s get started!

What is the STAR method?

You can use the STAR method as a framework to answer behavioral questions succinctly.

First things first: What exactly are behavioral interview questions? These types of questions often inquire about specific situations or problems at work. They help the interviewer understand how you dealt with them. Another way to put this is that you can use the STAR method for those queries where you are prompted to give a real-life example of how you handled a certain issue in the past.

⭐️ STAR stands for: Situation, Task, Action, Result.

This means that you can answer behavioral interview questions using an example from your current or previous job, your education, or even your personal history (in case you don’t have any work experience yet). However, always make sure you choose the most relevant and business-oriented example available to you and also one that would be the best fit for the position for which you are interviewing.

Example: Your interviewer asks you to explain a time at work when you had to perform under pressure and how you tackled it. Using the STAR framework, you can demonstrate in your answer that you are able to work well under pressure by giving an example from your past (e.g., a specific task where you demonstrated your problem-solving skills in a stressful situation).

Worker who has just proved his problem-solving skills to his boss by finishing a difficult task

Here are some more real-life examples of STAR interview questions!

What are examples of STAR questions?

Some of the most common behavioral interview questions that prompt a STAR response are:

  • “What is your greatest achievement?”

If you base your answer on the STAR technique, it might look like this:

Situation“After graduation, I worked as an assistant to the general manager. Once, we had an important meeting scheduled with a potential business partner, and I was supposed to go into the meeting with my boss. However, just before the meeting, I received a message from him that he was on his way to the ER because a family member of his had an accident.

TaskHe wanted to know if I could possibly give the prepared presentation on my own. I had helped my boss create the presentation, but I was not prepared to present it as well.

ActionSince I don’t back down from challenges and was confident that I could do it, I agreed to hold the meeting.

Result: Not only did the presentation go well, but the client actually hired our company. My boss was more than pleased.”

📝 Note: As you can see, a good answer always tells a story. So feel free to describe the situation in detail, but of course your answer should not be too lengthy.

Other questions indicative of a STAR interview method:

  • “Tell me about a time when you encountered a challenging situation. What was your solution?”
  • “Do you set objectives at work? If so, could you give me an example of a goal you had that you were able to accomplish?”
  • “Give me an example where you made a mistake at work. How did you deal with it?”
  • “Have you ever had a major disagreement with a co-worker? How did you address the situation?”
  • “Give me an example where you were proactive and in charge of a problem.
  • “Describe a situation where your leadership skills made a true difference.”
  • “Give me an example where you failed to live up to a client’s expectations. How did you handle the situation?”

💡 Tip: You can formulate your answers to all these questions like we did in the first example.

Happy and enthusiastic job applicant pointing at something interesting down below

We will now take a closer look at how to prepare for and answer STAR interview questions.

Instructions on how to use the STAR method in a job interview

Let’s move on to the most important part of this article: a detailed guide on how to apply the STAR method in an interview!

How do I get ready for a STAR interview?

To be able to answer STAR interview questions properly, you should prepare yourself thoroughly for your next interview.

Step #1: Identify the skills needed for the job

Read the job description carefully to find out which hard and soft skills are essential for the position. Also figure out what kind of experience you would need to be successful in the job.

📝 Note: Hiring managers will most likely tailor their behavioral questions to the job profile.

That is, if the job requires problem-solving skills, you may be asked, “Tell me about an unexpected challenge at work. How did you overcome it?”

Step #2: Consider prior accomplishments

Based on the STAR technique (Situation – Task – Action – Result), write down concrete examples of situations in which you have demonstrated the competencies relevant to the job.

💡 Tip: Make sure you cite concrete and authentic examples from your past experiences. For example, if you showed initiative in a team project, don’t just state that you are “good at taking the initiative”, but accurately describe the specific situation in your team.

It is therefore important to refrain from making vague statements and to explain precisely the individual steps you took to achieve the desired outcome by using specific examples.

Step #3: Practice your replies

You can prepare and rehearse for common behavioral questions using the STAR technique even if you don’t know the particular questions you will be asked.

💡 Tip: Typical STAR interview questions also touch on interpersonal skills like leadershipcooperation, and communication.

Feel free to answer the questions out loud! You’ll sound more natural in the interview if you feel at ease speaking your responses aloud.

Job applicant practicing for upcoming job interview by answering questions according to the STAR interview method

Okay, so far so good! Are you ready to check out more STAR interview questions and answers?

What are examples of the STAR technique being used in practice?

Example #1: Question about previous failures

  • “Describe a scenario in which you failed. What were your tactics to overcome this situation?”

📝 Note: By answering this question honestly, you can demonstrate integrity. This is generally a very important skill to hone, not just in a professional context.

Situation“I was given the task of managing a project for an important client soon after being promoted to project manager. This job would typically take three months, but the customer needed it finished quickly and requested if I could do it in two.

Task: I accepted, thrilled because it was my first project of my own. However, I soon realized I would need more time to complete it and produce high-quality work.

Action: I immediately got in touch and apologized to the client. They then extended the deadline.

Result: I actually completed and delivered the project ahead of schedule. I have also developed better time management and no longer over-promise on things I can’t deliver.”

Example #2: Interview question about managing a large workload

  • “Can you give an example of a time when you had to balance several priorities at work?”

Situation: “One of my co-workers left the company when I was working as a customer care representative. Subsequently, my supervisor requested me to take over some of her duties.

Task: Therefore, I was required to reprioritize my own customers and projects. I actually struggled at first since I had so many things to do and didn’t know much about my colleague’s tasks.

Action: I reviewed my responsibilities and reordered them in accordance with the objectives of the company. In order to have more time on my hands, I also came up with automation techniques for certain tasks.

Result: None of our customers saw the internal shift at the company due to the newly automated methods and effective prioritization. Our team’s excellent level of customer service was upheld, and I improved my own efficiency in the process.”

Example #3: Question about ability to meet objectives

  • “Tell me about a goal you’ve accomplished”

Situation“When I first started working in sales, I fell a little short of hitting my initial sales goals.

Task: This encouraged me to not just meet but also surpass my next sales goal.

Action: I modified my approach and divided my objective into smaller weekly targets. I also established ties with new clients via social selling. Additionally, I requested training from my sales manager on objection handling and closing strategies.

Result: I was able to outperform my sales goal by 15% with this new strategy.”

📝 Note: Employers really like to see results, so be sure to quantify your accomplishments wherever possible and support them with concrete examples.

Young job applicant preparing for STAR interview questions on her laptop

STAR interview questions – key takeaways

Are you ready to practice the STAR interview technique now?

To help you use the STAR method, we’ve put together some key tips for you to keep in mind as you prepare for your next interview:

  • Take another look at the job description.

Make sure you thoroughly read the job posting to understand the precise core competencies required for the role. Utilize this knowledge to come up with specific examples of prior instances in which you have applied these skills.

To properly prepare your answers, scan your resume and cover letter again. Create answers that are appropriate for your achievements and qualities. No matter what kind of questions are posed, doing so will provide you a ton of important information that you can put to good use.

  • Keep everything relevant.

You should always make sure that your responses are pertinent to the position. They must provide enough specifics. Make it apparent that you can apply the required core competency skillfully.

  • Only take notes.

Making a list of your responses in bullet points rather than writing them down in full can be useful. By doing so, you can ensure that you deliver your answers as naturally as possible during the actual talk with the hiring manager.

  • Know when is the right time to use the STAR format.

Actually, this is fairly easy; just watch out for behavioral questions. They typically start with: “Tell me about a time when…,” “Give an example of…,” “Describe a period when…,” and “Have you ever…?”

💡 Tip: Use the pronoun “I” often. In fact, all of your responses should be in the first person; always use “I” instead of “we”, even when talking about a previous collaborative project.

This article should have made it easier for you to respond to behavioral interview questions. The only thing left to do is head out and nail your upcoming interview!

📝 Job seekers take note: We have more articles on how to prepare for an interview. Discover which mistakes you should avoid at all costs and what are the best outfits for a job interview!

Job applicants sitting on bench waiting for their interview

STAR interview questions – FAQ

What are situational interview questions?

While behavioral interview questions ask candidates to describe how they handled past situations, situational interview questions require applicants to describe how they would respond to hypothetical issues in the future.

What are behavioral interview questions?

A behavioral interview question asks you to describe a specific situation in the past and your reaction to it so that the interviewer can predict how you will react to similar situations in the future.

How do I prepare for a STAR interview?

The STAR method helps you present a compelling story that shows why you are the ideal candidate for the job. To prepare, you should first give a description of the situation. Then, describe your contribution to solving the problem and your actions. Finally, you should talk about the result.

Find the job