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How to Ace An Interview - The STAR Method

By Edited Jun 20, 2015 1 2

A New Job - The Search Begins...

When searching for a new job the last thing you want to do is drag out the process longer than it needs to be. You need to be prepared so that when you find a job you can successfully make your way through the interview process.

The truth is that many people do not prepare at all. This means that if you are willing to put in a little time and effort, your preparation could go a long way.

What is the STAR Method?

The STAR Method is a simple way for you answer job interview questions. It provides a simple outline for you to follow so that you can answer the question fully and impress your interviewer.

What Does STAR Stand For?

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. These four sections should compose your answer to each interview question.

How Do I Use the STAR Method?

The STAR Method was built to answer behavioral or competency-based interview questions. So if you spot a behavioral interview question you know it's time to impress and pull out the STAR Method.

On the other hand though, the STAR Method can be used to answer many common (non-behavioral) interview questions as well. With a little practice you will find yourself using the STAR Method naturally. It will probably even creep into your everyday speech. It really is a fantastic way to tell a story. Let's take it one step at a time.

Situation. The first thing you want to do is describe the setting of your story. Unless you are interviewing internally for a promotion, your interviewer will not be familiar with your previous work situation. Therefore it is your job to accurately describe it for them so they can understand the story from your point of view.

Task. Next you want to describe the task at hand. What did you need to get done? Were there time restrictions? Were there other characters involved?

Action. Now it's time to explain how you took care of the problem or issue that you previously described.

Result. Finally, we come to the most important part of the STAR Method. Do not forget to explain the results of your actions (good or bad). Be accountable for your actions. Here you have an opportunity to impress your interviewer even further. After you explain the results of your actions, evaluate the result. Let the interviewer know what you would do differently, if anything, in the future.

What is a Behavioral Interview Question?

Many employers are shifting towards behavioral type interview questions. Major retailers like Target and Wal-Mart are already leading the way. Behavioral interview questions are designed to get you to talk about your past experiences and cannot be answered with a simple yes or no.

Many times behavioral interview questions aren't even questions, they're prompts. The whole point is to get you talking. This is why you need to be prepared to tell a story.

Behavioral questions will often start with phrases like, "Tell me about a time" or "Describe a situation when". This is your cue.

Sample Behavioral Interview Questions

Tell me about a time when you didn't have enough time to finish a project that was due by the end of the day.

Sometimes the interviewer will leave it at that, or they may make it even more obvious that they are looking for a STAR Method response by expanding on it.

Tell me about a time when you didn't have enough time to finish a project that was due by the end of the day. What action did you take? What was the end result? What, if anything, would you do differently next time?

Here they gave you the same prompt, but tacked on a few actual questions at the end. Now if you line up this question with the STAR Method you will see that you have all the bases covered.

What Should I Do Next?

Now that you know what the STAR Method is, you need to practice using it. This is not something that comes naturally to everyone. Fortunately, you are already one step ahead of the competition just know about the STAR Method, but it's up to you to stay ahead of the competition.

Gather five or ten sample interview questions. You can find these easily by searching for "sample behavioral interview questions" on Google. Find a piece of paper and a pen. On the paper write the letters S, T, A, and R down the left side. Answer the first three questions by writing your answers down on this sheet of paper. Use the S, T, A, and R as a guide to make sure you answer the question completely.

The remainder of the questions you want to start answering verbally, out loud. After all this is how they will be done in the actual interview, so you should get used to it now. If at all possible I would recommend having a friend work with you. Give your friend the list of questions and the definition of STAR. For each question they ask you see if they can pick out each part of the STAR Method from your answer. If you are successful here, you're ready for your interview.

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Comments

Jan 11, 2013 6:42pm
aguy
Past behavior is the best predictor of future results.

Good interviewers know this and want to learn how you have handled scenarios and situations in the past.

These are good tips.
Jan 11, 2013 6:57pm
BaronTarquin
That is exactly it. Thanks for stopping by.
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