Does this sound familiar? Just when you feel like you’re nailing your job interview, the interviewer throws you a curveball: a behavioral prompt that asks you to describe an actual time you handled a particular type of work situation. You stutter and stumble through a half-answer, hoping you didn’t just blow it.
Fortunately, there’s a better way. The STAR method can help you through even the most awkward behavioral interview questions. Here’s how.
What Is the STAR Method?
The STAR method was specifically designed for behavioral questions such as “Have you ever….” Or “Describe a time when…” It provides a framework for telling your story in a focused and meaningful way.
STAR stands for:
• Situation: Set up the scene with just enough details to add color.
• Task: Explain what your responsibility was in the scene.
• Action: Describe your action steps at that moment.
• Result: Share the outcome.
This four-step storytelling method is easy for your interviewer to follow while also determining whether your story shows that you are a good fit for the job.
Using the STAR Method
The first step in using the STAR method is to come up with the right scenario. There’s no way to predict exactly what you will be asked, so prepare a few interesting anecdotes in advance. Focus on both successes and challenges, since some interviewers like to hear about both. When you hear the question, take a moment to mentally review your stories and choose the most applicable.
Then move to the Situation step. In a few short sentences, describe what was going on at the time. Maybe you were assisting an angry customer. What was she angry about? Were there extenuating factors like rain or late delivery?
Next, talk about your Task. What were your responsibilities in the situation? Were you a customer service manager? A front-line employee? How did you end up in the particular scenario you’re describing?
Now describe your Action. Skip over the vague parts of the story and dig into the specific details. Did you write a plan? Use a specific technology? Communicate with another department? Show off your skills here.
Finally, explain the Result. Be clear about what happened, and make a definite connection between your Action and the Result. If your story is about something that challenged you, use the Result step to end on a high note. What did you learn? How did you improve? What would you do differently next time?
The STAR method takes a little getting used to, so it’s worth doing a few mock interviews. Once you learn how to use it, though, this method can give you an edge on the competition with your composed, focused, clear answers to tough behavioral prompts.
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