The STAR Method of Interviewing and How to Use It

The STAR method of interviewing is an effective way to convey what you’ve accomplished in real, specific terms. It allows the interviewer to not only understand what it is that you’ve done in previous positions, but also the effect of your actions. You can apply this method to your resume as well, increasing the impact you have on potential employers.

What Does STAR Stand For?

STAR stands for Specific situation, Task, Action, and Result.

  • Specific situation: Describe the situation that called for intervention. You must be specific here – do not speak in generalities. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.
  • Task: What goal were you working toward?
  • Action: Describe the actions you took to address the situation with an appropriate amount of detail. What specific steps did you take and what was your particular contribution? This is where it is ok to be selfish. Start your sentences with “I”, not “we” when explaining.
  • Result: Describe the outcome that your intervention led to. If at all possible, use numbers and data. If there aren’t number-based performance metrics to cite, then just explain what happened in the end. What did you accomplish? What did you learn? If possible, talk about more than one positive result.

It is important to remember that the STAR method is extremely effective, but only works if you include every part. The Result is often the part that gets omitted, but it is likely that an interviewer will ask you about that anyway. Include it proactively and you will be better off. Remember to be specific, but do not include extraneous information. Include negative outcomes only if you can frame them as a learning experience. For example, you might say that you did not win the business in your sales pitch, but you can highlight what you learned form the experience.

Sample STAR Response

Below is a very simple example of how a STAR response can be crafted.

Specific Situation: My employer’s plumbing business was not generating enough sales to keep up with operational costs.

Task: My goal was to increase the number of leads we were receiving each month to feed the new business pipeline.

Action: I took a two pronged approach. First I listed our company on Google My Business to increase exposure in the local market. Second, I reached out to local contractors and set up a referral program with them. This allowed us to gain access to their books of business while giving them an incentive to market for us.

Result: In the month following my intervention, we increased leads by 23%. Six months after my intervention, revenue increased by 78%. My employer’s business is now generating enough sales to keep up with operational costs.

Questions You Might Hear That Allow You to Use the STAR Method

Practice your STAR answers to the questions below so that you’re prepared to use them in an interview setting.

  • Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  • Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
  • Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  • Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split second decision.
  • What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.
  • Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
  • Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish and failed.
  • Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.
  • Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or coworker.
  • Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
  • Describe a time when you set your sights too high (or too low).

Pro Tip: Use the STAR method on your resume. Many people speak in generalities in their resume. If you use the STAR method there, your will stand out from the crowd. You can even create a section on your resume titled ‘Key Accomplishments’ and include several STAR examples.


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