Have you encountered a behavioral question in an interview? Such as “tell me about a time that you handled a difficult situation at work”.
Well Interviewers often ask hypothetical and behavioral questions because they believe your ideas and past behavior can predict your future actions. This helps recruiters analyze your skills, creativity, how you solve problems, and how you use your skills under similar circumstances. In preparing for job interviews, using the STAR method will help you tailor direct and concise answers to impress interviewers.
What is the STAR Method?
The STAR method is a structured manner of responding to behavioral-based interview questions by discussing the specific Situation, Task, Action and Result of the situation you are describing.
Situation - Set the stage for the story by sharing context around a specific situation or challenge you faced. Share two or three important details about relevant work situations, academic projects or volunteer work. You should spend the least amount of time on this part of your answer as interviewers are more concerned with the actions you took and the results you achieved.
- Example: An unhappy customer claimed the shipping department sent her shop the wrong parts.
Task - This is where you come into the picture. This point enables you to then summarize what your involvement was and exactly what your key responsibilities were. It can be easy to get this mixed up with the Action step, but just keep it simple by listing out your objectives.
- Example: As a customer service specialist, I had to find out how this problem happened and how to solve it. My goal was to keep this important customer happy.
Action - Describe the actions you took to address the situation with an appropriate amount of detail and keep the focus on “you”. What specific steps did you take and what was your particular contribution? Be careful that you don’t describe what the team or group did when talking about a project, but what you actually did. Use the word “I,” not “we” when describing actions.
- Example: I assured the customer that I would look into the situation myself. I checked all the details, comparing our database with our supplier’s digital catalogs. Sure enough, there was a mistake—a typo. The problem was the system for numbering parts, which assigned similar numbers to parts that were too much alike.
Result - What was the outcome you reached through your actions? Focus on two or three main results of your actions and discuss what you learned, how you grew and why you're a stronger employee because of the experience. And, if possible, provide concrete examples of the results of your efforts. You should spend only slightly less time discussing the results than your actions.
- Example: I couriered the correct parts to the customer overnight and told her she would be reimbursed for the full cost of the order because of the inconvenience. I assured her that we would make changes so that the problem wouldn’t happen again. I then worked with my team to develop a new numbering system that has reduced errors from an average of 11 to 3 per month and cut response time by 15%. Because of these improvements, the customer has increased her orders by 30%.
How to Prepare for a Situational Interview?
- Recall recent situations that show favorable behaviors or actions, especially involving work experience, leadership, teamwork, initiative, planning, and customer service.
- Prepare short descriptions of each situation - be ready to give details if asked.
- Be sure each story has a beginning, middle, and an end.
- Be sure the outcome or result reflects positively on you (even if the result itself was not favorable).
- Be honest. Don't exaggerate or omit any part of the story. The interviewer will find out if your story is built on a weak foundation.
- Be specific. Don't generalize about several events, give a detailed accounting of one event.
- Vary your examples; don’t take them all from just one area of your life.
What are the Benefits of Using the STAR Method?
- STAR method answers help you demonstrate how you can add value to an organization.
- Job seekers who use the STAR method often give more specific and focused interview answers.
- When you master the STAR method, you make a confident impression in interviews. That’s because you know exactly what to say, instead of meandering around looking for an answer.
- 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 organization.
So there you have the basics of the STAR method for interviewing. If you want to learn more about “How to Ace Your Next Interview”, read this blog post.