How to use the STAR technique for interviews

Career Advice

By Rob Jones & Firaz Hameed
August 3, 2023

June 24, 2024

0 min read

What is the STAR interview technique?

The STAR interview method is a technique job seekers can use to answer behavioral and situational interview questions.

In the realm of job interviews, a traditional question-and-answer format is often followed by hiring managers. However, there is a growing trend of incorporating behavioral interview questions, which prompt candidates to provide specific examples such as "Tell me about a time..." or "What do you do when..." or "Give me an example of...".

These behavioral interviews are designed to evaluate a candidate's suitability for the role by assessing their past performance, as it serves as a strong indicator of future success.

Facing a barrage of questions in an interview can be daunting, particularly when dealing with behavioral and situational inquiries. Luckily, the STAR method can help you in preparing for and responding to these types of questions.

In this article, we'll delve deep into the STAR interview response method, explaining its use and how job candidates can apply it to confidently navigate and ace their upcoming interview.

The acronym STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result

The STAR method is designed to help you create a cohesive story with a clear outline of how you handled and resolved a problem. In other words, your answer for each behavioral question should follow the same basic pattern.

Here is what each step in the STAR acronym represents:

Situation Provide an explanation of a work situation or problem you encountered, including real-life examples of events that may have occurred. This might describe a situation where you were leading a team in a time-sensitive project or had to resolve a complex customer issue.
Task Here is where you should elaborate on your specific responsibilities in that situation. Focus on the objectives you needed to accomplish and you can also highlight any of the skills you were required to demonstrate required, e.g. problem-solving, leadership skills, project management
Action Outline the steps you took to accomplish the objectives or resolve the problem. At this stage, be sure to focus on what you did instead of the team as a whole. Instead of using the collective "we" in your responses.
Result Describe the result and highlight any positive outcomes that came about from your action. You can also use this time to describe any lessons learned or key takeaways from the experience. 

Think of the STAR technique as a mental outline that helps you to stay on track when responding to behavioral interview questions. By following the outline, your answers will be more coherent, concise, and impressive to your interviewer.


Why is the STAR technique useful?

Breaking down your answer into four parts can provide the interviewer with a deeper understanding of your communication skills, leadership abilities, flexibility, and ability to handle difficult situations.

Here are some of the ways the STAR interview method can be useful to job seekers

  • It allows you to provide compelling answers to each question in a logical, easy-to-understand way.

  • It enables you to demonstrate any technical and soft skills, qualities, and work experience to the interviewer by means of concrete, "bite-sized" examples from your past.

  • It also helps you to engage your interviewer more fully by describing your qualifications within a narrative framework. In other words, it allows you to become a teller of your own story.

  • Not only, is STAR useful for interviews, but it can also help you prepare cover letters and job applications in a way that highlights your strengths

How to answer interview questions using the STAR method?

A man and woman seated at a desk across from each other. Both are dressed in professional attire and appear to be engaging in a job interview.

Using STAR answers is extremely versatile. No matter what question the interviewer throws at you, you can almost always frame your response in terms of the STAR method. Here's just one concrete example of how you can put it all together.

Let's use "Tell me about a time when you had to use your management skills in order to complete a project on time." as an example of a STAR behavioral interview question.

In this instance, you could respond by relating the answer to a specific work situation by following the structure in the table below:

Situation "In my previous role as a team leader for an engineering contractor, one of my responsibilities was to coordinate the efforts of multiple teams within a predefined workflow."
Task "The project's objective was to transfer the company's current inventory to a larger warehousing space by a three-month deadline."
Action "In order to meet this goal, I used an agile methodology that enabled different teams to work on distinct project phases simultaneously. For example, one team renovated a section of our new warehousing facility while another team transferred inventory to a completed section."
Result "We were able to fully transfer the company's inventory into the new facility two weeks ahead of schedule."

As you can see, applying the STAR interview approach doesn't have to be too complicated. However, it does require some forethought.

Here are some helpful tips to effectively answer STAR interview questions:

Provide relevant examples

Use examples that are directly relevant to the skills and qualities the employer is looking for. Customize your answers to showcase your fit for the role.

Prepare in advance

Thoroughly review your resume and think about past experiences that align with the job requirements for the role you're interviewing for. Practice answering some common interview questions with a friend in a mock interview session. 

Be concise

While having a storytelling element is important and can make your responses more memorable, be weary or straying away from the point. Stay focused and avoid providing unnecessary detail. 

Share measurable results

Whenever possible, include quantifiable outcomes to demonstrate the effect of your actions and enhance the credibility of your responses.

If needed, seek clarification

If there is any confusion about a question, it is advisable to ask the interviewer for clarification before attempting to answer.

Using the STAR format in your next interview

The STAR approach to answering interview questions is a great way to mentally outline your responses to behavioural interview questions. It allows you to demonstrate your skills and experiences, qualifications, and abilities within the framework of a story.

Here are some examples of STAR method interview questions you might be asked:

  • Describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult team member. How did you handle it and what was the outcome?

  • Describe a situation where you had to meet a tight deadline. What steps did you take to ensure you completed the task on time, and what was the result?

  • Can you share an example of a problem you encountered at work and how you went about solving it? What were the actions you took, and what impact did your solution have?

  • Have you ever faced a challenging situation with a customer? How did you handle it, and what was the end result?

  • Tell me about a time when you had to lead a team through a major change or transition. How did you approach the situation, and what were the outcomes?

  • Describe a successful negotiation you were involved in. What was your approach, and how did you ensure a positive outcome for all parties?

  • Have you ever had to deal with a conflict between team members? How did you address the situation, and what steps did you take to resolve it?

  • Tell me about a situation where you had to work with a diverse group of colleagues to accomplish a shared goal. How did you collaborate, and what were the outcomes?

  • Describe a time when you had to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. How did you prioritise and manage your time and what were the results?

  • Have you ever faced a setback or failure in a project? How did you react?

For more tips on finding a job, check out our jobseekers' guide.

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Of course, in order to use the STAR technique in your next interview, you first of all need to land your next interview! That's where we can help.

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