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How can the STAR method help you answer interview questions

Not sure how to show an interviewer you have a competency that is required for the job? Do you struggle to give precise answers in an interview? Not sure what the recruiter wants to hear when asking about an experience at work from the past? The STAR interview response method can help you structure your answers when responding to behavioural based questions.
Joyce Schultz

Joyce Schultz

Recruitment Analyst
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Two people are wondering, what is the STAR method

After passing the online assessment centre, the interview is the next big thing to tackle! There are some usual interview questions you can get, like “Why should we hire you?“, “What are your greatest strengths?” or perhaps “What are your biggest weaknesses?“. In this article, I focus on one of the hardest sets of questions, the behavioral-based questions, and how you can give structured answers to them thanks to the STAR method!

And of course, questions can go the other way around! Make sure in the end of the interview to also ask the recruiter smart questions to further showcase your suitability.

What are behavioral-based questions?

Behavioral or experience-based questions are based on the idea that past behavior can predict future action. Interviewers ask questions about how job situations were handled in the past. What the interviewer wants to hear with those questions is a story of how and why you did something. The goal is to understand how your previous actions can show specific knowledge, skills, and abilities required for that particular position.


Examples of behavioral-based questions:

  • Tell me about a goal you set and reached and how you achieved it. (time management)
  • Tell me about a time when you had to be creative to solve a problem. (adaptability)
  • Can you give me an example of a time when you felt dissatisfied with your work? (motivation and values)
  • Tell me about a time when you had to say “no.” (communication)
  • Tell me about a time when you collaborated with others who were different than you. (teamwork)
  • Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a supervisor. (conflict resolution)

You need to make an extensive research about the company and understand their culture is a good way to prepare for these questions. Do they favour team work or single accomplishments? Do they prefer open and clear communication or have a more careful approach? Once you have this information, you can then look for examples from your life which would reflect their working style.

How can you apply the STAR interview method when answering these questions?

Let’s start by the definition. The STAR Method is a technique used by interviewers to gather all the relevant information about a specific capability that a certain job requires.

It has a straightforward format and is divided into 4 sections:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result


Situation

If the recruiter is asking about an example in which you showed and proved your leadership skills, think of one you had in the past, which had a positive outcome. It doesn’t need to be work-related as long as it is relevant.
Give the interviewer enough context about the situation. Remember to include: who, what, where, when and how.

  • Example: “In my last role as team leader, there was a point in time when my team was short-staffed and facing a significant backlog of work. The managers were setting unrealistic deadlines, which was causing stress for my team. We were under a lot of pressure to increase productivity”

Task

Describe the task / responsibility you had in that situation. Keep it specific but concise. Make sure to highlight any specific challenges you faced.

  • Example: “As a team leader, it was my role not only to ensure I set up reasonable deadlines /workload for my team and kept my team motivated, but also that the targets that were unrealistic, considering we were understaffed, were adjusted together with the management.”


Action

This is the part where you describe exactly what you did. How did you complete the task you were assigned?

This part of your answer requires the most in depth description as this is what largely indicates your fitness for a role (initiative, teamwork, leadership, dedication, etc.)

  • Example: “I set up a formal process including a project timeline/workload distribution among other teams that helped set better expectations. I scheduled weekly meetings with the managers to discuss my team stress levels and share progress updates. I also kept my team informed of the new processes so they knew issues were being addressed.”


Result

Share what the outcome of the situation was and how you specifically contributed to that outcome. What did you accomplish? What did you learn? What were the results of your actions?

  • Example: “By providing more transparency into my team’s processes and setting better expectations with the managers, we were able to re-prioritize the tasks and complete everything in our backlog. With the new project timeline/work distribution we were able to complete our tasks 2 days ahead of schedule for the following month.I learned just how important it is to communicate clearly across teams.”

Summary

Recruiters have many questions to choose from, and some of the most famous ones are the behavioral interview questions. But what are these exactly and how can you give the best answers? That’s exactly how the STAR technique will help you show you have the right capabilities for the startup job!

In the beginning, the STAR interview process for answering behavioral interview questions might seem very difficult to implement. But with practice, it will feel a lot more natural and you will become more comfortable over time. Also, make sure your answers are honest and share only positive results!

Consider writing your examples down and practice saying them out loud. Having at least three to five experiences will ensure you are able to deliver a confident and precise response no matter what the question is.

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