The STAR method is a structured way of responding to behavioral interview questions by describing a specific situation, task, action, and result.
Behavioral interview questions are common in job interviews. They often take the form of "Tell me about a time when...", for example, "Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way," or "Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and had to prioritize your tasks."
Steps in the STAR Method
Situation: Describe the situation you were in. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a general description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. The situation can be from a previous job, a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.
Task: What was the challenge or goal in this situation?
Action: Describe the actions you took to address the situation with an appropriate amount of detail and keep the focus on YOU. What steps did you take? What was your 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 "I," not "we," when describing actions.
Result: Describe the outcome of your actions. Don’t be shy about taking credit for your actions. What happened? How did it end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn? If you can report multiple positive results, that's even better.
Make sure you follow all parts of the STAR method. Be as specific as possible at all times without rambling or including too much information. Often students have to be prompted to include their results, so try to include that without being asked. Don't give examples that paint you in a negative light, but be aware that even stories with a negative outcome ("my team lost the game") can still demonstrate your strength in the face of adversity.
Sample STAR Response
Situation (S): "Advertising revenue was falling off for my college newspaper, and large numbers of long-term advertisers were not renewing contracts."
Task (T): "My goal was to generate new ideas, materials and incentives that would result in at least a 15% increase in advertisers from the year before."
Action (A): "I designed a new promotional packet to go with the rate sheet and compared the benefits of the paper's circulation with other ad media in the area. I also set up a special training session for the account executives with a School of Business Administration professor who discussed competitive selling strategies."
Result (R): "We signed contracts with 15 former advertisers for daily ads and five for special supplements. We increased our new advertisers by 20% over the same period last year."
How to Prepare for Behavioral Questions
- Recall recent situations that show favorable behaviors or actions, especially involving course work, 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 end; in other words, be ready to describe the situation, including the task, your action, and the outcome or result.
- Be sure the outcome or result reflects positively on you (even if the result itself was not favorable).
- Be honest. Don't embellish or omit any part of the story. The interviewer can tell if your story has a weak foundation.
- Be specific. Don't generalize about several events; give a detailed account of one event.
- Vary your examples; don’t take them all from just one area of your life.