How to prepare for a job interview using the STAR method
Apr 04, 2022
So you finally landed that long-awaited job interview and now you want to do everything in your power to make sure it goes well. We’ve got some good news and some bad news for you. The bad news is that in an increasingly competitive market, it’s not enough just to memorize everything you’ve done in the past, or to know everything there is to know about the company. You’ll need much more than that to be able to win over the recruiter and to stand out from other candidates. The good news is that there is a method for handling this called STAR, and it’s one that’s been widely proven to work in job interviews. The method helps you to better structure what you’ll say and to highlight your experience. Never heard of it? Let us tell you all about it.
What is the STAR method?
The STAR method is a technique that lets you talk about your experience and show your skills with real examples. It lets recruiters assess your behavior and attitudes when dealing with different work situations. The technique can be used by both recruiters and candidates alike, with more and more companies starting to adopt it.
But how do you use the STAR method? The answer is in the name:
- S for Situation: this is where you describe a professional situation you’ve previously encountered in order to demonstrate that you possess a particular quality or skill.
- T for Task: This is where you talk about your role and responsibilities within the situation you’ve described. You will need to clearly define what your tasks and objectives were.
- A for Action: You’ll then go into detail about all the actions you undertook to accomplish your task, which means talking about all the steps you took to achieve a goal or solve a problem.
- R for Result: You’ll ultimately share the results you achieved by using concrete figures or other results.
How can a candidate benefit from the STAR method?
The STAR method is popular with recruiters thanks to its many advantages: a better-structured interview, a better analysis of the relevance of the candidate’s profile, and impartiality in assessing them. But candidates also have everything to gain by using this technique since the STAR method will help you with all the following:
- Structure what you plan to say around these four points (Situation, Task, Action and Result) so that you give a complete and precise answer without running the risk of spreading yourself too thinly, or straying too far off-topic.
- Lend yourself more credibility by providing concrete examples of your experience and achievements.
- Talk about your skills at the right moment: many candidates don’t know at what point during the interview they should be mentioning a particular experience or quality. The STAR method keeps you from sharing too much or too little information.
- Have freedom to express yourself. Some people find it tricky when it comes to talking about their qualities or achievements. Claiming to be a good manager or knowing how to manage conflict quite well without being actually able to prove it can quickly come across as a lack of humility on your part. The STAR method lets you back up your claims with real, concrete elements.
- Stand out from other candidates. A recruiter who uses the STAR method during an interview gives the candidate a better chance to show off their skills. This way, you can stand out from the competitors who oversell their experience.
Now that you’re convinced how useful this method is, you will want to know how to put it into practice. Here’s a guide.
How to use the STAR method?
No matter what position you’re interviewing for, no matter what industry, no matter how big the company is, you’re bound to encounter the STAR method one day. So you should be prepared. Follow these rules to use it correctly.
Arrive at the interview prepared
Because it requires staying on topic and being precise, you can’t improvise with the STAR method. It won’t do you any good to have prepared if what they’re asking doesn’t match what you want to show. You have no way of being sure in advance exactly what the recruiter will ask you. However, you can prepare a list of situations based on your previous experience, taken from the points that recruiters often try to evaluate in candidates, such as:
- How you work in a team
- Your ability to adapt
- How you handle conflict at work
- How well you learn new information
- Your ability to work independently
- Team management skills
- How you handle complex situations
- Your management of setbacks and professional mistakes
- Your negotiation skills
In addition to these common points, you should also make a list of the specific skills needed for the position you are interviewing for. Always ask yourself what you would have looked for in a candidate if you were in the recruiter’s position.
Knowing when to use the STAR method
The STAR method can be initiated by either you or the recruiter. In the case of the latter, you should be able to recognize the STAR questions because it would be a shame to miss out on them, especially if you’ve prepared your answers well in advance. Don’t panic, you can easily recognize the STAR questions, which often start out with phrases like this:
- “Tell me about a time when…”
- “Give me an example of…”
- “Describe a situation in which you….”
- “Have you ever…”
- “What do you do when…”
Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed
Even if you are well-prepared for the STAR method, you may be surprised by an unexpected question from the recruiter. In this case, you have to be sure not to let yourself become too anxious or stressed or you might lose focus.
Don’t be afraid to ask the recruiters for a few minutes to think about it, which is a perfectly legitimate request. Then use the examples you have prepared, trying to adapt them to what’s been asked. However, be careful not to force the issue; only talk about a situation if you feel it is truly appropriate.
Be clear and precise
The STAR method gives you a good chance to share your accomplishments, but you shouldn’t overwhelm the recruiter with unnecessary details. So it’s crucial to get to the point and avoid going on for too long. The STAR method is designed to be simple. Each of the four points of the method should be contained in two or three sentences, except for the “Action” part, which requires you to explain a bit more. So make sure you give enough information about what exactly you did to carry out your task or achieve your goal. Who did you work with? What specific tools and software did you use?
What exactly does it look like?
Here’s an example of the STAR method in action.
During the interview, the recruiter says, “Tell me about an experience where you achieved a goal you initially thought was unattainable.”
Here’s an example of a STAR response you could give:
- Situation: “In my previous position as a digital marketing project manager, my company had decided to focus primarily on social media and increase the number of subscribers.”
- Task: “My goal was to increase our social media subscriber list by at least 50% in just one semester.”
- Action: “I started by going back to our old blog posts and making content updates that encouraged users to subscribe on Instagram and Facebook, which immediately increased our subscriber numbers. Then I worked with the rest of the marketing team to create new content on a fairly regular basis that was more relevant to our customers’ needs in order to boost interactions.”
- Result: “Thanks to these initiatives, I was able to increase our subscriber list from 25,000 to 40,000 in six months, exceeding our goal by 20%.”
The STAR method isn’t complicated, it just helps you structure what you plan to say. Finally, and above all else, always keep in mind that it’s a method created to let skilled candidates shine. It isn’t intended to trick you or to throw you. Come prepared, keep a cool head, and always take a step back from each question before you answer. That way you can shine using the STAR method.
Photo: Welcome to the Jungle
Translated by Kalin Linsberg
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