The STAR method is a structured approach to answering interview questions that helps you to thoroughly address the interviewer’s concerns. It stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result.
It focuses on questions called behavioral interview questions which often start with “Can you dessscribe a time when you…”
They are designed to test how you would behave in a tricky or high-pressure situation.
By using the STAR method, you can ensure you answer these questions well.
Answer the question in four steps:
- Situation: Describe the situation that you faced.
- Task: Break down the challenges inherent in the situation.
- Action: Describe what steps you took to address the situation. You can talk about strategies, thought processes, and resources used – but make sure you highlight how you took initiative to resolve the situations.
- Result: Describe how your actions led to a good result for the key stakeholders.
By using the STAR method, you can embrace a structured way of working through these tricky questions and demonstrate your strength as an action-tacking and highly effective professional.
STAR Interview Method Examples
1. STAR Example for Sales
Question: Can you give an example of a time when you had to handle a difficult customer?
- Situation: When I worked in a call center, I had a customer who was upset because they had not received their delivery on time.
- Task: My task was to ensure the customer’s issue was addressed and that the customer felt like we cared about them and their needs.
- Action: I apologized for the delay. I got in touch with the delivery company to confirm the issue and started an insurance claim with them. I then offered to expedite a new delivery at no additional cost. I also let them know I would send a gift voucher in the delivery for their toubles.
- Result: The customer saw that I cared about addressing their issue and I was taking action. As a result, they left the phone call satisfied.
2. STAR Example for Teaching
- Situation: I recall a student in my Grade 2 class who was struggling with multiplication.
- Task: My task was to meet the student where she was. I had to assess her prior knowledge and her learning preferences in order to differentiate instruction.
- Action: I quietly sat with the student during individual work in class and observed what she was doing. I realized the blockage was when she was trying to juggle numbers in her mind. To address this, I gave her beads that she could group to visualize the addition in front of her.
- Result: The student used the beads for about a week and eventually she understood the concept in her mind. I tried removing the beads in a class the next week to see if she could do the task independently. She now had the capacity to do the task without scaffolding.
3. STAR Example for Marketing
Question: Can you outline a situation in which you took a higher-level look at a marketing solution and executed it well?
- Situation: In my previous job, my marketing department needed to roll out a new campaign but had barely any budget.
- Task: My task was to come up with a cost-effective way to draw attention to the brand.
- Action: I decided not to work in isolation. Instead, I reached out to influencers who already had the ear of my target market. I asked them to pitch campaign ideas before selecting the three best creative ideas.
- Result: The campaign was a success because I didn’t do things in isolation. I leveraged the creativity of influencers and took the role of campaign director.
4. STAR Example for Nursing
Question: Give me a situation in which you worked with a difficult client and their family and used your situation diffusion skills effectively.
- Situation: I had a patient who was very anxious which caused their family to be constantly intervening and making tough demands.
- Task: I realized that the task was twofold: helping the patient to feel like they were in control and manage the family’s expectations.
- Action: I communicated with the patient and their family about how often I would provide updates. This tempo was once every 4 hours.
- Result: I found that the patient and family’s knowledge of when they would next get information put them at ease and helped them feel like there was structure and a plan.
5. STAR Example for Social Media
Question: Can you give a real-life example of a social media strategy that you have implemented for a small business client?
- Situation: When I worked as a freelancer, I was often contacted by small food bloggers who wanted me to implement a social media strategy that synergized with their website publishing strategy.
- Task: My task was to roll-out instagram, pinterest, and tik tik content that would help draw traffic to new blog posts.
- Action: I asked the client to send me their weekly blog post the Wednesday before the campaign week. Each Wednesday, they would send me the post, and I would go about creating on-brand content for each platform.
- Result: The client reached 10,000 subscribers on each platform within 2 months and had an average 3.5% click-through rate to the blog, increasing traffic by 2,000 readers per week.
6. STAR Example for Engineer
Question: Can you give an example of a time when you’ve needed to use an engineering mindset to solve a complex problem?
- Situation: At university, I was assigned a project to design a machine that would automate the canning of sardines.
- Task: My task was to figure out how to get the arms to re-position cans that had shifted position as they went through the conveyor belt.
- Action: I began by interviewing someone who had done it before. I believe in learning through asking questions. Based on their advice, I worked on a prototype, then tested the prototype with cans of multiple sizes.
- Result: The final design had the capacity to adjust to the shifting of cans as well as multiple different sizes of cans, making it a robust machine that had a very low fail rate.
7. STAR Example for Doctor
Question: Can you give an example of your mindset when making different decisions that might have long-term impacts on the lives of your patients?
- Situation: I had a patient who was experiencing chronic pain behind their eyes. There was a good surgical solution, but it also had a significant chance of failure. Failure may have had bad side-effects.
- Task: My task was to communicate the risks and benefits to the patient and give them all the information they needed to make their own decision. I believe in empowering my patients and making decisions as a team.
- Action: Before meeting with my patient, I pulled together their medical history in order to determine my best professional estimation of the success rate. I also put together a clear-to-understand explanation of the steps I could take to minimize risk of failure.
- Result: The patient decided not to go ahead with the surgery due to the risk factor, but I felt it was a successful result because the patient got the best information to make the best decision for themselves and their family.
8. STAR Example for Real Estate Agent
Question: Can you give a time when you effectively guided clients toward a purchase?
- Situation: I had a young couple who were moving to town to start a new job and they didn’t have a good understanding of the city or its neighborhoods.
- Task: My task was to use my knowledge of the city to find a suburb that would suit their needs.
- Action: I worked closely with the client to figure out their priorities. They highlighted the preference for a good school for their future child and an easy way to get out of town to access nature. I then narrowed down a suitable suburb and presented a range of properties for them.
- Result: I secured the sale for the clients who were over the moon with their purchase and grateful for the personalized and knowledgeable service.
9. STAR Example for Librarian
Question: Can you explain a circumstance in which you got an information request from a client that was challenging, and how did you solve it?
- Situation: I had a client who was looking for information on 17th Century Hindu literature. It was a topic well out of my comfort zone.
- Task: I saw my task to be to use my professional contacts and skills to assist the patron in finding the information. The skills I had included reaching out to other libraries and reaching out to professors.
- Action: I used the databases available to me to search for information on the topic of 17th Century Hindu literature. I couldn’t get anywhere, so I reached out to the history department at the local university. They didn’t have exert knowledge on the topic, but they offered a book from the university library, so I placed an interlibrary loan request.
- Result: The client was able to find the esoteric information about Hinduism through the interlibrary loan request. They were grateful for my efforts and lateral thinking that helped find the text.
10. STAR Example for Manager
Question: Can you give an example of a time when you worked with an unmotivated team and how you tackled this problem?
- Situation: I worked with a team once who had a strong sense of disillusionment with the industry after a long time of seeming directionlessness in our company.
- Task: My task was to use my leadership skills to motivate the team. I wanted them to get intrinsically motivated, not just through external rewards.
- Action: I met individually with team members and consulted them on why they wanted to be in this industry and what their goals were. I used these inspirations, goals, and aspirations as a baseline for assigning new team roles that gave KPIs but also enhanced freedom of decision making.
- Result: The team morale definitely lifted after I did the hard work of focussing on passions and motivations of team members and empowering team members to pursue their passions. This was reflected in a 15% productivity rise the following quarter.
The STAR method isn’t one that you can get perfect the first time. Brainstorm 10 STAR interview method examples for your situations that you might face. Work through how you would answer each so you’re prepared when you’re presented with these tricky behavioral interview questions at the job interview. Good luck!
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]