career-advice

How to Leverage the STAR Method to Ace Interviews

Matt Glodz
How to Leverage the STAR Method to Ace Interviews

We discuss examples of behavioral interview questions and STAR interview responses

If you've been researching interview preparation techniques, you have probably heard of behavioral interviews.

The primary reasoning behind asking behavioral interview questions is that past behavior and performance is likely to be a strong predictor of how you will perform in the future.

In other words, recruiters want to know how you reacted to certain situations on the job to help them determine whether you would respond appropriately in the role if you were hired.

To help make this assessment, they'll ask questions about situations you have dealt with in the past.

The STAR method allows you to answer situational interview questions in a structured, coherent manner while providing concrete examples of why you would make a good contributor to the team.

What are examples of behavioral interview questions?

You'll know you're being asked a behavioral-based question if you need to draw upon examples from your past to answer it.

Examples of behavioral interview questions include:

  • Can you tell me about a time when you fell behind on project with a tight deadline?
  • Have you ever had to work with other departments on a major initiative?
  • What is an example of an instance where you had to handle a difficult situation with a client?
  • Can you describe a way in which you would handle an underperforming employee?
  • How do you respond you receive negative feedback?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you leveraged data to inform business decisions?

How does the STAR method help?

The STAR Method is a proven structure for answering any behavioral interview question.

While behavioral questions are often open-ended, both the structure and content of your response can reveal a lot about your fit for a role.

Your answers demonstrate not only how you would likely behave on the job but also your thought process and ability to think clearly under pressure.

While you can't predict - or prepare for - every question you might possibly be asked, having a good arsenal of situations to draw upon will improve your confidence and interview performance.

How do I apply the STAR method?

STAR is an acronym for:

Situation

Task

Action

Result

When you are asked a behavioral question, you should answer it using a specific example that allows you to address each of the following four components:

Situation

First, describe a situation you were faced with at work that relates to the question at hand.

Let's consider the following question:

Can you describe a time when you had to resolve a customer issue that was caused by company error?

To provide a simple example that you'll be able to relate to easily, let's think about how a manager of a luxury hotel might answer this question.

To describe his situation, the manager could say something along the lines of:

When I was the General Manager of the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago, I was working the night shift and the hotel was overbooked.

A couple booked a weekend stay at the hotel and their flight arrived late. When they arrived at the hotel, their room was no longer available.

Task

After explaining the situation, describe the specific task you had to accomplish.

If you referred to a project that was a group effort, what was your individual contribution?

In our example, the candidate might say:

I needed to keep the guests calm and quickly find an alternative hotel for them to stay overnight until we could offer them an available room tomorrow.

Action

Outline the action you took to resolve the situation.

This portion of your response will likely be the longest and most detailed, as it allows you to explain how you responded to the situation and how you accomplished the required task.

In the hotel manager's case, he would explain the specific steps he took to find an alternative hotel and keep the couple calm:

First, I apologized to the couple and explained that the hotel was overbooked.

I empathized with them and recognized that they must already be tired at the end of a long day.

Then, I admitted that we were at fault for this situation but promised we would quickly find them an alternative room for the night, call them a cab, and pay for their accommodation and meal costs for the weekend.

In the meantime, I asked the couple if they would like to join us at the bar for a drink, which they accepted.

I called the Four Seasons hotel down the street. I quickly touched base with their front office manager earlier that day when we reached capacity to ask whether they had an additional room available, so they were already aware that we might need to take them up on the offer.

Within half an hour, the couple was on their way to the new hotel and thanked us for our hospitality.

Result

Lastly, explain the result of the actions you took.

In this portion of your response, you tie your actions back to the original question:

Can you describe a time when you had to resolve a customer issue that was caused by company error?

The general manager might say:

I was able to resolve this issue in an effective way, as both my hotel and the couple ended up happy.

The hotel was able to preserve its high-end reputation and avoid any negative backlash on social media and review sites.

The couple received a free weekend stay, and as a result of our effective service recovery, they booked another stay with us two months later.

How can I prepare for behavioral questions in advance?

The best way to prepare for behavioral interview questions is to reflect on your past work experiences and think about specific challenges you had to address.

By having a collection of stories to draw upon, you will be able to adapt them to a variety of questions you might encounter.

Once you have your stories ready, you can research some of the most common interview questions and practice answering them - either by recording your responses, with a friend, or with a career coach.

When you're comfortable that 1) you have enough stories to draw from and 2) you can adapt them to the STAR format, you should feel comfortable walking into the interview!

What are the most common behavioral interview mistakes?

As you’re preparing, keep in mind the following mistakes that candidates often make when answering behavioral questions:

1) Being too vague

If you describe a situation in vague terms without providing any details, the interviewer may assume you are making up a generic story on the spot.

When you discuss situations, make sure to paint a picture for the interviewer. They should be able to envision the situation you’re describing.

If you’re referring to a project, be specific! Tell them what the project was related to and what the expected deliverables were, for example.

If you are speaking about a conflict that occurred when working in a group, provide enough detail on exactly what the conflict was. Don’t simply refer to it as “the conflict.”

2) Including too many irrelevant details

On the other hand, you should only bring up details that are relevant to making your point.

When you refer to a project, you don’t have to walk the interviewers through the entire project step-by-step. Simply focus on the relevant components of the story.

3) Choosing an example that does not apply to the question asked

Oftentimes, interviewees panic and feel the need to start responding to a question immediately.

Remember that it’s okay to ask for a minute to think, if needed.

If you start speaking before taking a moment to compose your thoughts, you may discover that the example you started to explain doesn’t directly answer the interviewer’s question.

Take a moment to run through each component of STAR in your mind before you deliver your response.

While these 15-30 seconds of silence can feel like an eternity at the moment, taking the time to structure your answer can give you the clarity you need to deliver a much more impactful response.

In Summary

You can leverage the STAR technique to help you answer most situational interview questions, leading to positive interview outcomes.

About Resume Pilots

Resume Pilots is an award-winning resume and LinkedIn writing, career coaching, and outplacement firm that works with driven, successful applicants across all major sectors including finance, real estate, law, technology, and marketing.

Its previous clients include CEOs and senior executives at the world’s leading companies. Its UK-based sister company, CV Pilots, was recognized as London’s CV Writing Service of the Year for 2019/20.

For more career-related tips and to learn more about Resume Pilots, visit www.resumepilots.com.


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About the AuthorMatt Glodz


Matt Glodz is the Founder and Managing Partner of Resume Pilots and a Certified Professional Resume Writer.

After studying business communication at Cornell University, Matt worked within Fortune 500 companies, where he noted that qualified candidates were frequently denied interview opportunities due to poorly written documents.

At Resume Pilots, Matt combines his business and writing background - which includes prior work for a Chicago Tribune publication - to craft resumes that give his clients the best chance of landing interviews. He works with clients ranging from CEOs to recent graduates and has been writing resumes for over eight years.


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