During a job interview you’ll be tasked with describing past experiences and accomplishments in a way that is not only relevant to the job you’re applying for, but that also highlights your skills and sets you apart from other candidates. In order to provide clear, concise answers to interview questions, candidates will often employ the STAR method. STAR is an acronym that stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Here’s how you can use the STAR method to make a great impression and increase your chances at landing a job.
The first step of the STAR method requires you to provide context for the interviewer. This could be a particularly difficult scenario or challenge you faced at work, or perhaps a major project you completed in school. Here, you want to make sure the situation you’re describing is relevant to the question the interviewer is asking. You’ll spend the least amount of time on this step, as it is intended to set the stage for the rest of the STAR method. Here is an example for you to work off of:
“During my time at [Company Name], we faced a major challenge in streamlining and improving our customer support process due to an increase in questions and concerns following a new product launch.”
Next, expand upon the first step by providing further details, such as the goal you were trying to accomplish and your role in the process. The purpose of this step is to demonstrate your ability to understand a task and how your role and skills might apply to it. Building off of our previous example, here is the “task” portion of the STAR method at work:
“My role was to reevaluate and optimize our customer support workflow in order to compensate for the increase in customer contact.”
This “action” step of the STAR method is arguably the most important. This is your opportunity to talk about the steps you took to solve the problem or achieve the goal, while also highlighting your skills and abilities. You should spend the most time on this step, ensuring that you place special emphasis on your contributions. Here is an example to help you get started:
“I set up a series of meetings with the customer support team in order to gain further insight into the issues and challenges they were facing. These meetings helped me to identify customers’ key pain points and certain weak spots in our process that needed improvement. My approach consisted of providing enhanced training for the support team, streamlining communication channels, and introducing a CRM (customer relationship management) tool to our customer support process.”
The final component to the STAR method is rather self-explanatory. For the “result” portion, you’re looking to explain how your actions led to a positive outcome. As always, quantifiable examples are the most effective, so use them whenever possible. It’s also important to include any lessons or new skills you learned throughout the process. Check out this example of a “result” that includes quantifiable examples:
“As a result, our customer support response time improved by 30%, which led to a 20% increase in customer satisfaction scores. The customer support team adapted quickly to the new processes, and we were able to effectively manage the increased volume of customer inquiries. All of this contributed to a successful product launch, and we all realized how a little communication can go a long way.”
Putting it All Together
When applying to jobs, read the descriptions very carefully. Keeping the STAR method in mind, imagine how you can use it to describe real-life situations in which you used skills that are relevant to the role in question. A great way to learn to use the STAR method effectively is by studying common interview questions based on your industry, and setting up some practice interviews.
It’s important to remember that you don’t want to ramble on when answering interview questions. Be mindful of how much time you have, include only what is necessary, and speak slowly and clearly. If you’re having trouble, take a moment and think about which step of the STAR method you’re on—it would be far better to pause for a few seconds to gather your thoughts than stumble through your story.
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