Getting started with the STAR method for interviews
So you’ve sent in your application, you’ve gotten through the first steps and now you’ve heard back…you’re up for an interview! This is where people often start to panic. We want to make sure we put our best self out there and showcase our strengths without going overboard on singing our own praises too aggressively.
It’s hard to find the balance between letting a potential employer know you’d be a great fit and making sure you aren’t downplaying your achievements to the point that your interviewers aren’t aware of all your hard work in your previous position. Instead of getting caught up in the chaos of the moment, it’s best to be prepared and ready to answer questions with real-life, concrete examples of the hard work you’ve done.
The STAR method is made up of four steps to help you answer questions in a way that’s balanced, honest and logical. With the STAR method you can explain your hard work in a structured and concise manner to your interviewer no matter what the question.
The STAR method:
1st step: S = Situation (Describe the situation: general/specific)
2nd step: T = Task (What approach did you use?)
3rd step: A = Action (What action did you take?)
4th step: R = Result (What was the result of your action?)
To prep for an interview using the STAR method, it’s best to create a list of your previous successes and accomplishments at work. Did you come up with a plan that improved efficiency at work? Did you solve a misunderstanding with your communication skills? Where did you take initiative or take a leadership role at work? What skills did you acquire? What were the challenges you tackled successfully? Now that you’ve thought about your strong points, come up with concrete examples that showcase these strengths.
Now that you’re ready to illustrate both the situation you were in, the task you were faced with and the technique you used to approach the challenge, describe the situation using the concrete examples you came up with beforehand (steps 1 and 2). The more specific the better for an interview. Finally, describe the actions you took within this situation (step 3) - the skills you utilized, the problems you solved, the approach you took, etc. The last step is explaining to your interviewer the results of the action you took within the situation (step four).
Once you’ve practiced the STAR method and come up with your examples, you’ll be more prepared to answer questions in your interview that reflect your hard work and success in a tangible way rather than being caught off guard and feeling unprepared. We’ll end with an example:
#1 & #2 Situation/Task (ST):
Advertising revenue was falling off for my college newspaper, the California Tech, and large numbers of long-term advertisers were not renewing contracts.
#3 Action (A):
I designed a new promotional packet to go with the rate sheet and compared the benefits of Tech circulation with other ad media in the area. I also set-up a special training session for the account executives with an economics/marketing professor who discussed competitive selling strategies.
#4 Result (R):
We signed contracts with 15 former advertisers for daily ads and five for special supplements. We increased our new advertisers by 20 percent [quantities are always good] over the same period last year.