THE STAR METHOD
The STAR method is a structured manner of responding to a behavioural-based interview question by discussing the specific situation, task, action, and result of the situation you are describing.
Situation: Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.
Task: What goal were you working toward?
Action: Describe the actions you took to address the situation with an appropriate amount of detail and keep the focus on YOU. What specific steps did you take and what was your particular contribution? Be careful that you don’t describe what the team or group did when talking about a project, but what you actually did. Use the word “I,” not “we” when describing actions.
Result: Describe the outcome of your actions and don’t be shy about taking credit for your behavior. What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn? Make sure your answer contains multiple positive results.
Make sure that you follow all parts of the STAR method. Be as specific as possible at all times, without rambling or including too much information. Oftentimes students have to be prompted to include their results, so try to include that without being asked. Also, eliminate any examples that do not paint you in a positive light. However, keep in mind that some examples that have a negative result (such as “lost the game”) can highlight your strengths in the face of adversity.
SAMPLE STAR RESPONSE:
Situation (S): Advertising revenue was falling off for my college newspaper, The Review, and large numbers of long-term advertisers were not renewing contracts.
Task (T): My goal was to generate new ideas, materials and incentives that would result in at least a 15% increase in advertisers from the year before.
Action (A): I designed a new promotional packet to go with the rate sheet and compared the benefits of The Review circulation with other ad media in the area. I also set-up a special training session for the account executives with a School of Business Administration professor who discussed competitive selling strategies.
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 over the same period last year.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A BEHAVIOURAL INTERVIEW
• Recall recent situations that show favourable behaviours or actions, especially involving course work, work experience, leadership, teamwork, initiative, planning, and customer service.
• Prepare short descriptions of each situation; be ready to give details if asked.
• Be sure each story has a beginning, middle, and an end, i.e., be ready to describe the situation, including the task at hand, your action, and the outcome or result.
• Be sure the outcome or result reflects positively on you (even if the result itself was not favorable).
• Be honest. Don’t embellish or omit any part of the story. The interviewer will find out if your story is built on a weak foundation.
• Be specific. Don’t generalize about several events; give a detailed accounting of one event.
• Vary your examples; don’t take them all from just one area of your life.
SAMPLE BEHAVIOURAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Practice using the STAR Method on these common behavioural interviewing questions:
• Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
• Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
• Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
• Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
• Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone’s opinion.
• Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
• Please discuss an important written document you were required to complete.
• Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
• Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.
• Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split second decision.
• What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.
• Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
• Tell me about a difficult decision you’ve made in the last year.
• Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish and failed.
• Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.
• Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or coworker.
• Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.
• Tell me about a time when you delegated a project effectively.
• Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to solve a problem.
• Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem.
• Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
• Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
• Please tell me about a time you had to fire a friend.
• Describe a time when you set your sights too high (or too low).