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Everyone gets nervous for job interviews. What if you get asked a difficult question or what if you’re having a hard time finding words? Learn to use the STAR-method and there’s no question that can shake you up. In fact, your answers will be convincing and to the point. That’s exactly what you aim to offer your conversation partner: the assurance and proof that the best candidate is sitting right in front of them.

How to recognize the STAR-method during a job interview

Many recruiters and HR-staff use the STAR-method. So how can you recognize whether they are? Easy: the questions they ask often start with:

Tell me about a time when…

Have you ever…

Name an example of…


STAR: Situation – Task – Action – Result

STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action and Result. By applying the STAR-method you can be certain that your skills and abilities stand out in the job interview. It helps you formulate excellent answers so make sure to keep the four letters in mind when discussing your characteristics and show your interviewer that you came well prepared.

The interviewer expects you to talk about a situation or challenge in which you were confronted with your own limits.

The interviewer wants to know what you wanted to achieve regarding this situation.

The interviewer wants you to explain what you did, why you did it and whether there were alternatives.

Wat results did your actions lead to? Did you meet your objectives? Were you satisfied? What did you learn?

Answering questions using STAR

Now you know what STAR means, it’s time to apply the method during your job interview. Follow these steps to provide the best STAR-answers:

#1 Look for concrete examples

The STAR method won’t do you any good if the situation you’re referencing is irrelevant. It’s crucial to use appropriate experiences from your career. Make sure you’re aware of three qualities that are essential to the position you are interviewing for and think of examples you can reference to.

There is no way to know exactly what questions the interviewer is going to ask, so it’s wise to keep some stories and examples in mind that can be used for different questions.

Think of several of your successes at previous jobs and contemplate on how you can discuss them using the STAR method. Practice this for a couple of different typical STAR questions the interviewer might ask.

#2 Explain the situation

After having picked the experience you want to discuss, it’s time to describe the situation. It’s tempting to involve all sorts of details, especially when you’re nervous, but keep it concise and concentrate only on what is relevant. Your goal is to paint a clear picture about the situation you found yourself in and to stress the complexity of it. This way, the result you cite later will seem even better.

The STAR method is meant to be simple. Use only a couple sentences for every letter of STAR.

Suppose the intervierwer asks: “Can you give me an example of how you dealth with an angry customer?”

Answer (situation): “I was working as a sales representative at an electronics shop that sells and repairs both new and used electronics and appliances. One day a customer wanted to have the keyboard of his computer repaired, because coffee was spilled on it and it stopped working. Because he bought his computer used, this accident wasn’t covered by the warranty. The customer misunderstood the warranty policy and came to our store expecting to have it repaired or replaced at no charge.

#3 Emphasize the task

You’re telling this story because you were involved in it. The ‘task’ part of SMART can easily be confused with the ‘action’ part. However, before you talk about what you did it’s crucial to describe your role and your responsibilities as well as your goal in this scenario.

Answer (task): “my responsibility was to solve the customer’s problems while staying withing my means. So I told him that I was sorry the coffee got spilled on his keyboard and tried to walk him through the details of the warranty policy, but he got upset quickly.”

#4 Explain how you took action

The interviewer now has an idea of wat your part in the story was. It’s time to explain how you took action. Which steps did you take to reach that goal you were aiming for, or to solve that problem?

This is your opportunity to really emphasize how you contributed. Be specific! Have you worked with a special team? Used particular software? Made a detailed action plan? These are the things your interviewer wants to know.

Answer (action): “I did not argue with him over warranty, but I assured him we would do anything we could to help him get it fixed. Company policy didn’t allow free repairs without warranty, so I e-mailed him a coupon for 50% discount that he could immediately use in the store for the repair. This calmed him down and he seemed happy with the compromise.”

#5 The result

It’s your time to shine! Explain how your actions made the difference. Don’t forget: your interviewer wants to know what you did as well as why it was important. Make sure your obtained results are clear and quantify them if possible. Numbers are powerful.

Answer (result): “A few weeks later the customer visited the store again, this time with his wife. They were looking for a new laptop and he specifically asked for me while informing my colleague that I was so helpful the last time.”

Bonus: redirect

When you’ve mastered the STAR-method and are ready for more you can include an analysis of the results. Mention what the results taught you and how you converted these lessons into improvement.

25 frequently asked STAR questions in job interviews!

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