You got the interview! Your resume shows you already have the skills and experience the employer needs. Nerves will not hinder your big day because we are here to help with a strategy to answer behavioral interview questions: the STAR method.
Let’s talk about:
- What is the STAR method
- How to prepare to use the STAR method in an interview
- How to use the STAR method
- STAR method sample answers
- The PAR method as an alternative
- Tips for using the STAR method
- And how to use the STAR method in your resume and cover letter
What is the STAR method
The STAR method is a technique to answer interview questions. It is an acronym for “Situation-Task-Action-Result.” It is particularly effective with behavioral interview questions, yet it can be used with any questions that require storytelling to highlight what you bring to the table. This method structures your answers to ensure you’re highlighting job-relevant skills and showcase how you used them.
How does it work? It shows you what to include and the order, giving your answer a beginning, middle and end. In simple terms:
- Situation — This was the problem.
- Task — This was my role or responsibility when said problem came up.
- Action — This is what I did to solve the problem.
- Result —This was the successful outcome of my actions.
Using the STAR method in an interview helps hiring managers learn about who you are as a candidate. Your resume tells them you have the skills; your STAR method answers will tell them how effectively you used said skills.
How to prepare to use the STAR method in an interview
Before the interview, take the time to prepare for STAR interview questions:
- Researching a potential employer: This is a key step throughout the job-seeking process and will come in handy during an interview. You can specify, “As I’ve read in the news…” or “I saw on your website…” to show you are prepared.
- Tailor your answer to the employer’s keywords: Keep the job description handy by saving or screenshotting it, and use it to determine which skills must be mentioned during the interview.
- Writing down your potential answers: The STAR method will help you structure your answer, but it won’t work if you don’t remember. Use a notebook or paper with a few keywords to quickly remind yourself what you want to mention.
How to use the STAR method during an interview
To use the STAR method, keep the acronym in mind. Be clear and concise. You can use phrases to incorporate the STAR format into your answer to keep track of your story, for example:
- “The situation was…”
- “The issue we were facing…”
- “The problem we tackled…”
- ”In my role as a…”
- “I was responsible for…”
- “I was working as…”
- “I led…”
- “We decided…”
- “I began…”’
- “I researched and concluded we could…”
- “As a result,…”
- “The outcome was…”
Let’s take a look at how to use the STAR method of interviewing step-by-step:
Describe the situation Set the scene and explain the issue you faced. The employer needs to know what prompted you to use your skills. Stay on topic and avoid unnecessary details.
Let’s say the employer asked, “Can you describe a time when you had to solve a complex problem in your previous role as a software engineer?” You could say, “My team was working on a project for a major client and encountered a complex issue that was crashing the system repeatedly. We needed to quickly resolve the issue to ensure a timely delivery date.”
Define your task Explain your role at the time of the problem. Simply state your position and provide a quick overview of your responsibilities concerning the issue. No need to use a long description, a simple “As a software engineer, I was a team leader and had to minimize any potential timeline impact.”
Discuss the action Now that the employers know what the problem was and why you were involved, it’s time to let your skills shine. For example, “I conducted an in-depth analysis of the code to determine the root cause of the issue. Then, I met with the team to identify potential solutions. Over the next several days, I worked closely with the development team to implement the necessary changes while ensuring that we maintained a high level of quality in our work. I prioritized regular code reviews and testing to catch any issues early on in the process and made sure that all stakeholders were kept up to date on our progress.”
In the answer, you’re showing your independent thinking, leadership, decision making, coding expertise and adaptability skills you know this employer needs. Whether you find them during your research or from the job description, ensure your “Action” includes your strongest job-relevant skills.
Share the results Like the task, this outcome should be a simple answer letting the employer know that your skills worked and you were able to find a solution to the problem. For example, “We were able to resolve the issue successfully while delivering the project on time. The client was extremely satisfied with our work and decided to hire the company for a future project.”
The STAR method is made to shine a light on your potential. This is why it is important to use positive examples. If you have an example with a negative outcome that still highlights your skills, you can use it by framing it in a positive light. For example, you learned a new skill to help your career, you showed your resilience under duress, or your failed attempt at a solution helped find another more pressing issue and so on.
Concerned about your lack of experience as a student or recent graduate? Are you new to the job market and learning how to make a resume with no experience? Use examples from your academic career, extracurricular activities or internships to answer. For example, recall the time during a group project when you needed to take action with an uncooperative classmate, and how you handled multiple deadlines as a graduating senior and newspaper editor with a part-time job.
Use the PAR method as an alternative
If you have a great example to showcase your skills, but your role or task is not clear, turn to the PAR method. It is similar to STAR method,yet with the PAR method, your answer would mostly focus on your actions with no need to consider your role.
The approach is similar. PAR is another acronym that stands for:
This method can be particularly useful for students, recent graduates and those entering the job market. In other words, candidates who have the skills but may lack the experience for industry-related examples. Like the STAR method, the PAR method provides a guide to structure your answer and highlight your capabilities.
For example, to answer “Give an Example of How You Applied Knowledge From Previous Coursework to a Project in Another Class” you could say:
- Problem: In my current semester, I was assigned a project in Business Analytics that required me to apply knowledge from my previous coursework in Information Systems.
- Action: First, I reviewed my notes and assignments from the Information Systems course to identify key concepts that could be applied to the current project. Then, I consulted with my professor and classmates to gain additional insights and perspectives on how to approach the project. Additionally, I conducted further research and read relevant literature related to Business Analytics to deepen my understanding and identify potential solutions.
- Results: I was able to apply the knowledge and skills learned in Information Systems to the Business Analytics project effectively. Specifically, I was able to apply my understanding of database management systems to design a comprehensive data analysis plan. I also used my understanding of business processes and system architecture to develop a cohesive solution that met the project requirements and addressed the underlying business needs.
STAR method sample answers
Now that you understand the STAR method better, let’s see it in action. While your interview will be in a conversational setting, we’ve broken down each answer into four steps of the STAR method technique.
Situation: During a busy shift in the emergency room, I managed multiple patients with varying degrees of need, all while ensuring that each patient received timely and appropriate care. With limited resources and a constant influx of patients, I needed to be able to manage my time effectively and prioritize tasks accordingly.
Task: My task was to juggle multiple deadlines and ensure that each patient received the care they needed promptly and appropriately.
Action: To manage multiple patients effectively, I first assessed each patient’s needs and prioritized my tasks based on the urgency of each situation. I communicated effectively with the other nurses and doctors on my team to ensure we were all on the same page regarding each patient’s care plan. Additionally, I used organizational tools such as notepads and checklists to keep track of each patient’s status and progress.
Result: As a result of my careful planning and effective time management skills, I was able to juggle multiple deadlines successfully and provide excellent care to all of my patients. I received positive feedback from patients and colleagues on my ability to handle busy shifts easily and professionally.
Situation: In my previous teaching position, I noticed that many of my students were struggling with a particular math concept, despite my efforts to explain it in different ways. I knew that I needed to find alternative teaching methods to help my students better understand the concept.
Task: I had to research different teaching methods and develop a new strategy to help my students understand the math concept more effectively.
Action: I consulted academic journals and textbooks on math education to understand better the learning process and how students can best be supported. I also engaged in discussions with other teachers and experts in the field to gain insights and perspectives. Based on my research, I developed a new teaching strategy that incorporated hands-on activities and visual aids to supplement traditional instruction.
Result: My students began to understand the math concept more effectively. They became more engaged in class and more confident in their abilities, which improved their performance overall. Additionally, my colleagues and administrators recognized my initiative and ingenuity in addressing the problem.
Situation: At my previous restaurant job, there was a policy that all waitstaff was required to wear a specific uniform, including a branded polo shirt and khaki pants. While I appreciated the desire for a professional appearance, I found the outfit unflattering and uncomfortable.
Task: Despite my reservations about the uniform, I recognized the importance of conforming to company policies and presenting a consistent image to customers. I knew my job depended on adhering to these standards, regardless of my personal preferences.
Action: To comply with the policy, I wore the appropriate uniform whenever I was on shift. I even went a step further and found ways to make the uniform more comfortable, such as investing in high-quality, breathable fabrics and finding the right size and fit.
Result: By conforming to the uniform policy, I maintained a professional appearance and presented a consistent image to customers. Furthermore, I demonstrated my commitment to the company’s values and policies, which helped build trust and respect with my colleagues and superiors.
Situation: At previous job as a customer service representative, I received a call from an angry customer who had just received a damaged product. The customer was demanding an immediate refund and wanted to speak to a manager.
Task: As the first point of contact for the customer, it was my responsibility to deescalate the situation, find a solution, and satisfy the customer while maintaining the company’s policies and procedures.
Action: I took a deep breath, actively listened to the customer’s concerns, and empathized with their frustration. I reviewed the company’s return policy and offered a replacement product that would be shipped overnight at no additional cost. I also escalated the issue to the manager, who contacted the customer directly to further address their concerns.
Result: The customer was satisfied with the solution and thanked me for resolving the issue quickly and professionally. The company was able to retain the customer’s business and avoid negative reviews or social media backlash.
Situation: In my previous job, I worked closely with a coworker who had a different work style and approach than mine. This led to conflicts and disagreements on how to approach certain tasks.
Task: As a team, we were responsible for completing a project that required collaboration and effective communication, despite our conflicting work styles.
Action: To address the conflict, I initiated a conversation with my coworker to listen to their perspective, express my concerns, and find common ground. During the conversation, we identified our strengths and weaknesses and how we could complement each other’s skills. We also established clear expectations, boundaries, and deadlines for our tasks, and established a communication plan to keep each other informed of progress and roadblocks.
Result: We were able to complete the project on time and meet our goals effectively by addressing the conflict and finding a resolution that worked for both of us. Additionally, we developed a stronger working relationship and mutual respect for each other’s work styles and abilities.
- Describe a Project or Situation that Best Demonstrates Your Analytical Ability
- Tell Me About a Time When You Missed a Deadline for a Project
- Describe a Time When You had to Use Your Written Communication Skills to Get an Important Point Across
- Clients Can Be Difficult. Describe a Situation When You Had to Handle a Difficult Client
- Tell Me About a Time When You Failed to Meet a Deadline
- We Can Sometimes Identify a Small Problem and Fix It Before It Becomes a Major Problem.
STAR method in your resume and cover letter
The STAR method can also be a useful tool when writing your resume and cover letter to showcase your skills and experience. Consider the most common interview questions when building your resume and cover letter. Include accomplishments you’d like to highlight during an interview as well as hard and soft skills relevant to the next step in your career.
If you’re not sure how to write a resume or how to write a cover letter, remember to use action verbs from the job description as well as resume keywords to catch the hiring manager’s attention and pass the ATS test. Wondering how a professional resume for your industry looks like? Find a sample in the resume examples page and build your own resume, CV and cover letter in our builders.
Make a resume with
My Perfect Resume
Our Resume builder can help you write the perfect resume. Start Now!
Tips for using the STAR method
- Avoid unnecessary details. The STAR method is designed to focus on delivering a message: how you used your skills.
- Practice with a trusted person. Reach out to friends or colleagues to take your answers for a test drive. Ask for their feedback to improve your responses.
- Go for quality examples and include quantifiable accomplishments in your outcome whenever possible.
- Include the skills in your resume and cover letter in your answers.
- Take your time. There is no need to rush during an interview. If you need a few moments to collect your thoughts, do it.
STAR method key takeaways
- The STAR method stands for “Situation-Task-Action-Result” and it is a technique to answer interview questions.
- In interviews, use the STAR method to structure your answer to differentquestions, particularly behavioral questions and other open-ended questions.
- To use the STAR interview technique, prepare by researching the employer and practicing with a trusted person.
- You can also use the STAR method as you write a resume and cover letter. In your resume, use it to shape your career statement and accomplishments. In a cover letter, use it in your body paragraphs to highlight your skills and experience.
- Always personalize your STAR interview answer to the employer’s needs and include quantifiable achievements.
- When your task or role is unclear, choose the alternative PAR method, which stands for “Problem-Action-Result.”
Make a cover letter with
My Perfect Resume
Our Cover letter builder can help you write the perfect cover letter. Start Now!
STAR method FAQ
Why is the STAR method a powerful structure to use when answering behavioral interview questions?
The STAR method interview helps:
- Structure your answer to include all the relevant information while keeping you in the best light.
- Ease your nerves by clearly explaining what you’re trying to say.
- Keep you on track by focusing solely on the answer to the question.
When is it most appropriate to use the STAR method to answer an interview question?
The STAR method is perfect for behavioral questions, yet it is also effective for answers that require examples, like open-ended questions. It helps guide you and keep your focus on answering accurately. This method helps structure your answers to include your skills and how you successfully used them, which gives the employer an idea of who you are as an employee.
How can I tailor my STAR responses to different types of interview questions?
When you start the employment-seeking process, you’ll have to research the company. Using their website, news and job description, you’ll learn more about their values and what they seek in a potential employee. This information will come in handy throughout the entire process, from writing a resume to securing the job.
This research will also help you tailor your STAR interview answers during the interview. Before the big day, come up with examples of achievements in your professional or academic career to showcase your strongest, job-related skills.
Can the STAR method be used for group or panel interviews?
Absolutely! The STAR interview method structures your answers regardless of the interviewing technique. As long as you’re asked a question that requires storytelling, you can use the STAR method.
How we reviewed this article
Since 2013, we have helped more than 15 million job seekers. We want to make your career journey accessible and manageable through our services and Career Center’s how-to guides and tips. In our commitment to bring you a transparent process, we present our Editorial Process.