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How to Use the STAR Method to Ace a Behavioral Interview

Learn how to use the STAR Method to answer behavioral interview questions and increase your chances of getting the job.

Behavioral interview questions are increasingly popular during the interview process, as most hiring managers and recruiters feel that your past behavior is a good indicator of how you will perform in the future. Many candidates are unprepared for these types of questions when entering an interview, and may be thrown without the right practice and preparation. Fortunately, the STAR method is available to help you create simple, to-the-point examples that highlight how the skills you have are the ones the company wants.

Successful candidates prepare several 60- to 90-minute stories from their past that highlight how they were able to deal with tough situations on the job or in their personal lives. To ensure that you are ready for your next interview, we've put together a basic list of how you can prepare by utilizing the STAR method.

Preparing to Use the STAR Method:

Before you are ready to start applying the STAR Method, you must come up with some good examples from your past. Feel free to use volunteer work, educational experience, job experience or even personal issues. Try to keep at least half of your examples centered on professional situations. You also want most of your examples to end positively, although a good failure story can highlight your ability to deal with tough situations.

How do you know which situations to choose? Start with the job description. Study the description and pick out the soft skills that the company wants from an employee. Center your examples on those soft skills. For example, if you are applying for a management position, you are likely to be asked behavioral questions about leadership, and at least one example should be focused on that topic.

While you can use examples you come up with during the interview if you get asked a particularly unique question, it's always better to prepare your stories in advance and practice them before you are asked to give them.

Identifying Situation, Task, Action, and Result:

The STAR Method stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Your first step is to identify the situation that was troublesome or causing a problem. Your second step is to highlight the action you took to resolve the situation. Focus more on your individual efforts during this phase rather than on something you did as a team. The final step in the STAR Method is to describe the results you achieved from the action you took. As mentioned before, these results can be positive or negative, as long as you learned from them.

Keep the discussion of the problem to a minimum, as this tends to be the most negative part of the story. Focus instead on how you took a hard situation and, with the right actions, turned it into something that was beneficial for your team. We've put together some examples below to highlight this idea.

Q: When have you recognized a problem and taken steps on your own to resolve it?

  • • Situation: "A few years back I had a job as an event coordinator in charge of managing several events in the community. As I was analyzing attendance numbers, I noticed that attendance at several popular events had dropped by 20 percent over two years, and I wanted to get us back to where we were at during our peak time."Â
  • • Action: "I took the initiative to design and deliver a new promotional packet to businesses in the community and gathered feedback regarding how to improve the events."Â
  • • Result: "Within the first year of implementing my ideas, attendance at these events increased by 11 percent."Â

Q: How do you keep other team members motivated? Give me an example.

  • • Situation: "During my time as a project manager for a local software company, my team faced a deadline for an important client that I feared we weren't going to make. Team members were lacking in motivation and were stressed from the abundance of extra work."Â
  • • Action: "In order to motivate them and get them invested in the project again, I held a special Saturday meeting to help us complete the project. I brought in a catered lunch and made sure everyone had drinks and snacks throughout the day."Â
  • • Result: "We ended up finishing the project on time and saving our relationship with an important client."Â

Practice, Practice, Practice

You've heard it through every phase of the hiring process, and it's even more important now. Answering behavioral interview questions with the STAR Method is much easier if you have prepared and practiced your answers well before the interview. Prepare your stories, practice them with a mentor or counselor who you trust to give you constructive feedback, and watch how well you nail the interview. With the right amount of preparation and study, you are ready to show how you are the best candidate for the job.

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