Do you have a knack for telling stories? When you tell a story or recall an event, do you get the details right or end up rambling and forgetting something you were about to say? Now, imagine going blank during an interview or forgetting what you were about to say. Stressful, isn’t it?
But what if you could stay calm during a job interview and weave stories? What if you could discuss an anecdote in detail without forgetting the key takeaways? Yes! It is entirely possible! All you need to do is learn the STAR interview method.
What Is The STAR Interview Method?
You are not alone in your struggle to remain calm during interviews and keep your nerves intact. It is normal for people to go blank in an interview room due to stress. This is where the STAR interview method comes in.
It is simply an interview technique that helps you structure anecdotes you can use during interviews. Here is a breakdown of this method:
While these four components look easy enough, they are instrumental in helping you come up with a focused answer during your interview. It also helps you tell a story that is believable and compelling and helps you land the job you have applied for.
What Kind Of Questions Can You Use The STAR Interview Method For?
The STAR method is generally used to share anecdotes or stories about your life. It can also help answer questions asked in behavioral interviews. You can implement this in situations where you have to give real-life examples or talk about how you handled a certain situation or challenge.
These are some of the typical questions where you can implement this method:
- What is your go-to response when…?
- Discuss a time when…
- Have you ever…?
- Describe, in detail, a situation…
- Provide an example of…
When you are asked such kind of questions, your first response is to come up with an example. But there is a lot more to it. Instead of just telling a bland story, you need to make things interesting with details and easy language. This helps you get your point across.
So, practice the STAR interview questions and answers for a better chance of being hired.
How To Prepare For A STAR Interview
The STAR interview method might just be the answer to all your prayers if you tend to get nervous and forget things during interviews. This is why you should prepare beforehand and get some practice before you appear in front of the recruiter.
Below are some STAR interview tips that could help you land the job of your dreams.
1. Go Through The Job Description
Something that most people forget is that the job posting you apply to has useful information. It tells you what the recruiter is looking for. As a result, you are prepared for relevant questions.
Take some time out to think about the skills and qualities that go with the role. Then, pick and choose stories from your past and decide on those that highlight your best traits.
For example, if you have applied for a role that requires you to deal with clients, you can share a story about the time you handled a difficult situation as a customer service representative.
2. Choose Your Best Stories
The STAR method interview prep guide also says that your anecdotes should have meaning and be relevant to the role you are applying for. While there is no way of knowing the questions that the interviewer will ask, you can be prepared for all situations.
This is only possible if you prepare a couple of stories related to different situations. Then, you will only need to tweak them during the interview and ensure it answers the question that the interviewer is asking.
It is quite common for recruiters to ask you about a situation where you overcame a challenge or worked as a team. So, be sure to have real-life examples for these situations.
3. Pen Down Important Details
You should make a cheat sheet or some notes during your interview preparation so that you can learn them by heart. For every anecdote you are thinking of using, write down a couple of key points. Try to add numbers in the story too.
4. Practice Telling Stories
The STAR interview technique can assist you in being better prepared for interviews, but you need help to perfect your delivery. If you want the storytelling to be smooth, try to give answers in front of a mirror.
But remember to talk through your answers. This will ensure that your stories do not feel rehearsed but sound natural.
5. Stay Calm And Do Not Rush
It is okay to feel nervous before and during your interview. If you start to struggle at any point, do not be afraid to take a breather. Take some time to think about your answer instead of launching right into the story and forgetting the key takeaways.
Star Interview Method Examples
Below are some real examples of the star interview method. Do you think you can answer these? Try practicing in front of the mirror or with a friend to track your progress, and be sure to take a look at the sample answers too.
1. Which achievement are you most proud of?
S – “When I was a manager at Cafe X, we would always get a lot more customers than usual during the summer. It would almost always be packed, and sometimes, there were not enough servers to handle the work. And if someone got sick or unexpectedly could not show up – things were only worse.”
T – “So, I had to come up with a system so that we would not get overwhelmed during those 3+ months.”
A – “To make sure we were prepared, I realized we needed a better schedule. For the next summer, I had a very strict shift schedule ready and a reward system in case someone couldn’t show up for their shift. If someone called in sick, whoever filled in for them would be rewarded with extra pay. And if there was absolutely no one else available, I would personally fill in for them instead.”
R – “Overall, the summer went pretty smoothly with minimal accidents. We didn’t get ANY negative reviews on TripAdvisor for the summer (whereas for the summer before that, we had several for slow service).”
2. How do you accomplish tasks under pressure? Is there a method you follow?
S – “Sure! To give you some context, during university, I had very limited financial aid, and my parents couldn’t help co-pay the rest of the tuition. So, while studying, I also had to work to pay for the university. At the same time, I also took up a lot of extracurricular activities (and internships when possible) to get as much professional work experience as possible before graduating.”
T – “To keep up with the workload, I realized I had to manage my time very efficiently. So, I set up Google Calendar and got a personal notepad for my daily tasks and responsibilities.”
A – “Through hard work and dedication, I managed to balance studying, a part-time job, and all extracurricular activities. Sure, it was pretty tiring at times, but by the end of each day, I would always go over and edit my calendar for the rest of the week. This way, I knew pretty much everything I had to get done daily and never missed an assignment or a deadline either!”
R – “In the end, I graduated with a 3.7 GPA, no student loans, and a personal design portfolio which landed me my first real job at Company X within a month of graduating.
3. Discuss a time when you and a coworker had a conflict. How did you solve the issue?
S – “Yep! During my internship at Company X, my team and I was supposed to work together and brainstorm new talent-sourcing ideas for a client. The client was a large supermarket chain located in a very rural area, so they were struggling to source new talent. ”
T – “Basically, our task was to meet on a daily basis, brainstorm, and finally settle on 3 great ideas. After a couple of meetings, we did have SOME ideas, but none of them were too exceptional. The management wanted something that they could confidently present to the client (that would, for sure, drive results for them).
Some of my teammates wanted to just give up, say, “well, here are our ideas; we don’t have anything else!” and be done with it. Me and another teammate, however, wanted to work on it a bit more and come up with something that WOULD work.
There was a LOT of back and forth from there, the tensions were high, and the team kept shutting down all the ideas we were proposing. The deadline was super close, and we had to figure out a way to move forward.”
A – “So, I gave it some thought and realized that we’d forever be in a deadlock if we continued like this. They wouldn’t agree with our approach, and we wouldn’t agree with theirs. So, we decided to bring in an unbiased third party who didn’t have any emotional investment here.
We then conducted a longer meeting without any time restraints (so we’d get everything done ASAP in a single meeting), where we went through each idea one by one, and the third party acted as a sort of mediator. When someone pitched something, they also had to back it up with as many facts as possible. Otherwise, it wouldn’t count.”
R – “This really helped bring something new to the table. The “mediator” helped sort through all the bad ideas, as well as infusing the team with some new energy.
We eventually DID end up coming up with completely original ideas, which were also something we all agreed upon. We finished the meeting in approx. 2 hours, and the management had 3 awesome ideas they could pitch to the client. The client DID implement one of the ideas, which eventually resulted in 3 new hires.”
4. Have you ever been faced with an unexpected challenge? How did you handle it?
S – “One time, while preparing for a presentation at a conference for Company X, one of our guest speakers had to unexpectedly cancel due to an emergency. We found out only a few hours before the event, and there was now a 1-hour gap in our schedule we had to fix.”
T – “So, we didn’t have a lot of time and had to somehow fill up the time slot to keep the event going.”
A – “As one of the main event organizers and community managers at the company, I decided to take initiative. Instead of the guest speaker, I wanted to present our CEO as the speaker instead – which was definitely a possibility because he was working behind the scenes as well. I personally spent an hour working with him one-on-one, trying to get him to transform his decade’s worth of experience into a presentation. With 30 minutes to spare, everything was ready to go, and all that was left was to present.”
R – “From the one 1 hour gap, the speech lasted about 45 minutes, and for the rest of the 15 minutes, we took some questions from the audience. After that, everything continued on track, and most of the audience members loved the presentation.”
5. Talk about a time when you experienced failure. What lessons did you learn?
S – “During my last job, I was managing the web dev team in charge of setting up an online e-commerce store for one of our clients. In hindsight, I was too ambitious with the project and over-promised the turnaround rate for the website. I told them we’d be done within 2 months, as it seemed like a very cookie-cutter project at the time. However, around 2 weeks into the project, we realized we were off by at least a month, as we would have to hand-code a bunch of stuff that we thought was open source or sold as packaged plugins.”
T – “So, I had to inform them about the issue, give an updated deadline for our team, and fix my mistake.”
A – “After the meeting, they were understanding but not very happy. I then assembled our web developers and started working hard on the project the very next day. We focused 100% of our time on fixing the issue, outsourced some of the small tasks to save time, and ended up fixing everything before the new deadline.”
R – “In the end, their site was a success, and I learned a valuable lesson on managing expectations. I realized that sometimes it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver, and I learned how to better set and manage deadlines for my team.”
Why Do Employers Use The Star Method?
Employers use interviews to get to know you better and check whether you would be a good fit for the firm. The STAR interview method benefits them too. Let’s find out how.
Using the STAR interview technique gives importance to the past behaviors and actions of the interviewee. This allows the recruiter to pick individuals who have overcome challenges in the past and will be able to succeed at their organization. This helps them decrease the cost of retention and ensure that team members stick around for a long time.
2. Finding Cultural Fits
Interviewers determine whether you are a good fit for the company or not using this method. Through your anecdotes, they are able to tell if you have the qualities that would make you fit into their corporate culture.
These qualities can be accountability, proactivity, and leadership.
3. Maintaining Fair Practices
The STAR method does not discriminate between applicants and allows recruiters to treat everyone the same. It also aids them in evaluating everyone in an unbiased manner, making recruitment decisions straightforward and professional.
So, Are You Nervous About Your Upcoming Interview?
Behavioral job interviews may be hard, but you can still tackle them and succeed. “Can you tell me about a time when you…” tends to scare off the bravest people. But you are not alone in this struggle.
However, there is a simple solution to your problem, and that is the STAR interview method. It makes sure that you do not blurt out something irrelevant or awkward and helps you give appropriate answers.
All you need to do is follow the steps above and prepare beforehand, and you will be good to go.