Preparing for behavioral interview questions can be challenging. There are endless potential questions that can be asked, so even starting to prepare for them can feel overwhelming. But just as there are strategies to prepare for the case interview, there are structured ways to also approach behavioral interviews. One such strategy is the STAR Method. The STAR method is preferred in Amazon interviews and Delta Air Lines interviews, among others. Keep reading for STAR method examples to learn how to give structured answers in your upcoming fit interview!
STAR Method overview (click to jump to section):
- What is the STAR Method?
- What Kind of Questions is the STAR Method Good for?
- Tips on Using the STAR Method
What is the STAR Method?
The STAR Method is an acronym that is best understood by what it stands for:
- Situation – Describe the context
- Task – Provide details on your responsibilities
- Action – Demonstrate how you responded or took charge
- Result – Explain the impact you made or the lessons you learned
As you may have guessed, the STAR Method provides you with a structured way to answer behavioral interview questions. Without such a strategy, it can be easy to ramble and be unfocused in your responses. This is especially true if you’re asked a question you’ve never heard of before and you’re thinking on the spot.
Now that you know what the STAR Method stands for, let’s go into each component in detail.
When providing the context of your experience, try to start off with a hook that draws your interviewer’s attention. Set up the stage so that you demonstrate that the experience you went through was significant, interesting, and/or challenging. Just like any good movie or book, setting the right tone from the start is crucial to keeping your interviewer engaged.
Star Method Examples: Situation
- As a consultant at X firm, I was working on a $10M project to help a $20B healthcare client with its pharmaceutical drug pricing strategy. Immediately after the first few weeks, I was put into a meeting with the CEO and CFO.
- During my previous marketing internship, I was placed in an awkward situation when my manager asked me to change some numbers to make our data look more impressive. I was confused because my boss had an outstanding reputation at work.
- Last year when I was a sophomore in college, I realized that there were very few food delivery options on campus but a hungry market of college students who were often too busy or lazy to get food themselves. So I thought to myself – why don’t I start a food delivery business?
After getting your interviewer hooked at the beginning, you’ll next need to describe the task at hand. Don’t over-exaggerate to the point where your tasks seem unbelievable, but also don’t sell yourself short. Elaborate on why you were an important part of a team or project to showcase that you have experience working in – and excelling in – challenging environments.
Star Method Examples: Task
- My project leader’s style was to throw consultants into the fire so they could learn as quickly as possible. My job was to present four slides during a meeting with our client. I’m not really afraid of public speaking having been on debate teams, but I must admit presenting to C-suite executives for the first time was a little intimidating.
- At first, I wasn’t sure how to respond because I had never been put in a situation where I was asked to do something unethical for a company I worked at. I went back to my desk and sat there to consider my different options.
- Having never started a business before, I suddenly had a lot to do. I needed to form a team to help build the product, research the market by interviewing potential customers, and look into any potential competition.
This next step is where you get to the real meat of the story you’re telling. Think of this as the climax of a book or movie. Explain how you responded to the tasks you faced and more importantly, how and why you made your decisions. Consultants love to dive deep into the reasons behind your actions. Impress your interviewer by staying a step ahead of them!
Star Method Examples: Action
- In order to prepare for the meeting, I spent several hours making sure the slides were perfect. I then called some of the senior consultants I knew and spent a few hours on the phone practicing presenting the slides and asking for feedback. During the meeting, I was still a bit nervous, but all the practice had paid off and the presentation went smoothly.
- After giving it some thought, I first conducted a Google search to see if others had been in my situation. Reading a few articles definitely helped and I gathered the knowledge I could online. I then spoke with a few of my older colleagues to ask for their advice. Surprisingly, they told me that my boss had a history of asking for things that seem unethical because he doesn’t always know the full picture. So with all the courage I could muster, I knocked on his door and explained to him why I didn’t feel comfortable changing the numbers as he requested, providing backup data for my reasoning. He immediately said he agreed with me and had me change the numbers back and said he appreciated all the extra work I put into the presentation.
- I immediately got to work by collaborating with my friend, who caught the vision as soon as I pitched it to him. In a few months, we interviewed 25 students, got 5 restaurants on board, and launched a mobile app for a food delivery business. I was in charge of the business operations and customer support, and even had my own cell phone number as the business contact number so I received calls at all hours of the night! I worked harder than I ever did in my life because there was always something to do every minute, but I loved it.
This last step is often one that isn’t taught correctly. It’s not enough to just explain what the result was – instead, you should explain to the interviewer the impact you made, an important lesson you learned, or both. Sometimes, by the end of a behavioral interview answer, candidates feel like they need to stop talking and skimp out on this part of the STAR Method. As every great movie needs a great conclusion, your behavioral answer will need a memorable ending in order to round out a strong behavioral interview answer. In essence, you are answering the question “So What?” The result tells your interviewer why they should care about the story you just told. The answer? Because you have a track record of achievement, and will take the lessons you learned from this story and apply them as a consultant at their firm.
Star Method Examples: Result
- This experience had a profound impact on me. I learned firsthand that even the most senior and experienced people in the world are willing to listen to a 25-year old, as long as he’s well prepared and put in the work. From that meeting onwards, I challenged myself by consistently asking to present as many slides as possible to the client. I wasn’t always given the green light of course, but at my next performance review, my drive to present to clients was a big differentiator between me and others in my cohort.
- Simply put, this experience taught me not just that it’s never wrong to do the right thing, but that a great company will support the right decisions. I was nervous at first that my boss might get mad at me or I would insult him by questioning him. However, after speaking with him, I realized that my boss had a stellar reputation for a reason. I found it so empowering to be in a supportive and ethical environment, and those are key attributes I look for in a company.
- Ultimately, we were able to receive an investment from a fund for $25,000 in seed money. My team and I operated the business for a few years, but it growth slowed once bigger delivery apps came to the market. Even though this startup wasn’t have a home run success, I am proud of the success we did achieve, and place a high value on this experience for all the things I learned about business – from treating your customers right, to accounting, and even legal compliance. Most importantly, I took away the lesson that if you see a problem and tackle it with hard work and smart strategy, there are an endless amount of opportunities to succeed.
What Kind of Questions is the STAR Method Good for?
Questions that the STAR Method are good for are easy to spot. Typically, they ask about a situation you were in and how you acted. Here are a few star method example questions:
- Tell me about a time when you needed to convince someone.
- Describe a situation when you had to confront a team member about a problem and how you went about it.
- Describe a time when you were given an ambiguous assignment and how you went about getting the job done.
- Tell me about a time when you took the initiative.
- Please, tell me about a time when you failed.
- Tell me about your greatest accomplishment.
- Describe an ethical dilemma you faced and what the outcome of the situation was.
- Give me an example of a time when you motivated others to get a job done.
- Tell me about a time when you had a large number of conflicting responsibilities on your plate and how you managed your priorities.
Tips on Using the STAR Method
1. Think of Your Answers as Stories
The best way to use the STAR Method is to prepare your answers as stories. Everyone likes a good story and so will your interviewers. Plus, telling a story makes the answer seem less contrived. As with every story, you’ll need a good hook, a buildup to the drama, and a great ending. This is in essence how the STAR Method is built, but think less of it as a structure for an interview answer and more like a way to tell a story. That will make preparing for behavioral interviews fun and your answer will become more authentic and engaging.
2. Choose Impactful Experiences
No one likes a boring book or movie and no one likes a boring story either. Think deeply about your experiences and choose the ones that have shaped you the most, but also where you were doing the most impactful work. Interviewers spend hours and hours speaking to candidates and the answers that stand out most are the ones that are different.
3. Don’t be Rigid with the Structure
By this point, a lot of interviewers know what the STAR Method is because it’s such a widely known strategy. You don’t want to have all your answers rigidly say, “My situation was A, my task was B, my action was C, and my result was D.” Make your answer free flowing and emphasize the portions you think are most interesting and important to your story. If at times you have to skip back and forth to different parts of the method, that’s fine as well. Being organized is a must, but there’s no one way to be organized
Should You Use the STAR Method?
We think the STAR Method is a great way to prepare for tough behavioral interview questions. Follow the STAR method examples, and you’ll do great. The alternative is preparing answers without a structure, which will lead to rambling and unfocused answers. If you haven’t already, give the method a try!
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