Recruitment Tips

The Path to Success: Unveiling the STAR Method in Job Interviews

"Tell me about a time when you..." - a phrase capable of inducing fear in job interview candidates. The mind freezes, panic sets in, and the first example that comes to mind is blurted out without much thought.

Fortunately, the STAR method can prepare you to provide effective answers to such challenging interview questions. And, as we'll see, this methodology can also be applied beyond interviews to help you identify, reflect on, and demonstrate positive behavioral patterns in other aspects of your work life.

The Four-Stage STAR Interview Method

Competency-based interviews ask open-ended questions aimed at understanding your approach to overcoming challenges in the workplace. Think of the STAR method as a structure for telling a story that showcases your skills.

**Situation:** Start by setting the scene for your example. Describe the specific problem you encountered, providing context to the interviewer. For instance, you can mention a project you were working on, its location, and the size of your team.

**Task:** Here, explain your role in the situation. Again, provide a few brief details. Were you a leader? What was your goal? What tasks were assigned to you?

**Action:** Now, recount what you did. Be specific and explain how you tackled the problem. Describe the steps you took to resolve the situation. Even if it was a team effort, explain what you specifically did, using "I" instead of "we" to detail your approach.

**Result:** Finally, summarize the outcomes of your actions. Specify the concrete results in your answer, and if possible, mention facts, figures, and statistics that quantitatively evaluate your success. You can also discuss what you learned from the experience and share insights applicable to future challenges.

How to Answer Interview Questions Using the STAR Method

Let's consider an example of the STAR method and respond to the classic interview question: "Describe a problem you encountered at work and how you dealt with it."

**Situation:** "In my previous job at the studio, two of my designers left immediately after we secured a new contract with a major client. Our first deadline was in four weeks!"

**Task:** "I didn't have time to hire new designers, considering the tight deadline. So, in addition to managing the studio, I had to take on some of the design work myself and conduct weekly progress updates with the client."

**Action:** "First, I reviewed my task list and delegated as much work as possible to my assistant in the studio. For example, they created job descriptions for new hires and interacted with recruiting agencies. I also reached out to freelancers I knew to fill in the gaps until we found new team members. With this and a few late nights, we met the deadline for our first campaign, bringing in the much-needed $15,000 for that quarter."

**Result:** "The client loved our work. They now account for 40% of our business. The situation also taught me the importance of maintaining a pool of freelancers. I also delved into our corporate culture. Exit interviews with departing employees revealed a lack of learning opportunities. So, now I play a significant role in integrating training and development into our corporate culture."

At each stage of the STAR model, career coach Michael Higgins recommends:

- Be specific to engage and convince your interviewer.

- Be concise to keep their attention on each question.

- Conclude on a positive note to leave a strong impression.

Preparing for Behavioral Interview Questions

Recruiters want to see not only your resume but also understand how you behaved in work situations. They seek a combination of knowledge, skills, and qualities. These usually relate to general competencies such as teamwork, leadership, and decision-making.

You can use the STAR approach to turn your experiences into responses to almost any question you may be asked.

Follow the tips below, and you'll build a repertoire of answers to rely on.

- Update your resume using the STAR method as a guide. This will help you create more compelling applications for future positions and better articulate your past achievements in interviews. Tell a story illustrating how you applied your learning and experience in a practical work environment.

- Familiarize yourself with the job description and match your skills, using the STAR structure to then illustrate them in the interview. Also, research the company and industry you're applying to anticipate the types of challenges they face. Where have you encountered similar problems, and how did you solve them?

- Look for similarities between behavioral interview questions. The wording of questions may vary, but they will be seeking evidence of the same behavioral characteristics. For example, with slight adjustments, you can apply the same STAR response to questions like "Tell me about a time when you had to rely on a team to achieve a result" and "Recall a moment when you effectively worked in a team situation."

- Practice answering questions in front of a mirror or ask a friend to conduct a mock interview. This way, sharing your achievements will come more naturally. You'll also learn to adapt your repertoire of responses flexibly to almost any competency-based question.

- Be honest. Resist the temptation to use the STAR method dishonestly or exaggerate the level of your skills. You'll run into difficulties if you're hired, and you're required to apply these skills in practice.

The STAR method is a powerful tool to navigate behavioral interviews successfully. It not only helps you structure your responses but also enables you to communicate your skills and experiences more effectively. Whether you're preparing for a job interview or seeking to demonstrate your qualifications in other professional settings, mastering the STAR method can make a significant difference in showcasing your abilities.