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The STAR method to question answering

Posted on 14 September 2022

The STAR method to question answering

​5-minute read

 

The STAR method is a tool we teach applicants we represent to help them answer almost any behavioural question that could come up during an interview in the most effective way possible. This method is really easy to implement and when done correctly will make you stand out well above the competition.

In this article, we will teach you the same method that has helped hundreds secure their next career move. Breaking down exactly what the STAR method is, with examples to help start you on your own answers.

 

STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action and Results.

 

When deployed correctly in an interview, the STAR method will help not just tell your skills but prove them to the interviewer, supporting your application and hopefully encouraging progression. The reason the STAR method is so effective is that it creates a story, the interviewer is able to follow a situation through to resolution with you, with yourself being the main character.

We will start by breaking down the four main components individually and then bring them together to answer a possible behavioural question.

 

Situation

When asked a behavioural question, you first want to set the scene of the story. Give context and background so the interviewer understands where you are at the beginning of your answer.

Consider sharing project details, when and where this took place and who you were working with.

 

Task

Next, you will want to explain your role or responsibility. The key distinction here is to express what you were personally brought in to do or were assigned to, not what the entire team had to do.

Remember, you are interviewing, not the team.

 

Action

With the scene set and the task established, the action is where you will spend the majority of your answer. Explain in detail how you handled the situation related to the original question (it is really important to answer the question and not go off on a tangent here).

Bring in details that you feel the interviewer will want to know. Avoid company-specific language or acronyms if they are not aware of them, but feel free to bring in tools, technologies and milestones to emphasise your story.

 

Results

Bring your answer to a conclusion by explaining the results. Did you achieve what you set out to achieve? Did you overachieve? What learns did you take away from the project and more specifically, how can those learns help both you and the new organisation in the future?

 

Preparing several scenarios to tackle behavioural questions will allow you to not recycle the same example over, offering variety to your knowledge and showing the interviewer a diverse background.

It is impossible to know every question that is going to come up during an interview, however, the majority of behavioural questions follow the same focus on workplace challenges. Knowing this, you can prepare accordingly ahead of time, taking time to understand what challenges you have faced over your career and creating your own STAR stories for each of them.

 

Putting it altogether

Question – Tell me about a time you failed. What lessons did you learn?

Situation – In my last position as a Senior Frontend Developer within a team of 10 engineers…

Task – I opted in for our company's mentoring programme. I was assigned a young junior developer who was extremely eager to learn and was asking lots of questions.

Action – In the hope of helping the young developer as much as I can, I spent a long time running through React projects with him, showing him our code base in more detail and generally being there for him as much as possible.

Result – Due to the time I was spending with the junior developer, I allowed my own projects to slip which caused a delay in the release of an important external company project. Although the mentoring relationship was a success, my failure to manage my time correctly resulted in a costly mistake to the business, one that I have assured won’t happen again through careful planning and only taking on extra activities during periods of non-urgent releases.

 

Hopefully, you can see how using the STAR method can structure clear and concise answers to behavioural questions. Using Situation, Task, Action and Result to create a story will allow you to get your point across during an interview and make you stand out more in the interviewer’s mind (especially if it is a good story!).

Share with your network if you feel someone could learn from this method, and let us know how you get on with implementing it into your next interview.

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