How to be a S.T.A.R. Interviewee

The goal of every job-seeker is to stand out, to be head-and-shoulders above the other applicants for a position. When it comes to the interview, preparation is key. Naturally, you should do your research on the company and the hiring managers you may be speaking with. But you should also prepare for the types of questions you may receive during the interview.

Some of those questions will likely be behavioral questions.

Behavioral questions are intended to evaluate your prior experience and adaptability to a new role. While past performance is not always indicative of future results, interviewers can use our behavior in prior roles to get a pretty good sense of your personality and team fit, as well as your response to certain common challenges – like tight deadlines, upset customers, or irritating coworkers.

For example: Tell us about a time you overcame a work-related challenge that required you acquire a new skill-set.

One method for crafting a compelling answer to a behavior question is to think like a STAR – that is answer by:

  1. Situation –

    Describe the context you were placed in, using appropriate detail. If you were in charge of producing 100 widgets before the deadline in a big contract, you might take a sentence or two to explain the nature of the contract and the penalties involved if you came in 8 widgets short. One thing to avoid – placing blame on someone else. Even if the widget-production-schedule was on pace, until John in Quality Assurance pointed out that Ricky had improperly attached the sprocket on 100 widgets, the interviewer is not interested in Ricky’s incompetence.

  2. Task –

    Describe the process or outcome you were responsible for. If you were the head waiter at a wedding banquet and dinner service was behind, you might include that you were responsible for the timely distribution of meals to attendees by minimizing the number of trips to and from the kitchen your group of waiters needed to take.

  3. Action –

    Lay out the specific actions you took. Be specific. Answers like “I worked hard on several tasks” or “I conducted extensive research” are vague and do not give the interviewer insight into your capabilities.

  4. Result – 

    What was the outcome that you achieved? Most of the time, you want the outcome to be positive – the actions of you and your team helped save the day. But be sure to have a few stories where you failed but learned, as interviewers will occasionally ask questions designed to gain an insight into your resiliency and capability of self-reflection.

Giving a response following these four steps can seriously impress an interviewer. The best answers will seamlessly move from situation to task to action to result without telegraphing that you’re using this approach – this is where practice comes in handy. Regardless, the purpose of this technique is to help ensure that during the interview – like a star – you shine.

Jill Ray

Jill Ray is a 30-year veteran of corporate and direct hire staffing in the Kansas City area.


February 12, 2019

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Jill Ray