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STAR Method

When you interview a candidate, do you get the information you need to make a good decision? Using structured interviews can help keep you on track and avoid the candidate giving you their life story when all you want is to fill a certain role.

The STAR Interview Method allows you to stay on schedule with your candidates, easily identify the candidates’ past behavior, and see their potential to fulfill job expectations. This article covers what is the STAR Interview method, why you should use it, how to conduct the STAR interview, and examples of interview questions.

What Is the STAR Interview Method?

The STAR Interview Method asks candidates to frame their answers to behavioral interview questions focusing on the results of their past performance. This method allows you to easily identify the value candidates have provided to past employers and potentially to your organization.  What does the STAR acronym stand for? Let’s dive into this method.

Situation: What situation was the candidate in?

“Tell me about a time when…”

Task: What was the task the candidate needed to accomplish?

“…you had to deliver bad news to a customer.”

Action: What action(s) did the candidate take to accomplish this?

“What did you do? ”

Results: What were the results of these actions?

“How did it turn out?”

So the entire behavioral interview question would be,  “Tell me about a time when you had to deliver bad news to a customer. What did you do, and how did it turn out?”

Tip: It may be useful to test your questions on people in similar roles to ensure they are understood.

Why Should Interviewers Use the STAR Method?

The STAR Method for interviewing is a great tool for any HR professional or hiring manager. Here are a few of its benefits.

  • This method allows you to clearly determine if the candidate’s behavior will fit your organization.
  • The results of these situations give you reason to ‘root’ for them. Example, if a candidate saved a past employer $500,000, they could potentially save you the same amount of money.
  • This method allows you to run your interviews on time. You no longer need to tolerate the candidate who doesn’t stop talking.

How to Prepare for an Interview with the STAR Method

As you prepare for the interview, keep in mind you are not solely responsible for this process. Leverage the expertise of the hiring manager and other key people who will interact with this position; this section discusses when it may be helpful to reach out to them.

Step 1: Prepare Questions

Prepare your interview questions.

If a good job description exists, it’s easy to identify the core competencies and skills the position requires and frame questions around them. But if that work hasn’t happened, you’ll need to possibly consult with the manager of the position, or take other action to know what types of questions to ask. (See the next section, Examples of STAR Interview Questions.)

Step 2: Scheduling

Contact the candidates chosen to interview via phone call or email to schedule a mutually convenient date and time. Once scheduled, reserve a conference room or another private space to conduct the interview.

Step 3: Prepare Your Rating Form

Before you conduct the interview, it may be beneficial to create an interview form with your chosen interview questions. This allows you to easily follow the STAR format and rate the candidate on each competency. Use a rating of 1 to 4 to avoid a central tendency error. In other words, your notes won’t be valuable if everyone is rated ‘average.’

See below for a sample form and questions.

Candidate Name_____________

Position ____________________

Date________________________

Interviewed by ________________

Have you ever been caught unaware by a problem or obstacle that you had not foreseen? What happened?

Situation:

Task:

Action:

Result:

Interviewer rating: Did they demonstrate the competency of Stress Management?

1                     2                        3                       4

How to Conduct an Interview Using the STAR Method

You have made it to the interview, gather your notes and interview form to be ready for when the candidate arrives. Invite the hiring manager to attend the interview if they desire to, this will allow them to be involved in the interview process and protects you from unconscious bias towards any candidate. The mindset is you are both working together to fill this position.

When the candidate arrives, escort them to the conference room. With your interview form ready to go, start asking each question, filling out each element of the STAR method.

  1. Ask the questions you prepared earlier.
  2. Write down the Situation, Task, Action, and Result for each question.
  3. If the Action or Result is not clear, ask a clarifying question; for instance, “Remind me what action you took?” or “Before we move on, what was the Result of your Action?
  4. Save the ratings portion for after the interview is completed and the candidate leaves.

Rate the candidate on each competency. If you are unsure on whether a competency was demonstrated, partner with the hiring manager and review your notes with them.

Examples of STAR Interview Questions

Below is a list of competencies with sample behavioral questions. Feel free to adjust these questions to better match the position you are filling.

Collaboration and Interpersonal Skills

  • Give me an example of a time when you had to deal with a difficult co-worker. How did you handle the situation?
  • Describe a difficult time you have had dealing with an employee or customer. Why was it difficult? How did you handle it? What was the outcome?
  • Describe a time when you were instrumental in creating or improving a good relationship with another department within your company.
  • Recall an occasion when you had to work with people from different divisions to accomplish a single goal.
  • Recount an occasion when you were able to connect individuals from different backgrounds or cultures in a unified organizational effort.

Stress Management

  • Tell me about a work nightmare you were involved in. How did you approach the situation, and what was the outcome?
  • Have you ever been caught unaware by a problem or obstacle that you had not foreseen? What happened?

Communication

  • Give some examples of how and when you were the spokesperson for your current (or most recent) company.
  • Give an example of how you carefully considered your audience prior to communicating with them. What factors influenced your communication?
  • Describe a time you used your communications skills to negotiate with an angry person.
  • Have you ever given a presentation to a group? How did you prepare for it? What would you do differently?
  • Describe a time when you were able to overcome a communications barrier(s).
  • Tell me about a time when effective listening skills helped you in a problematic situation.
  • Tell me about a time when you thought someone wasn’t listening to you. What did you do?
  • Recount an occasion when you were greeted with a greeting that was not normal for you. How’d you respond?

Decision-making

  • What are some of the most important steps you’ve used in making business-related decisions?
  • Give a specific example of a decision you made that was not effective. Why do you think it was not effective, and what did you do when this realization was made?
  • Describe a time when you had to make a very important and difficult decision that affected everyone in your department.
  • Recount a time when you were not in authority, but had to make a decision about the team’s next step(s).

Initiative

  • Can you tell me about a time during your previous employment when, unsolicited, you suggested a better way to perform a process?
  • Tell me about a career goal that you have accomplished and why that was important to you.
  • Could you share with us a recent accomplishment you are most proud of?
  • Describe a time when you performed a task outside your perceived responsibilities. What was the task? Why did you perceive it to be outside your responsibilities? What was the outcome?
  • Describe a time when you kept from getting bored when dealing with routine tasks.
  • What was the most creative thing you did in your last job?

Leading Others

  • Give me an example of a time when you needed to help other employees learn a new skill set. What did you do?
  • Have you ever been in a position in which you had to lead a group of peers? How did you handle it? Tell me about problems you had and how you handled them.
  • Have you ever managed a situation in which the people or units reporting to you were in different locations? Tell me how this worked.
  • Tell me about your experience working with a board of directors. What approach and philosophy did you follow in working with boards?
  • Tell me about a time when you organized, managed and motivated others on a complex task from beginning to end.

Personal Effectiveness/Credibility

  • What strengths did you rely on in your last position to make you successful in your work?
  • Tell me about a situation you wish that you had handled differently based on the outcome. What would you change (or will you change) when faced with a similar situation?
  • Describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult boss, co-worker or customer. How did you handle the situation?
  • Give an example of how you stay organized when juggling multiple tasks.

Results-driven

  • Tell me about your current or most recent position and how you helped the organization accomplish its goals and mission.
  • How have you reacted when you found yourself stalled in an inefficient process?
  • Tell me about a time when you inherited a process that wasn’t working and you had limited time to fix it.

Problem-solving/Analysis

  • Describe for me a decision you made that would normally have been made by your supervisor. What was the outcome?
  • Describe a time when you needed to use the principles of logic to solve a problem.
  • Have you ever solved a problem that others around you could not solve? Tell me about it.
  • What was one of the toughest problems you ever solved? What process did you go through to solve it?
  • Tell me about a time when you had a work problem and didn’t know what to do.
  • Tell me about a time when you solved one problem but created others.
  • Tell me about a time when a work problem was more than it at first appeared to be.
  • How have you approached solving a problem that initially seemed insurmountable?
  • What have you done when faced with an obstacle to an important project? Give me an example.
  • How do you analyze different options to determine which is the best alternative?
  • Describe for me how your prior positions required you to be proficient in the analysis of technical reports.
  • Give an example of when you used analytical techniques to design solutions to solve problems.

Strategic Thinking

  • Give me an example of a time when you had to engage in future planning.
  • Tell me about a time when you participated in developing your departmental or organizational business strategy. What was your role? How did you approach it?
  • Tell me about a time when you identified a need for a new approach or product to meet a market need.
  • Tell how your job (at a current or former employer) was directly related to a strategic goal.

Technical Capacity

  • The last time that you experienced a technical problem during your workday, to whom did you go for help? Why did you choose this person?
  • Tell me about a time when you used your technical knowledge to solve a problem that appeared to be unsolvable.
  • Describe a technical report that you had to complete. What did the report entail? What was the purpose? Who was the audience?
  • Describe a time when you had to share data electronically.

Attention to Detail

  • What processes have you used to focus on detail and to keep from making mistakes?
  • When there’s a decision for a new critical process, what means do you use to communicate step-by-step processes to ensure other people understand and will complete the process correctly?
  • Tell me the steps you take to monitor the quality of your work in your current job.
  • How do you decide when something is good enough or when it needs to be as close as possible to perfection? When have you had to make this determination? Explain.
  • Describe a time when you failed to satisfy a client or customer due to some minor neglect. What did you do to correct it?

Remember: If you choose the STAR Interview Method, let the candidate know beforehand (i.e. when you confirm the date, time, and location for the interview) that you use this method. This will allow the candidate to further prepare for the interview ahead of time.

As the interviewer, if the candidates uses the opportunity to prepare experiential answers, it will reflect positive qualities and go into making your decision which candidates move forward in the recruiting process.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About

How can I prepare candidates to interview with the STAR method?
Before the interview, tell candidates you use behavioral interview questions and what STAR means.
What other interview methods should I consider using?
Other interview methods you may consider using include case interviews (giving the candidate a scenario) and panel interviews (a group of people who will interact with the position you are hiring for).
Ryan Archibald

Ryan Archibald

Ryan is the HR Director at Paul Davis Restoration of Utah with four years of experience and three masters degrees. One accomplishment he is proud of is the design and launch of a development program for 800+ employees.

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