How to prepare for an interview using the STAR method


May 26, 2021

Your job application has progressed to the next stage and you’ve scored an interview. Congratulations! Naturally, the interview is the most important part of the job-seeking journey but it is also quite nerve-wracking. 


The interview is a conversation between you and a potential employer where you must present yourself as the best candidate for the job. Employers use interviews to seek more information about your skills, experience, and whether or not you are the right fit for the job.  


It’s important to prepare yourself for the interview in order to present yourself in the strongest light and impress the hiring manager. A quick Google search reveals a plethora of common interview questions to help you get started. 


Most interviewees struggle with how to answer these questions. One of the most common and helpful methods for preparing for an interview is the STAR method. 


What is the STAR method?

The STAR method is a helpful acronym to remember when answering behavioral questions (which are predominantly the most common type of interview question). STAR stands for:


S = Situation

T = Task

A= Action

R = Result


When asked a question related to a previous role or job, remember to think of what happened/what was the problem (S), what was your role/plan (T), what steps/action did you take (A) and what was the end result (R). 


This method is helpful for a few reasons. First, this method is applicable to any part of the job process (from your CV, to cover letter and even your LinkedIn profile). Therefore we recommend applying the STAR method to all aspects of your job search to get familiar with the structure prior to the interview stage. Second, the STAR method helps provide clear and concise answers to interview questions that demonstrate your value while also reflecting your ability to communicate efficiently. 


It’s helpful to already have a series of “wins” or other situational anecdotes memorized prior to the interview. Ideally, you’ll be keeping track of your achievements throughout the entirety of your various employment experiences, but at the very least you should have 3-4 stories prepared leading up to the interview. 


Your anecdotes should be concise - remember to have a beginning, middle and end, and they should always be positive, even if the end result may not have been favourable. For example, you didn’t win a bid but you managed to find an efficient way to prepare bidding reports.  


Here are a few more examples that further illustrate how to implement the STAR method. 


Tell me about a time when you showed leadership skills.


Situation: At my digital marketing job, my manager wanted me to find a way to attract more potential clients to sign up for our newsletter.

Task: My role was to determine how to incentivize people to sign up. 

Action: I organised a meeting along with other colleagues from the marketing department and led a Twitter campaign to generate interest in our new newsletter. 

Result: Over a period of 6 months, we saw a 30% increase in signups and my approach was adopted by other departments.


Tell me about a time when you had to prioritize multiple tasks


Situation: As a junior sales associate, I was responsible for a new client database system in addition to my other sales responsibilities.  

Task: The goal was to complete the switch before the end of the month without letting my own sales targets dip. 

Action: I used my planner and blocked off two hours on Tuesdays and Thursday to focus solely on the new system. Instead of trying to complete the switch in a short period of time, I approached it bit by bit which allowed me to also dedicate time to my other tasks. 

Result: Because of this, I managed to make the switch ahead of the deadline.


Describe a time when you handled a difficult situation at work. 


Situation: As a floor manager during Christmas, one of my full-time colleagues quit during the busiest sales week.

Task: I had to cover their shifts along with my own. One evening I had a customer who was adamant that one of the items should have been discounted although it was brand new. 

Action: I took the time to listen to the customer’s concern and discussed why this particular item was not on sale but provided two alternatives that were similar and also discounted.

Result: The customer calmed down and agreed that the alternatives I suggested were better than what he originally wanted and thanked me for helping him.   

It might be odd at first to answer interview questions using the STAR method, but over time and with practice (lot’s of practice), it’ll become second nature. Remember that the STAR method is something that requires preparation in advance. When you have a series of achievements lined up you can easily adapt them to various behavioural questions using the STAR method. With some preparation and confidence, you’ll find this the best way to answer any interview question!


Written by Lubna bin Zayyad

Lubna bin Zayyad is an international student from Canada studying at the University of Westminster. 

Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

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