What is it, and why is it important?
The STAR formula is a method of structuring your answer to certain interview questions, in order to make sure that your answer is organized and properly showcases your achievements. Without this structure, your answer may be rambling, unfocused, or underwhelming. The STAR formula has become a very popular trend in interviewing. We had one client recently who was told, specifically, that she did not get a job because her interview answers did not make use of the STAR method.
When would I use it?
You should use the STAR formula to answer behavioral questions – that is, questions which ask for specific stories and examples from your past work experience. These questions include:
- Tell us about a time you faced a tough problem at work.
- Give me an example of a time when you handled an angry customer.
- Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a co-worker.
- Give me an example of a time when you met an impossible deadline.
- Tell us about your greatest professional accomplishment.
What does it stand for?
Situation: Give us the background information. Lay out the situation so that we’ll understand what was going on. Your English teacher would call this the exposition.
Task: Tell us what you needed to accomplish. What was the challenge that faced you? Note: this is very similar to Situation, and in fact some people combine these two categories into Situation or Task. Do not spend too much time on Situation and/or Task. Although it is crucial to give enough explanation to make your story easy to follow, be careful not to get bogged down in boring and irrelevant details. Just give the necessary facts.
Action: Talk about what you did in this situation. What actions did you take to calm the angry customer, or resolve the conflict, or meet the deadline? This is the exciting part of your story, so spend most of your time here. Be specific with the steps you took. And make sure you’re talking about what you personally did, rather than what your team did – this is no time to be modest.
Result: Let us know how everything turned out. After all, what story is complete without the happy ending?
Give us an example of a time when you went above and beyond to get the job done.
Situation: My work at the credit union is very customer-service-oriented, so going above and beyond the job description is frequently necessary in order to make the customers happy. For example, last year one of our customers was approved for a home loan, but she couldn’t come in to sign her final paperwork because she was a single parent and her daughter was in the hospital.
Task: I knew that her loan approval was going to expire if I didn’t find a way to get her to sign that paperwork.
Action: So I took it upon myself to take the paperwork to her. I spent my lunch break one day driving over to the hospital, getting her to sign the paperwork, and triple-checking to make sure that she had done everything that was necessary.
Result: She was so grateful; she kept saying that it was such a load off her mind at a stressful time, and that she appreciated the personal touch. In the end, it worked out well for everyone – her daughter got better, her loan paperwork went through, and the credit union now has a loyal customer for life.”
Written by Lynnette Lee.
Practice makes perfect. Call us at 225-231-3733 to schedule an appointment for assistance with crafting your answers or for a mock interview. Alternately, you can check out our interview-related YouTube videos here: EBRPL Career Center – YouTube
Note: This article was originally posted in November 2016, and has been re-posted with updates to reach a new audience.