The STAR Response – How To Prepare For Your Next Interview

Do you dread going to job interviews? Do you always feel like you are unprepared despite your experience and wish you could re-do the interview the minute you leave the room? Fortunately you are not alone. Interviewing for a new job can be very stressful, especially if you are entering into a new company or this is your first venture into working professionally in your new vocation. You can, however, learn how to best prepare for an interview so that the next time you won’t be wondering about whether they will hire you or not, you will be wondering, “Am I going to work for this company?”

More often than not, you will find yourself in a Behavioral-style interview. That means the interviewer will be asking you to reflect upon your experience and qualifications using real-life situations that you have dealt with in your career. Some of these questions can be more direct in referring to specific situations, and others can be a little more vague. Whatever the case may be, the best way for you to prepare for the interview is by utilizing the STAR response. The STAR response is a four-step response that covers the Situation, Task, Action, and Results of the scenario you are referencing in answering the question.  

You may not be able to know exactly what questions will be asked in your interview, but if you use the STAR method to exhibit your experience and expertise, you will make a much bigger impression on the interviewer and be that much more likely to get the job. Think back through your work history and make note of certain instances where your professionalism and experience shown through, and then prepare your responses in the following steps.

1. Describe the Situation.

The first thing to do when answering a Behavioral-style question is to describe a situation that is relevant to the question. Before the interviewer can understand exactly what your role and impact was in resolving the situation about to be described, they need to know exactly what was going on.

Paint a picture for them. Tell them what your position with the company was, who (customer or co-worker) or what was causing the situation, and where you were when the issue came up (was it on the phone? in the office? the store front, in front of other customers? ect). This will help them understand the extent of your involvement and the level of assistance you were able to provide given your specific position and past experience.

2. Describe the Tasks you needed to take.

Describing the tasks that you needed to accomplish is very much a part of describing the situation. Remember, you need to mention a specific scenario where you had a problem and had to find a way to resolve it, not simply a generalized description of your job responsibilities or how you handled rowdy customers in multiple instances.

Before you go to the interview, look back on your experience and think of specific scenarios where you had to exemplify your professionalism and leadership skills to resolve a problem or situation. List out all of the tasks that needed accomplished before the situation could be resolved, and then prepare for the next step: describing the actions you took.

3. What Actions did you take?

This is your chance to describe exactly what you did in order to resolve the situation at hand. Go through a step-by-step breakdown of how you handled the situation, and focus primarily on you, even if you are describing a group effort. You should also make an effort to avoid talking about what else you might have done to handle the situation. The interviewer wants to hear exactly what you did, not what you hypothetically might have done.

4. What were the Results of your actions?

Once you have described what actions you took to resolve the issue, now you need to discuss what the results of your actions were. What happened specifically? How did the scenario in question end, and what did you learn from the experience? It is important that you reflect on the experience you gained and what you accomplished by handling the situation. This could be anything from better leadership skills, to improved critical thinking, or even an improved ability to handle customers in a professional demeanor, which may have had difficulty doing before. 

You may not be able to know exactly what questions will be asked in your interview, but if you use the STAR method to exhibit your experience and expertise, you will make a much bigger impression on the interviewer and be that much more likely to get the job. Remember to always use real-life situations that you have actually dealt with, and take your time responding to the question. Collect your thoughts for a moment before diving right into the answer, and don’t rush through your response. How you handle yourself in the interview is also a reflection of your professionalism, so remain calm and collected and you will do fine!