How To Use The STAR Interview Method To Ace Your Next Interview

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Have you heard about the STAR method of interviewing? When a hiring manager or recruiter starts asking, “Can you tell me about a time when…,” you might tense up. Behavioral interview questions are common, but the STAR Method is a trick for answering them.

Once you learn the star method, you can give clear, coherent answers that showcase your skills. Here’s how.

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What Is The STAR Interview Response Method?

STAR stands for:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

It describes how you answer a behavioral interview question. Remember, behavioral interview questions often start with, “Tell me about a time…” or “Have you ever….” Let’s walk through what each one of these things means.


Remember that Star Wars Movies start with “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” You can use that to remember the S in star–it’s the Situation or the Setting. Was this your internship at the congressman’s office during your junior year in college? Or did it perhaps happen when you were working late nights in the emergency room? It doesn't have to be flashy or exciting, just accurate.

You want to include who you were at that time as well. Were you the department manager? The new hire? The team lead? A team member? Depending on the job you are applying for, you might want to choose situations that will set you up for success in the new role.


What task is at the heart of the story? Remember to include details, such as time pressures, whether for an internal or external client or whatever else fleshes out the story.


What did you do? Make sure you focus on your actions and speak in an active voice. Active voice is easiest to identify when you have a clear subject that does a clear action. For example:

  • Passive voice: The client got the report on time.
  • Active voice: I delivered the report to the client on time.
  • Passive voice: The employee was weeping until she received help and time off.
  • Active voice: The employee was weeping, so I sat with her and helped her call the employee assistance program. I then spoke with her boss to ensure she got the time off she needed.

Remember, the interviewer is asking about you and what you’ve done. They aren’t just looking for anecdotes.


What happened? You’ve established the situation (or setting) of the task at hand, and you’ve described your action. Now you need to explain the result. Make sure the result reflects well on you, or pick a different experience. The result needs to be the clear result of your action. Because you did X, Y happened.

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How To Prepare For An Interview Using STAR

Memorize The Pattern

The first thing to do is memorize the pattern: Situation, Task, Action, Result.


Then practice it. You may want to write down outlines for your answers to common behavioral interview questions to help you cement your plan in your brain.

Be Aware Of Questions You May Encounter

For example, here are some questions you might encounter in a job interview:

  • Tell me about a time you had to work with someone you didn’t get along with.
  • Can you tell me about a time you went above and beyond in customer service?
  • Can you tell me about a time you had to fix a problem you didn’t cause?
  • Can you tell me about a time you had to coach an employee’s poor performance?

Pro tip: While you are preparing for job interviews, make sure your resume is polished and up-to-date! If you need help with your resume, we recommend working with a resume writing service. Resume writing services are surprising affordable and a great way to get expert help!

How To Use The STAR Interview Response Method In An Interview

If we take one of the questions above, it might look like this.

Question: Tell me about a time you had to work with someone you didn’t get along with.

  • Situation: I started a new job as a cashier at the same time as three other new employees. One of them, Stephanie, immediately accused me of cheating when I could answer all the trainer’s questions correctly.
  • Task: I had to gain Stephanie’s trust if we would have a good working relationship.
  • Action: I showed Stephanie that I had been taking notes on my phone while the trainer spoke. I offered to send her a copy so she could use them for answers.
  • Result: Stephanie turned down the offer for the notes, and she continued to say bad things about me, but I always offered to help her in any way that I could. Eventually, she started to leave me alone.

Question: Can you tell me about a time you had to fix a problem you didn’t cause?

  • Situation: I was the first-ever HR manager at a company. For one of my first tasks, I audited the paperwork they had on file.
  • Task: I found out that they had never collected I-9 forms for their employees! This violates federal law and can get the business in serious trouble. I knew I had to fix this right away.
  • Action: I started with the CEO. I told her we needed this paperwork for all employees. She said they weren’t a traditional company and didn’t need it. I researched the potential fine the company could face if its paperwork wasn’t in order.
  • Result: By speaking in a language the CEO understood–dollars and cents–she realized I was right. At the beginning of that job, I learned to translate all my ideas into how they would save or make the company money.

Additional Interviewing Resources

If you are currently job searching, here are some additional resources that may be helpful.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How do I prepare for a STAR interview?

The first thing to do is memorize the pattern: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Then practice it. Remember to stay on track and don’t let your brain wander away from the task at hand.

Why do employers use the STAR method?

Past performance is often the best predictor of future performance. So, when employers ask you behavioral questions, they want to see what you have done in the past to help them decide if they want you to work for them.

How long should STAR interview answers be?

There isn’t a set answer for this! It depends on the question and what your answer is. But don’t make them too long. If you notice your interviewer looking away or sneaking a peek at her phone, you’re rambling! Plan on 30-60 seconds per STAR point.

The Bottom Line

Interviewing can be scary, but you’ll be prepared to tackle any behavioral questions if you practice the STAR method before speaking to the hiring manager. Now that you know how to use the STAR interview method, it’s time to find positions to interview for! Check out ZipRecruiter to get started on your job search!