How To Master the STAR Method For Interview Questions

By Mike Simpson

UPDATED 6/5/2022

Job interviews are stressful, especially when faced with the dreaded behavioral-style interview. Behavioral questions help a hiring manager determine if a candidate also has the skills, experience, and traits to do the job effectively. As Monster puts it, it gives hiring managers an “honest glimpse behind the resume.”

That’s why you need an effective approach to create great answers. Luckily, we’re here to teach you about the STAR method and how, with a little preparation, you can provide answers that are on-point.

What Is the STAR Method?

Considering that behavioral interviews are the second-most popular format, having a strategy is essential. That’s where the STAR method comes into play.

In the simplest sense, the STAR interview method is a technique for answering behavioral interview questions. The STAR method interview approach relies heavily on story-telling strategies. You “show” the hiring manager how you’d handle a situation using examples with a clear beginning, middle, and end for the scenario you present.

“STAR” is actually an acronym in this case. Each letter outlines a component of a great answer, effectively giving you a framework to follow when creating responses to behavioral interview questions.

STAR Stands for Situation, Task, Action & Result

So, STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Let’s take a second to break down exactly what each letter means.


The “situation” is the initiating event that launched the scenario you’re about to discuss. For example, getting an assignment from a manager is a situation. The same goes for encountering an obstacle. Essentially, you’re setting the stage with the situation part of the strategy. 

Think of a situation similar to what the interviewer is asking you about that had a successful outcome. It doesn’t necessarily have to be work-related as long as it’s relevant. Remember to include the who, what, where, when, and how.


The “task” is the aspect of the situation you had to manage. You outline the work that was laid before you, giving the hiring manager insights about your role in the equation.

Describe the task you were responsible for in that situation. Keep it specific but concise. Make sure to highlight any challenges you faced.


The “action” is the part where you describe exactly what you did. How did you complete the task you were assigned? What skills did you use? How did you collaborate with? What traits helped you during the journey?

Remember to focus on skills and characteristics the hiring manager will find desirable, primarily by choosing ones that align with the job and company culture. That way, you come across as a stronger match.


The “result” is functionally a closing to the story. You’re discussing what happened after you were given the task and took action.

Share what the outcome of the situation was and how you specifically contributed to that outcome. What did you accomplish? What did you learn? What were the results of your actions?

When to Use the STAR Method

While there is literally an unlimited amount of possible behavioral questions a hiring manager could ask you, there are several specific categories they all fall into:

Prior to going in for your interview, make sure you take a hard look at the job you’re applying for and use clues from that to prepare your STAR answers. By picking out what skills the company is specifically looking for or are required for the job, it will help you target your success stories.

MIKE'S TIP: What is a success story? Well, it's basically exactly as it sounds! A success story is a story from your past that clearly demonstrates you accomplishing a task that you were faced with. These are important because they allow you to show the hiring manager that you possess the skill or ability needed to complete a relevant task in the future. In other words, they show that you are capable! Here is one important thing to remember: choosing the best success story for the situation is very important. Make sure that the behavior you are demonstrating is relevant to the behavior the hiring manager is asking about. And as mentioned above, if you don't have a work-related experience to help illustrate the behavior, try to fall back on another situation from your past, whether it be from school, athletics, charitable work, or something similar!

Once you have those skills identified, go through your own personal history and background and find success stories that align with those skills.

In fact we we wanted to let you know that we created an amazing free checklist for behavioral questions that covers all the critical info you need when dealing with these tricky types of job interview questions!

Click below to get your free PDF now:


Common Mistakes While Answering STAR Questions

1. Not answering the question at all

If an interviewer asks you a question and you can’t think of a single specific success story from your past that you can apply to the situation, then tell them that! It’s far better to be honest than make something up.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you get to tell the interviewer to move on to the next question. Instead, you’re going to flip the question back onto yourself and follow up with “…but if I had encountered a situation like that, this is how I would deal with it.”

2. Not being prepared

This one is a no-brainer. Coming up with a story on the spot often means an interviewer is stuck listening to you ramble on and on.

Doing your homework ahead of time means not only will you have your success story prepared, but it will be concise and targeted. We recommend coming up with 3 to 5 success stories that collectively demonstrate a wide variety of common behaviors a hiring manager would be looking for.

3. Being too prepared

Yes, this is possible. You want your story to seem effortless but not so rehearsed as to be robotic. Review your answers before you go in for your interview, but don’t overdo it. Keep it light and conversational rather than rehearsing a story you have practiced word-for-word.

4. Telling a story that is anything but a success

You want the job, right? So why would you tell a story where you fail miserably and learn absolutely nothing from the experience? While it might be a funny story overall, it’s not one that’s going to get you a job.

Telling a story that has absolutely no positive outcome, either from the final results or the lessons you learned, hurts your chances of getting hired; it’s that simple.

5. Telling a story that has nothing to do with the question asked

This goes along with being prepared. Telling a story that is unrelated to the question demonstrates to a hiring manager that you lack focus and attention to detail, two key qualities that every good candidate should possess.

6. Telling a story that makes you seem like an unrealistic superhero

Don’t tell a story where you are “the only employee doing anything right ever.” Nobody is absolutely perfect, and telling a story where you singlehandedly saved the entire company isn’t going to just come off as impossible; it’s going to come off as fiction.

Top 5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of STAR

So, now that you know what you are not supposed to do, let’s focus on what you do need to do to get the most out of the STAR method interview questions.

1. Be prepared

I know we said this above, but it really is a necessity for answering STAR interview questions. Going in with a solid set of targeted success stories will not only make answering them easier for you but will help you highlight to the hiring manager the specific qualities and skills that make you perfect for the position and set you apart from the other candidates.

2. Be specific

The STAR Method is not about being vague and wishy-washy. This goes hand in hand with being prepared. Prior to your interview, you should have identified the skills and qualities the company is looking for. Make sure your stories are specific and targeted. Remember, you need to highlight the behavior that the hiring manager is interested in, and your success story should clearly align with that.

Being vague or general will not only make it difficult for the hiring manager to properly evaluate you, but it will dilute the impact of your success story.

3. Be quantitative

This is very important. Hiring Managers absolutely LOVE numbers, so have solid, tangible results to back up your stories. Did you increase sales for your department by 58%? Did your actions make your team 89% more efficient? Back up your successes with hard facts and numbers wherever possible.

4. Be concise

Keep your stories short, sweet, and targeted. No extra info or boring details that are irrelevant to the specific question. By embracing brevity, your answers can be more impactful, particularly if you touch on each of the points that make the STAR method of interviewing what it is.

5. Be honest

The last thing you want to do is dazzle your interviewer with a story that isn’t 100% true. Not only do you undermine your credibility down the road if they find out you weren’t honest, but it calls into question their ability to trust you overall…and nobody wants to hire someone they don’t trust.

Example Question and Answer Breakdown

Now that we’ve gone over all this, let’s put it into practice with an example behavioral question and a STAR method interview answer, focusing on problem-solving and initiative with the response.

“Can you tell me about a time you went above and beyond your expected duties?”

Situation: “I was a part of a team working on a presentation meant to help us secure a major new client for our company. The weather was bad, and as a result, my supervisor got caught in a snowstorm and was unable to make it back in time. It looked like we were going to have to cancel the meeting and potentially lose the client.”

Task: “I had been looking for ways to take on more responsibility, so I volunteered to finish up the presentation.”

Action: “I worked with my supervisor via the phone, and between the two of us, we were able to go ahead with the scheduled meeting.”

Result: “As a result of my initiative, we not only landed the client but I was also recommended for a promotion.”

Here’s another question.

“Tell me about a time when you took the lead on a difficult project?”

Here’s our answer broken into the STAR Method. The quality we are highlighting is Leadership:

STAR Method Interview Questions and Answers

While the options above show you how to break down the answers when you use the interview STAR method, having a few more STAR method examples can help you see how the answers flow once they’re together. Here are a few more STAR interview questions and answers to get you headed in the right direction.

1. Can you tell me about a time you were in a stressful situation and how you handled it?


“In my last role, a coworker that was handling a large project for a critical client experienced a medical emergency, taking them out of the office unexpectedly for a significant period. The deadline for their project was looming, and there was no way they’d be back in time to handle it.

“My manager reached out and asked me to take over the project. At this point, there was the equivalent of five days’ worth of work and just three days to get it done. The pressure was significant.

“I began by familiarizing myself with the project requirements, as I didn’t have an in-depth understanding initially. Next, I broke down the remaining tasks into micro-goals, creating a functional roadmap for success. Then, I blocked out each responsibility on my calendar. As I did, I determined that overtime would be necessary, so I quickly secured the needed approval using my plan to outline why it was essential.

“After that, I took a deep breath and got to work. Additionally, I engaged with colleagues to expedite various pieces, such as supporting critical data, allowing me to remain focused. While it was a difficult undertaking, the project was ultimately a success. I completed the work with two hours to spare, and the client was thrilled with the end result.”

2. As a team leader, how do you handle conflict? Tell me about a time when you experienced conflict and what you did to resolve it.


“When I’m overseeing a team, I find that communication and compromise are keys to mitigating conflict. In my current job, I was working with a multi-disciplinary project team to create a new application for a client. There was a debate about the best way to design a particular interface, with two team members having different perspectives based on their unique professional expertise.

“While the conflict could have delayed the project, I acted quickly to ensure that didn’t happen. I met with each team member one-on-one to learn more about their perspective. Along the way, I discovered that one team member didn’t inherently dislike the other’s idea; it was that the approach wasn’t possible based on the technologies used.

“Once I learned that detail, I brought the two colleagues together to oversee a discussion. I outlined the technical constraint, ensuring the other team member knew that was the only reason their colleague didn’t want to move forward with their idea. Then, I worked with them to find a similar solution that was feasible, creating a functional compromise.”

3. Tell me about a time you made a mistake at work


“In my last position, I was responsible for hiring seasonal workers for the first time. We needed to bring in more than a dozen short-term hires and had very little time to do so. While I was meeting with a candidate, it seemed like they had all of the necessary technical ability. However, I ignored a red flag – namely, a negative attitude about training – assuming that their existing skills would make it a non-issue.

“When they came on board, it was clear that their mindset would hinder them from reaching full productivity quickly. Additionally, their attitude negatively impacted other new hires that were taking part in initial training.

“Ultimately, that new hire had to be let go and replaced, which wasn’t ideal. However, it taught me the importance of not overlooking mindset and attitude when choosing candidates. As a result, my subsequent hiring decisions were much better fits, resulting in higher productivity and better retention.”

4. Have you ever had to work with someone you didn’t like? How did you handle that?


“In my last job, I was assigned to a project with a colleague with a work style that didn’t mesh well with mine. I’m generally a planner, and I like to outline my responsibilities in advance, divvying out tasks fairly to make them manageable and easier to track. My colleague favored a more organic approach, essentially deciding what to tackle next as they completed the previous task.

“In the end, this led to a disagreement about how to proceed. However, instead of digging in, I figured there had to be a reasonable compromise. I sat down with them and explained why I favored a planned approach and asked them to let me know why they preferred theirs. Ultimately, I learned that over-planning made them feel constrained, which hampered their creativity.

“With that knowledge, I proposed a solution. We would create a general framework for the entire project, using it as a joint roadmap. Then, as we moved forward, we would take ownership of tasks as needed. That gave them space while giving me structure, allowing us to complete the work on time.”

5. How do you handle setting goals? Can you give an example?


“Generally, I find that goals are beneficial when I need to stay on target. In my last job, I used goal-setting to enhance my personal performance. Initially, I was meeting expectations as a sales professional, but I wanted to exceed them.

“I began by outlining my sales numbers, letting me know where I currently sat. Next, I choose a target, aiming for a 10 percent increase in three months. Then, I broke down what I’d need to do each day to make that happen, such as conducting a specific number of calls or securing a particular number of qualified leads.

“After that, I used the information to create mini-goals for my time. This gave me a functional to-do list that guided me toward success. Ultimately, I was able to reach by target two weeks early, and by continuing with that strategy, achieved a 25 percent increase by the end of six months.”

Putting It All Together

So, the next time you’re meeting with a hiring manager and they ask you a behavioral question, don’t panic. With the STAR method for interviews, you’re prepared. Use the information above to your advantage, ensuring you can create your own amazing responses and stand out from the competition.

Good luck!


FREE: Behavioral Interview Questions PDF Checklist

Ok the next thing you should do is download our handy "Behavioral Interview Questions Checklist PDF".

In it you'll get 25 common behavioral questions along with tips on how to answer them with the STAR METHOD and the traps you need to avoid....

All in a beautifully designed pdf Jeff spent hours working on. ---- He made me put that in 😉


About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.