As recruiters at CU Boulder, we are often asked for tips on how to prepare for an interview or to provide feedback on how candidates can improve their interview skills. One tip we share is to focus on providing real examples of prior work experience, rather than providing “philosophical” answers. The STAR interview method can help with both interview preparation and performance. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result and is a framework for you as a candidate to conceptualize and provide answers that best highlight your experiences and skills.
Employers increasingly are asking behavioral-based interview questions. In this method of interviewing, candidates are asked to share details of their specific work experience that relates to how the candidate may perform in the position for which they are interviewing. This method is beneficial to both the employer and the candidate. Providing a structured question allows the candidate to more easily present a concrete answer. This can be helpful during a time in which high nerves could potentially cause the candidate to veer from the topic or question asked. Common behavioral-based questions may begin with 'Tell me about a time…' or 'Describe a situation…'
Preparing for an interview using the STAR Method.
As you think about an upcoming interview, employ the STAR method to focus your preparations. STAR is an acronym for Situation - Task - Action - Result. Think of your current and recent positions in the context of the description of the position to which you're applying. What is required in the new position that you have had experience with recently? Then think of that experience as a story you might tell:
Situation -- Describe a specific situation, not just an overview of your responsibilities.
Task -- What was your assignment or goal? What were you trying to solve?
Action -- Talk about what you did, what your individual contribution was. When describing your actions, use “I” rather than “we.” (But be sure you don’t take credit for what someone else did!)
Result -- Were you successful? Why? What might you have done differently? What did you learn?
Understanding the STAR interview method before interviewing can help you better prepare for the interview. Even if you don’t know the exact questions prior to an interview, you can still reflect on the STAR method to successfully prepare. Begin by reviewing the job ad, specifically the job responsibilities and competencies. Let’s say that communication, teamwork, and resourcefulness are three competencies that are listed in the job ad. Take a minute to think back on your work history and come up with situations where you’ve really had to use those skills or you’ve felt those skills have been put to the test. Don’t be afraid to use a situation that maybe didn’t have the outcome you’d hoped for, but that ended up being a very strong learning and growing experience for you professionally.
Thinking about these situations ahead of time can help you with the STAR method when you’re in the interview as well. Even if the prior situation that you’ve thought about doesn’t apply to the question that you’ve been asked, you’ve already familiarized yourself with the thought process to answer a question under the STAR format. You may find this method of interviewing to be easier to prepare for and find it allows you to stand out more as a candidate because you are sharing experiences unique to you!