Interviewing: Behavioral Interviews and the STAR Method

The STAR Method is a way to keep you focused on the key messages that answer the interviewer’s question, while the interviewer can easily listen to your story without extraneous information and details.

You finally received a phone call from an employer – and they would like to set up a phone screen! But you have no idea what kind of questions they are going to ask or even how to prepare. This is where the STAR Method comes into play.

Most employers hiring for entry level positions want to learn more about how you handle certain situations and a little bit about your experiences in the classroom, your extracurricular activities, as a student-athlete, and summer jobs. They are looking for key competencies that highlight you are teachable. In other words, your entire college experience is on the table. But you’ll want to think of the best stories you want to tell – and probably not that one where you resolved a conflict at a fraternity party.

PREPARE – Listen to the question very carefully and understand why they are asking the question. For example, if they are asking about when something went wrong when you were working in a team setting, and how did you handle it – what they REALLY want to know is are you going to be a worker who can collaborate, communicate, and keep morale high on a team. Take a moment to collect your thoughts, and if you need extra time say, “That’s a really great question, let me think about it for a moment.” You may also ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand the context of the question.

SITUATION – Describe the situation – who, what, where, when.

TASK – What were you tasked to do? What were the challenges, problems, costs or obstacles in your way?

ACTION – How did you plan to solve the problem? What did you do about it? What were the actions you put into play?

RESULT – What was the outcome? How was the situation better because of your actions? How did it impact customer, teammates, or the community?

EXAMPLE: Tell me about a time you faced a challenging situation and you had to adapt quickly.

ANSWER: My junior year of college was filled with challenges. Given that many colleges had to switch to online education very quickly after Spring Break, I had to quickly adapt to a kind of learning I had never experienced. Before this situation, I really enjoyed the structure of being in a classroom and having a professor lecturing while I took notes. But this gave me the opportunity to create my own self-discipline and structure. So I made a schedule for myself that forced me to get up every day at 7:30am, workout, and then begin my classes. Then I blocked time to complete my readings and written work so that I could enjoy my free time by 5pm. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed creating my own schedule, but made sure to prioritize my schoolwork. As a result, I can say that I finished the semester strong and made the Dean’s list.

Tiger Tip: Be sure to have a few of your top stories where you overcame the odds or made a real impact on people ready to go when you begin your interview. You are the STAR of your story – just make sure you keep it short at about 3-5 minutes. This is a short story, not an epic tale.