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Learn how to ace a STAR interview

STAR interview is a fancy name for something that has been around for years–the situational and behavioral interview questions. Asking about various relevant situations from your past (mostly work-related), interviewers try to understand your way of thinking, attitude to work, and how you would approach different situations in your new job.

Before we look at some sample questions and answers, let me explain the abbreviation:

S – Situation from the past, mostly work-related, relevant for the job you try to get. In some cases (entry level jobs) the situation can relate to your personal life, or studies. The situation can also be fictive, and they can ask you what you would do, instead of what you really did in some situation.
T – Task you had to accomplish, the task you were (would be) supposed to accomplish in a given situation (S).
A – Action you took, will take, or would take, in the situation (S), to accomplish your task (T) which is described in the particular question..
R – Result you achieved with the action (A) you took in the situation (S), trying to accomplish the task (T).

 

Examples of STAR interviewing

Example 1 (fictive scenario)

1. Situation (S): Your boss made a wrong decision and you spotted it. The decision can lead to financial loss.

2. Task (T): You should try your best to avoid the loss. What would you do?

3. Action (A) (this is where your answer begins): I would ask the boss to have a look at the papers together with me. We would go through them, and I would try to help them to spot the mistake, without pointing to it. They would find the mistake, and remedy it, without feeling embarrassed. And if they did not find it, I would finally tell them, but I’d do it in a polite way.

4. Result (R): The company avoided the loss, the boss kept their professionalism and authority in the eyes of the employees, and our relationship did not worsen. That is why I would approach the situation in a way I described.

 

Example 2 (behavioral questions, real situation)

1. Situation (S): Remember a time when you were seriously behind schedule in your work.

2. Task (T): Tell us what you did in order to take care of the heavy workload, and get back on schedule.

3. Action (A): (here your answer begins): I remember when we were opening a new branch in Norway and I was responsible for the project. We should open it on first January 2014, but on fifteenth it still did not exist. What I did was that I divided the entire project to small tasks and identified the tasks that we did not accomplish, that blocked the completion of other tasks, and resulted into the big delay. Mostly it went about administrative tasks, but also some smaller tasks that certain employees had not taken care of. I reassigned the tasks to people and talked personally to everyone to ensure they knew what they were supposed to do. And for the most important administrative tasks I took personal responsibility, though I was supposed only to manage the project.

4. Result (R): Three weeks later, the new branch was up and running in Norway, with two new employees.

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