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How to nail your interview using the STAR method

  • June 14, 2022

You're In the middle of an interview for your dream job, and everything is going great. You’re making an excellent first impression with the interviewer. But suddenly you hear the dreaded words… “Tell me about a time when…” and all your confidence fades away. Your palms get sweaty, and your mind starts racing trying to think about a good enough example. 

Sound familiar? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there! 

These types of questions are called behavioral questions, and they are tough to answer. But don’t worry, we are here to help you so that you can ace these kinds of questions in your next interview. 

The behavioral interview was introduced in the 70s by industrial psychologists. The idea behind these types of questions is that the best way to predict future performance is past performance in a similar situation. So, you will be asked to provide a real-life example of how you’ve handled a specific situation in the past. 

Some examples of these types of questions are:

  • Give me an example of a time when you had to..?
  • Tell me about a situation in which you had to..?
  • What have you done in the past that..?

Even though answering these questions might seem like a tough task, it gets easier when applying the STAR method.

But wait…

What is the STAR Method?

The STAR method provides a framework that allows you to tell a meaningful story about your past experiences in a structured manner. Hereby, you will be able to show the recruiter that you have the necessary skills and abilities for the job position, backed up with a real-life example. 

  • Situation: Set the scene of the situation you were in
  • Task: Describe your specific responsibilities
  • Action: Explain the exact step you took to address the issue
  • Result: Share the outcome of your actions.

Let’s break it down.

The STAR method in action

We’re going to break down the STAR method using an example, but before we do that, an important note: prepare examples in advance! 

It is impossible to know what the interviewer will ask you. However, we suggest having a few stories from your past experiences ready so that you can adapt to different questions. When in the interview, don’t worry if you take some time to think and prepare your answer.. It’s okay to take a few seconds to think about it and structure your answer correctly. 

Once you have your example in mind, it’s time to apply the STAR method!

Example question: "What is the most challenging sale you've made?" 

1. Situation

Start by describing a specific event or situation, try to go to the point and avoid including unnecessary details that are not relevant to the final outcome. Your objective in this stage is to provide a clear image of the situation you were in and highlight the difficulties and challenges you were facing.

Example (Situation): “In my last role as an Account Executive, I spent 5 months going back and forth with a client that had the potential to become the biggest deal in the history of the company. This was significant as our sales cycle was usually never more than 2 months. They had many decision-makers and were very picky about the product they chose to invest in. When I thought the sale was closed, some new person stepped in with new concerns and we had to begin all over again.” 

2. Task

At this stage, describe what your responsibility was in that situation. In other words, discuss the goal or task set out for you... The interviewer must understand what your role responsibilities were at the time. This section requires a lot less amount of time than explaining the situation. Again, consider just one or two points that best illustrate the task you needed to complete.

Example (Task): "I hadn’t had the best start to the year and was far off my mid-year quota. This client would mean almost my full yearly quota in terms of revenue. I was the only account executive in charge of the deal and 100% responsible for closing the sale." 

3. Action

Here is your opportunity to shine. Explain what you did, what steps you took to solve the issue and the reasoning behind your decisions. It is really worth it to go deep into your actions; Did you work with a team? What tools did you use? Try to share things that make you stand out from the other candidates, things that are unique to your profile. 

Example (Action): "I decided to put full focus into this account. I slowly singled out my champion within the company, built rapport through meaningful interactions, and worked with her to understand the internal dynamics of the company and work my way through every stakeholder involved. I was on top of things, but not pushy, and I adapted my approach to each individual stakeholder I interacted with and their specific pain points. It was tough work, but also a lot of fun." 

4. Result 

The last step is to share the result of your actions and highlight how you made a positive impact. Tie it back to the Situation and Task, and explain how they improved. Using numbers and percentages of improvements is very valuable at this point. Recruiters want to know besides what you did, what result it had and what you learnt from it. It is the most important part of the answer.

Example (Result): "After 5 long months, we finally signed the deal. It was the biggest deal in the history of the company and a big learning curve for me personally. I’d never had to go into such detail to make a sale, and I truly understood what it takes to take over a complex sales process." 

We’ve helped hundreds of people land their dream jobs in tech sales, even people that didn’t have previous experience or background, and the STAR method is by far our most efficient interview technique and the one that candidates love the most. 

We highly recommend you practice it before you begin any interview. Write down a list of possible questions, and run through the example responses with a friend or in the mirror. Trust us, when used well, it will blow the recruiters away!

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