loading
A Guide to the STAR Method
Deb Ward / JUNE 01 2021
Summary

What is the STAR Method? It’s a strategy for answering behavioral interview questions that allow you to share examples of how you successfully handled situations in the past and prove you have the experience and skills for the job at hand.

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result

Behavioral interview questions usually start with phrases like:

  • “describe a ….”
  • “share an example of …”
  • “when have you ever…”
  • “tell me about a time when…”

This is an opportunity for you to paint a picture for the employer by telling them a specific story that answers their question. You’re engaging them on a deeper level where they can picture you doing the task and getting a good result.

Here’s How It Works:

  • SITUATION: Start by explaining what was happening.  Set the scene and why you were in this situation.
  • TASK: Describe your specific tasks, what you were responsible for and what the goal was.
  • ACTION: Talk about what you did to achieve the goal. Be specific with what you did. This is an important piece of the story.
  • RESULT: Share the result and what you learned. Go into some detail about how it impacted the company and the experience you gained.

Here’s an example:

Because the hospitality industry relies on employees and managers with strong social skills, the types of questions you’ll be asked will be geared toward revealing how you’d interact with guests and customers.

Question: Tell me about a time when you handled a difficult customer. 

SITUATION: I had guests arrive at the front desk to check-in and for some reason, their reservation wasn’t in the system. They had been traveling all day and were tired, hungry, and frustrated. 

TASK:  It was late and I needed to find a suitable room so they could get settled in for the night. We were nearly full and the customer needed a room that could accommodate the two adults, a toddler, and an infant, so they needed a crib as well.

ACTION: I was able to seat them in our 24-hour café and arranged for them to be served while I worked on the room accommodation. That kept them busy and gave them a place to rest, along with something to eat, instead of making them stand at the desk and wait with two tired children in tow. It took me about a half-hour to get their room ready and make them comfortable.

RESULT: They were happy with their room, it had everything they requested and they really appreciated getting the children fed and calmed down before heading up to their room. They felt they were taken care of in a warm and caring way in a frustrating situation.  They even mentioned me to the manager the next morning and told him how much they appreciated the service they received. It really made a difference to them and they gave us a great review on social media.

Common Mistakes to Avoid when using STAR:

  • Forcing a situation to fit: If you’ve been practicing your stories and have come up with some good examples, you may be tempted to use one of those and just hope it works, even if you’ve never encountered the particular situation you’re being asked to describe.  It’s better to just say you haven’t had that experience, but here’s what you’d do if you had.
  • Not being prepared at all: Of course, you can’t know what you’ll be asked ahead of time, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for the possibilities.  By carefully reviewing the job description and the skills that are required, you can make an educated guess about what to prepare. 
  • Not using the method at all: If the questions aren’t truly “behavioral,” you can still use the STAR method to give a concise and clear answer. If you’re asked “what are your strengths and weaknesses,” you can reframe it in your mind to be “Tell me a story that explains your strengths and weaknesses.”
  • Not turning a negative into a positive: When asked to describe when you made a mistake, be sure to end on a positive note and share what you learned from the experience. It’s OK that something went wrong, just be sure you use an example that ends in a positive result.

Common performance skills in hospitality include coping or conflict, teamwork, flexibility, and initiative. Take some time to brainstorm about your experience, times you worked on projects, in teams, or with customers, and write down how you dealt with those situations.  You may be surprised how many you’ll remember. You’ll be well on your way to gathering the examples you need to really shine in your next interview.