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A student/graduate’s ultimate guide to the STAR interview technique

Naomi Ndifon

The STAR method is a proven way to ace interviews. Learn how to use it like a boss with this guide (examples included).

With competition for internships and entry-level jobs at an all-time high, it's important to make a strong impression during your interview. Enter the “STAR method” – a guaranteed way for you to showcase the thing many interviewers look for in entry-level hires: potential for excellence.

Whether you're a recent graduate or a student preparing for your first interview, this guide will give you the tools you need to confidently impress employers.

We'll cover:

What is the STAR Method?

The acronym STAR refers to:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

Although its origins are largely unclear (several sources attribute the mainstreaming of the technique to Amazon), the STAR method is a popular technique that helps interviewees frame their responses to questions in a succinct and specific manner. 

At Prosple, we routinely speak to graduate employees at workplaces around Australia and we’ve found that many of them recommend the STAR method. Here’s what a few of them had to say about it.

“Prepare a response to all generic interview questions using the STAR method - this is invaluable.” - Graduate at Hydro-Tasmania

“Use the STAR model in answering your questions. Don't be nervous.” - Graduate at IP Australia

“Preparing based on the STAR questioning system is the biggest piece of advice I can give.” - Graduate at Victoria State Government Department of Energy, Environment & Climate Action

“Always use the STAR method.” - Graduate at Grant Thorton

What Interview Questions Can You Answer with the STAR Method?

    The STAR method is specifically for answering behavioural interview questions also known as experience-based or scenario-based questions. As the name implies, behavioural questions do not test your technical knowledge of the role. Rather, they are a way for interviewers to get a sense of who you are as a person, your work ethic and your attitude in the workplace. 

    By asking behavioural questions, recruiters use past behaviour to predict future success. This is why the STAR method is crucial as an answering technique for these types of questions.

    How to Identify Behavioural Questions

    Typically, you can spot behavioural questions by the following prompts:

    1. “Describe a time when…”
    2. “Can you give us an example of…”
    3. “Tell us of how you dealt with…”
    4. “Have you ever been faced with X situation? How did you handle it?”
    5. “What did you do when…”

    While not all behavioural questions use the same prompts, they’ll generally ask you to recount past experiences or situations to provide an answer. These questions are designed to gauge your ability to handle different work scenarios and demonstrate your behavioural patterns.

    To learn more about how to answer tricky ‘Tell me about a time when…’ questions, check out this article.

    What are the Four Steps of the STAR Method?

    Situation (20%)

    The Situation section is not only the first step but also the foundation of the STAR method. Think of it as answering the question, “What happened?” 

    While you want to give as much context as necessary, try to keep this part to 20% of your overall answer or less (think: 2-3 sentences). Set the background to the story and move on.

    Task (10%)

    After you’ve provided enough background information for your interviewer, the next step is to describe the task at hand. 

    A simple way to frame your task answer would be to answer the question, “What exactly needed to be done in this situation?” or “What was the goal?”  Also remember to keep it brief, preferably 1-2 sentences. 

    Action (60%)

    The Action section is the “star” of the STAR method. It should form the bulk of your response because it highlights your role in bringing about the final outcome of the situation. 

    The main emphasis in this section is YOU. What did YOU do? What steps did YOU take? What decision(s) did YOU make? 

    Be as detailed as possible here. If you took four different steps to achieve the end goal (task), outline them step-by-step. If there was a company policy or SOP for the task, refer to it first (but briefly) and then talk about how you specifically implemented those processes. 

    Also, showcase your skills by using strong action verbs. For example, instead of saying "I helped with the project," say "I spearheaded the project.” Don’t be afraid to put yourself in the spotlight. 

    Just don’t go overboard! Remember to strike a balance between providing enough detail to showcase your skills and actions, and being concise enough to keep the interviewer engaged.

    Result (10%)

    You’ve talked about what happened (Situation), what needed to be done (Task), and what you did (Action). Now it’s time to talk about the outcome of your actions; the result(s). 

    The Result section is an underrated but critical part of the STAR method. As one grad at the Commonwealth Bank puts it, “The R for 'results' is very important. Treat this part like every self-reflection in your assignments/life experience.”

    As much as possible, lean into numbers as a way of quantifying your results to your interviewer. For example, instead of saying, “As a result of my leadership skills, the project was completed on time,” say “As a result of my taking initiative and suggesting we delegate xyz portion of the project to abc team, we not only completed the project one week ahead of time, the project also helped drive the company revenue 15% higher than the previous years.” Be specific and provide measurable impact that demonstrates how YOUR actions led to success for the entire company.

    What Are Some Examples of the STAR Method?

    Question 1: When was a time you took a risk and failed? How did you respond? How did you grow from it?

    Situation: There was a time during my previous job as a marketing specialist when I was responsible for launching a new product that our company had invested a lot in. There was a lot of pressure because we had already set these ambitious targets for our sales and profits.

    Task: To ensure that we would meet our targets, I decided to take a risk. At the time I believed this campaign would generate a high return on investment and help us achieve our sales targets so I decided to invest a significant portion of our advertising budget into a digital campaign.

    Action: However, things didn’t go as I had hoped. Our engagement and conversion rates were lower than what we had projected, and we didn’t meet our sales targets either. But instead of dwelling on the failure, I immediately took responsibility for making the decision that cost us and then organised a team meeting to assess what went wrong in the campaign strategy. We analysed the data collected from the campaign and identified the areas that needed improvement. 

    Results: Although the campaign was not successful, it provided valuable insights into our target market and the effectiveness of our marketing strategies. By analysing the data and taking an open and honest approach to evaluating our mistakes immediately after, we were able to develop a more effective marketing plan for the next quarter. In the end, the failed campaign helped us grow as a team by encouraging reflection and constant improvement in our work.

    Question 2: Tell me about a time when you had multiple important projects to finish and how you prioritised them.

    Situation: As a team lead in my previous marketing role, I was usually responsible for managing multiple time-sensitive campaigns. There was one week I had three urgent requests that needed immediate attention and were all of equal importance.

    Task: One project involved creating targeted email marketing campaigns, the other was on designing new product packaging, and the third was updating our social media marketing strategy. Each one was crucial and timely so I knew I had to find a way to handle them concurrently.

    Action: To do this, I started by assessing the priority level of each task by looking at the timelines and client expectations. Then I delegated tasks with a focus on the most urgent project. I made sure I communicated these priorities to my team members and created a project schedule and timeline so everyone knew exactly what needed to be done and by when.

    Results: By effectively prioritising these three projects, we were able to meet the required deadlines and achieve successful outcomes for each of them. The targeted email marketing campaign saw a 25% increase in click-through rates, while the new product packaging design helped in clarifying the product's features to our clients, and after updating the social media marketing strategy, we achieved a 20% increase in conversion rates. All of this was possible through team effort and it made us more efficient moving forward.

    Question 3: Tell us about a time when you had to work in a diverse team to accomplish a project. What kinds of issues arose and how did you address them?

    Situation: When I was a marketing student at the University, I had the opportunity to work on a group project where I had to collaborate with a diverse team. My group consisted of fellow students with diverse backgrounds and skill sets. 

    Task: Our assignment was to develop a comprehensive marketing plan for a local startup that would effectively promote the startup's product and differentiate it in the market.

    Action: To make the most of our differences and bring them all together in our work, I took the initiative of organising regular meetings where we could all share our insights and perspectives on the task. It was all about open dialogue and collaborative brainstorming in those sessions. Because we had these different opinions and approaches, there were moments when disagreements popped up. But whenever that happened, I made sure we had discussions to find common ground. The goal was to reach a consensus and keep our team dynamic positive.

    Results: At the end of the project, our strategy of highlighting our diverse perspectives paid off. We turned in a well-thought-out marketing plan that covered various channels and strategies despite our limited professional experience. We all earned an A in the course and to top it off, our Professor was very impressed with our work.

    Question 4: Describe a time when you faced a difficult problem at work. How did you solve this problem?

    Situation: In my first few months as a marketing team lead in my previous company, I experienced what would have been a major setback when one of our key team members unexpectedly resigned in the middle of a project. This person was responsible for creating all the marketing collateral, so their resignation had a huge impact on our project timeline.

    Task: As the team lead, my task was to address this issue swiftly and find a solution that ensured the project stayed on track and all the remaining team members stayed motivated throughout.

    Action: To achieve this, the first thing I did was convene the rest of the team for a meeting to discuss the situation and get their input because It was important to hear their thoughts and ideas on how we could move forward. Once we had a good understanding of the challenge, I dove into the details of the marketing campaign. I reviewed the details of the campaign and identified which tasks the departed team member had completed. Then, I reassigned the remaining tasks to other team members who had the skills and experience necessary to complete them.  Given our limited time and expertise, there were some marketing collateral pieces that we couldn't handle in-house, so I reached out to external contractors to help us maintain the quality and consistency of our branding.

    Results: As a result, our marketing campaign was successfully completed on time despite the challenges we faced. The team was able to work efficiently towards achieving our goal and filling in for our ex-teammate. We also didn't compromise on quality, and we met all our sales targets as initially projected.

    Question 5: Describe a situation when you dealt with a difficult supervisor or co-worker. 

    Situation: During my final year project as a marketing student, I was assigned a supervisor who had a reputation for being extremely demanding. In the beginning, we had a lot of contradictory opinions on the direction of the project and we also faced communication difficulties. It created some tension, and so it was hard to make any progress effectively.

    Task: Despite the difficulties, I still had to find a way to collaborate with my supervisor, maintain a productive working relationship and most importantly, make sure I delivered a high-quality project.

    Action:  I decided to take a proactive approach to getting past this. I started actively seeking feedback from my supervisor throughout the project to align our expectations. Then I would make changes based on their comments and also provide regular updates on my progress. Whenever issues or disagreements occurred, I would approach my supervisor calmly and respectfully to find a solution that worked for both of us.

    Results: Thankfully, my approach paid off. As the project progressed, my supervisor began to respect my efforts and dedication. By the end of the project, I received the highest grade in the class and my examiners gave me excellent remarks. I even managed to maintain a great relationship with my supervisor and she has been a valuable career mentor and referee for my job applications.

    What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Using the STAR Method?

    Advantages of Using the Star Method

    • You provide clearer and more concise answers to the questions asked: The STAR method is a structured approach to question answering that covers the key points needed for interviewers to make the right decision. Working through each step of the STAR method forces you to think through complex situations and craft a concise and focused answer while effectively conveying your experience and highlighting your competencies. 
    • You come off as more confident during interviews: An added plus of using the STAR framework to provide more concise answers is that you come across as better prepared and more confident. Hiring managers are always looking for candidates who present themselves in a professional and organised manner and so the STAR method is crucial if you want to make a strong impression.
    • You get a confidence boost: The reflective nature of the STAR method can help you overcome your interview fears. Because you need to look back on your past achievements to craft your Situation-Task-Action-Results answers, you become more aware of how far you’ve come and why you deserve any interview opportunity. This might just be the confidence boost you need!

    Disadvantages of Using the STAR Method

    • You run the risk of sounding robotic: The STAR method provides a structured approach to answering interview questions, but over-relying on it can make you sound scripted and less authentic. 

    To avoid this, use bullet points to highlight key details instead of memorising a script. For example, you might centre your interview responses on KPIs (key performance indicators) or other key metrics from your previous roles, focusing on examples that demonstrate your strengths and qualifications.

    Also, be spontaneous and adapt your responses to the natural flow of the conversation. Use vivid language and sensory details to make your response more memorable. 

    Blending structure with spontaneity and authenticity is key to using the STAR method effectively.

    How to Use the STAR Method to Prepare for Interviews

    Step 1. Identify all your career highlights (both accomplishments and challenges faced): It’s likely you’ll need to recall different experiences to answer the behavioural questions you’ll be asked. If you’re worried that you don’t have enough professional experiences to draw from, look to your university experiences. Recall volunteer roles, group projects, and positions you held and outline both your accomplishments and challenges you faced.

    Step 2. Narrow down to your five best career stories in line with the KSAs (Knowledge, Skills and Attributes) needed for the specific job you’re applying them: To increase your chances of success in interviews, use the STAR method and narrow down to your five best career stories that align with the KSAs (Knowledge, Skills and Attributes) required for the job. 

    Read the job description carefully and note the skills, responsibilities, and requirements sought by the employer. Choose the five stories that best reflect your abilities in those areas. Also, make sure your stories are aligned with the core values of the organisation you're applying to. This will demonstrate to the interviewer that you understand their company culture and are a great fit for their team.

    Step 3. Reframe these stories for a variety of different questions: You don’t need to prepare 100 different stories for 100 different questions. All you need are five strong stories with multiple perspectives to answer different questions. For instance, if you have a story about a difficult problem you faced at work and how you solved it, you can use this story to answer questions related to leadership, teamwork, decision-making, and conflict resolution. By being able to reframe your stories, you always have strong, relevant examples to draw from regardless of the direction of the interview.

    Step 4. Practise your answers and do mock interviews: The most effective practice is done by simulating an interview setting. You can ask a friend, family member, or career counsellor to conduct a mock interview with you. When doing mock interviews, make sure to dress up as if you were attending a real interview, and use a timer to ensure that you stay within the allotted time frame for each question. As you answer each question, remember to break up your answer into Situation-Task-Action-Result. Over time, you’ll be able to fine-tune your response and improve your confidence.

    For more techniques to help you ace your next interview, be sure to check out our extensive Graduate Careers Advice page!

    Do’s and Don’ts of the STAR Method


    • When asked to talk about a weakness, put a positive spin on it.
    • If you’re unsure of the answer to a question, take 15-30 seconds to pause, think and properly frame your response.
    • Be concise.


    • When asked to talk about how you dealt with a conflict or a difficult situation with a coworker, don’t criticise the other party.
    • Don’t go off tangent. Make sure you answer the question being asked.
    • Don’t over-memorise your answers, as you risk coming off as unnatural. Instead, know your metrics of success.
    • Don’t embellish your stories. Rather choose stories that naturally show you in a positive light.

    What Next? 

    Now you know what the STAR method entails, make sure you incorporate it into your interview prep sessions. Set a goal for how many practice interviews you want to complete each week, or schedule a mock interview with a friend. 

    To help you get started, here are some additional questions below. Best of luck!

    STAR Interview Practice Questions

    1. What are your strengths and weaknesses in person-to-person relations?
    2. When was a time you had to influence a difficult stakeholder to a positive situation?
    3. When was a time you had to describe something technical to someone who did not have a technical background? How did you go about it?
    4. Tell us about a time you worked in an ineffective group environment.
    5. Describe a scenario where you had a conflict of interest. How did you handle this situation?
    6. When have you used teamwork in day-to-day life or past jobs?
    7. Give me an example of you demonstrating good time management skills.
    8. Discuss a time you have demonstrated resilience.
    9. Tell us about a time you had to deal with a difficult customer.
    10. Tell us about a time you went out of your comfort zone.

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