20+ STAR Interview Questions & Best Answers
The STAR method or STAR technique is a format and structure used by interviewees to answer behavioral interview questions or situational interview questions. A behavioral question and a situational question is an open-ended interview question that prompts the interviewer to share an experience at work and how the situation was handled.
Situational questions and behavioral questions often begin with “Tell me about a time..” or “Can you tell me when..” These are the types of interview questions where the STAR interview method can be utilized as an interviewee or job candidate.
A hiring manager may ask several interview questions, then prompt the interviewer with a STAR question or competency question like “Tell me about a time you had to decide without all the available information you needed.” These behavioral interview questions will often be mixed into the interview session rather than having the entire interview be strictly behavioral-based.
These questions serve a great purpose for the interviewer. They promote the interviewer's ability to hear about a difficult situation, challenging situation, or specific situation that can provide them with ample opportunity to learn about work performance and how the interviewee might conduct themselves in a professional sense. This allows the hiring manager or interviewer to understand if a similar situation were to unfold in the new work environment, how the candidate would handle the stressful situation.
When you hear a behavioral interview question, as a candidate, consider answering using the STAR technique or “STAR Response.” It is defined as:
Situation — Explain what the issue is.
- What is the problem?
- What needs to be accomplished?
- What restrictions are present?
- What business outcomes are expected?
Task — Describe the responsibilities needed.
- What needs to be done?
- Who needs to be doing these things?
- How soon do they need to be done?
Action — Describe the steps that need to take place.
- The explicit decision to take an action.
- The choice of taking action.
- The action is strictly defined.
Result — Describe the end result.
- The business outcome.
- The result of a client or customer.
- The result of the team.
- The response of the team or the customer.
As an interviewee, when you tell your story using this structure, you are presenting a “STAR answer.” This answer helps the interviewer join you in the situation you were presented with and shows how your past behavior was a key indicator of your future performance. A candidate should only present situations and work examples where the outcomes were positive. And can show an interviewer that they should have confidence in the candidate’s ability to perform the job function.
Tip: It can be helpful to consult an interview coach and receive interview coaching if there isn’t a clear path to answering behavioral interview questions. Job seekers can practice with a friend (in a mock interview) and attempt to use the STAR interview technique to answer questions.
24 Common STAR Interview Questions
Below are common behavioral interview questions that may be asked, which prompt a STAR response from the interviewee. These will be asked in addition to more common interview questions like, "Why do you want to work here?"
- Give me a specific example of a time when you had to comply with a policy you disagreed with.
- Discuss an important document you were required to complete.
- Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond to get the job done.
- Describe a situation in which you persuaded someone to see things your way.
- Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation and how you dealt with it.
- Give me a specific example of a time when you used good logic in solving a problem.
- Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to achieve it.
- Tell me about a time when you had to use presentation skills to influence a group's opinion.
- Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with an agitated customer or coworker.
- Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.
- Tell me about a time when you delegated a project effectively.
- Give me an example of a time when you used deductive reasoning skills to solve a problem.
- Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem.
- Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
- Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
- Tell me about a time you had to fire a friend.
- Describe a time when you set your sights too high or too low.
- Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do, and you were required to prioritize tasks.
- Give me an example of a time when you had to make a fast decision and how you did it.
- Tell me how you deal with conflict.
- Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you.
- Tell me about a difficult decision you’ve made in the last year.
- Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish and failed.
- Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.
Tip: As a candidate, before your next interview, practice taking the STAR approach to behavioral interview questions. Write your sample answer down on a piece of paper and ensure the story only takes 90-seconds or less to tell. Practice telling your work experience story with a friend, colleague, or family member.
5 Best STAR or Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers
Below is a sample response to each job interview question that fits into the "common behavioral question" group. It may be part of the interview process to ask regular interview questions that test a candidate's previous work experience, then ask a behavioral interview question that prompts tests their competencies.
Tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership skills.
Answer: When I was in my previous company, we had a few weeks to complete a significant project. There were about 12 of us involved in this project. And our team felt a little uneasy about the fact that we didn’t have a strong grasp of the project's needs. We continued forward and, unfortunately, made a few mistakes. The management team wasn’t entirely pleased with our team performance. I was one of the first to take the onus on our performance and say there are a few things we can improve next time. I wasn’t scared to admit that we tried, did our best but learned some lessons that made the rest of the employees follow suit. Management respected us for taking ownership and gave us another shot on another project. We crushed that one.
Tell me about a time when you had to decide without the information you needed.
Answer: There was a conflict between two colleagues. And both of them felt as though the other was lying about the situation. Unfortunately, no one was around when the incident occurred to help validate which one of the employees was telling the truth. One of them was going to be terminated. I decided to listen to the person who was being less aggressive in their delivery. We ended up later finding out that the employee who was terminated was at fault.
Tell me about a conflict you’ve had with a coworker and how you resolved it.
Answer: During the team meeting, a colleague ended up expressing some frustration with our team process. I wanted to make sure I was part of the solution. So I asked them if there was something we as a team could be doing better. It seemed that getting the floor and asking for their opinion helped. We ended up taking some of the recommendations they made.
Tell me about a time you failed.
Answer: I worked in customer service and had to deal with an irate customer. Our product had failed on them, and they wanted their money back. The company policy was stringent on “no refunds,” and this customer was a rare unsatisfied one, as our products were often quite dependable. I stayed calm, remained polite, and offered a store credit, coupons, and other solutions. The customer did not have any of it and let me know we would not receive their business again before hanging up. From this experience, I learned that working within the policies of a company can indeed be difficult. However, I could have taken more time to listen to the customer’s concerns and level with them, rather than throw solutions out there. Customer service is about making the customer happy, and being an effective communicator is a big part of that.
What is your greatest achievement?
Answer: My last employer had a history of missing the mark when preparing promotional activities. It was no fault of their own— they were a small company, and the budget focused on the product itself, which was smart and understandable. While employed as a marketing supervisor, I took the time to make a very low-cost plan for three different promotional events. We managed to have enough in the budget for all three, and we brought on a ton of new clients through them. I think my ability to brainstorm and budget are important to this position, and that achievement really proved that to me.
Our favorite resources are included below.
Job interview resources
- Common Interview Questions by Marquette University
- Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions by Marquette University
- Preparing for Job Interviews by the University of Kansas
- Mock Interview Handbook by CSUCI
- Interview Guidebook by Lebanon Valley College
Resume and cover letter resources
- Writing a Resume and Cover Letter by USC
- Resume Writing Tips by the University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Resume and Cover Letter Guide by Harvard University
Job search resources
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