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Be the Master of Your Career Universe: How to Nail the STAR Method

This post is by Christy Palfy, a recruiting manager for  Progressive Insurance. The Fortune 500 Company has been using the STAR method for more than 13 years. Preparing for a job interview is stressful enough, but what if there was a way to sneak a peek at your interviewer’s notes beforehand? Some job-seekers are often tireless in their pursuit to be prepared, but there’s an interview method out there many big companies use that you might not be familiar with. Read on to learn what the STAR method is, why companies place so much importance on it, and five ways you can ace that portion of the interview. What is the STAR method? The short answer is it’s a behavioral-based set of interview questions. To dig a little deeper, the theory behind the method is that how you performed and reacted in the past is realistically indicative of the way you’ll perform and react in the future. That’s why if you’ve ever gone through a STAR interview, you probably noticed the questions were very specific. STAR is actually an acronym and stands for:

  • Situation. What were the workplace circumstances?
  • Task. What was it you needed to accomplish?
  • Action. How did you execute to complete your task?
  • Results. What happened as a result of your actions? What did you learn?

Why do companies place so much value on this particular interview method? The behavioral interview process, whether it goes by STAR or another name, is deemed successful in a corporate environment because it involves straightforward questions that can be answered with specific, real-life job examples. The method helps verify your fit for the job, and the company's fit for you. So don’t let the directness of the questions intimidate you – look at the situation as an opportunity to show the company you want to work for how you solve problems and get results. How can I put my best foot forward during a STAR interview?

  • Focus on you, even if it feels uncomfortable. A lot of people work on teams and do collaborations, but it’s crucial to stress what you did even in a team environment. Managers can’t hire the team, they can only hire you.
  • Turn a negative into a positive. If you’re asked about a difficult experience in the workplace, that’s not a bad thing. How do you perform when everything’s not going right? Explain what you learned and walk the recruiter through how you prevented the situation from happening again.
  • Plan ahead. In many instances, companies post information and sample questions on the jobs section of their website, so take advantage. Have someone you feel comfortable with do a mock interview with you beforehand.
  • Know when to zip your lips! There’s a delicate balance between being thorough while being succinct. From your situation to the final results, keep your story between three to five minutes or you’re likely to lose the recruiter.
  • Don’t be general. Ban phrases such as “I usually do this.” Talk specifically about what you did do.

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