Interview Tips for Success: Using The STARL Method

Interview Tips for Success: Using The STARL Method

Interview Tips for Success: Using the STARL Method

There’s nothing quite like preparing for a job interview. It’s exciting, it’s terrifying, it’s stressful, it’s hopeful. If you’re facing unknown interview questions from a potential employer, consider using the STARL method to answer behavioral interview questions.

Sometimes known as the STAR method, the STARL method – Situation, Task, Action, Result, and Lesson Learned—is an effective tactic for providing compelling answers to common interview questions.

What Are Behavioral Interview Questions?

Employers and hiring managers typically use behavioral interview questions (sometimes called “situational questions”) to determine how you’ve handled challenges and conflicts in the past. This allows the employer to see how you respond to stress, how you solve problems, and how you might proceed when faced with a challenge in the future.

Behavioral interview questions might include something like, “Tell me about a time you had to interact with a difficult customer. How did you handle this situation?” or “Describe a project of which you’re particularly proud. How did you contribute to the project’s success? What challenges did you face along the way?” There are thousands of sample questions available online, but you get the idea.

The Best Method for Answering Interview Questions

First and foremost, the best advice for any job candidate is to research and prepare before an interview. You can find more job-seeking and interview advice on our blog.

Once you’ve researched and prepared, it’s time to bring out the STARL method, a proven way to successfully answer common interview questions.

The STARL Method: How to Nail Your Interview

S: Situation

Describe a situation you faced in a previous job, volunteer position, or within your own life. Examples should be as specific as possible. Provide enough details to make sure the employer understands your goals within that project.

Make sure the situation you present is detailed and that you can highlight your skills and experience through this example—and that it adequately answers to interviewer’s question.

Example: “We had to implement an evacuation plan for 200 employees in case of an earthquake.”

T: Task

What was your role in coming up with a solution to the problem or project? Describe how your involvement was integral to finding a successful resolution. This part of your answer should be succinct but provide enough detail to make the interviewer understand the importance of your role.

Example: “My role was to interview 15 experts and write a 10-page report detailing expert suggestions for an evacuation plan.”

A: Action

Here’s where you get into specific details: what did you do to solve the problem, contribute to the project, or reach a solution? Be sure to talk about yourself here; provide details that your potential employer will find desirable.

Even if you worked with a team, it’s crucial to highlight individual achievements that will showcase your talents and your abilities. Employers aren’t interested in how your team solved a problem: they want to know your role in making it happen.

Example: “I interview these experts, which led me to realize our building wasn’t up to earthquake code. I then approached structural engineers and created a plan of action to propose structural changes. I also wrote a 10-page report and met with upper-level executives on more than one occasion.”

R: Result

Now, it’s time to reveal the ending. What was the outcome of your project or process? Was the task successful? What was your direct role in the outcome?

Focus on how your work led to landing the contract, or your innovative solution solved a long-standing problem. Provide specific examples of how your involvement led to successful (or even unsuccessful, if it’s lesson-worthy) completion of the task.

Example: “As a result of this work, our leaders agreed to structural changes necessary to bring the building up to code. The building also implemented an evacuation plan based on my findings and research, allowing over 200 employees a plan in case of emergency.”

L: Lessons Learned

In some cases, this acronym is simply referred to as the STAR technique—the “L” is rolled into the Result bullet. But it’s important to focus on this topic as its own entity and reflect on what you learned through the process.

Employers are interested to hear how a specific project or task changed you: what did you learn, how have you changed your actions or behaviors as a result, and why does this particular example stand out among the others?

If the task was a failure, say so. We can learn just as much – if not more – from our failures as from our successes. Being transparent and introspective with a potential employer shows that you are willing to learn from your mistakes and not make them again.

Example: “I learned that sometimes the research takes you places you didn’t intend to go. I wasn’t expecting to find structural issues, but I learned that speaking up is important, even if it means ruffling some feathers in the process.”

By preparing for your interview and practicing the STARL technique, you can go into your next interview confident of your abilities and your history.

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