Interviewing Explained: S.T.A.R. Method

December 13, 2020

Today would normally mark the occasion for an Engineering Explained segment. But, I felt that some of our entry-level Engineers might benefit more if we took a little time to go over an interviewing method called the S.T.A.R. method.

Interviews are meant to allow you to show your potential as an Engineer and really shine your career to a high polish. In this industry we normally do have technical interviews, but those are often used to make sure a candidate lives up to their resume. They are important to pass, but they are usually easier if you’re highly technical. The interviews that make or break most technical people are behavioral interviews. These are the ones we all dread, but often have to be done to make sure an Engineer is a good fit for a team or company.

Behavioral interviews ask questions such as, “Tell me about a time when…” and “Give me an example of a time you…” This is a time when you have to answer in the form of a story, pulling from your career or life a time that would match the scenario for which they are asking. If this were not tough enough, you example must be to the point, brief, and not ramble. Never ramble. So, with that in mind let’s discuss a method that will allow you to accomplish just that!

The method is the S.T.A.R method, which stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. First, describe the situation you found yourself in. Secondly, describe for what you were responsible during this situation. Thirdly, describe the actions you took the address the situation. And lastly, share what outcomes your actions achieved. It’s simple on the face of it. Let’s look at an example from my own career.

“Tell me about a time when you achieved a goal that you initially thought was out of reach.”

Situation: Our company was in a phase of Open Enrollment, which normally makes implementing changes to our environment very hard to accomplish, but we had a new Phish Alert Button to deploy due to a contract expiring and we needed to move to a new product.
Task: I was tasked with working out a plan for deployment before the contract ended for our previous product.
Action: I worked with all of the process stakeholders, application owners, and change management, and we collectively formed an implementation plan.
Result: It turned out be a complete failure. No, I kid.
Actual Result: We did miss our implementation mark slightly, but that extra time allowed us to do more testing, resolve other unforeseen issues in our environment, and deploy soon after.

That’s just one example of how to use the S.T.A.R method. Once you take the time to formulate a few of these for the most common interview questions and write them down, they will become easier to create. Once you make a few for your next interview, go over them several times so you can speak to them without reading them or glancing at your paper during the interview. By using the S.T.A.R. method you will sound concise, to the point, and hopefully win the hearts and minds of your interviewers. If you use this method, or even the C.A.R.L. method, let us know how it worked out for you in our Discord or on LinkedIn. Remember, we’re rooting for you and everyone in Discord is looking to help each other, so come join our great community of Engineers! 

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