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How to use the STAR method for interviews

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Most hiring managers know the pain of recruiting someone who appears skilled and knowledgeable in their interviews but turns out to be ineffective in their job. It’s a waste of time, resources, and money – not to mention it forces you to start the hiring process all over again. 

Many poor hiring decisions boil down to how thoroughly you assess candidates – especially during interviews. You need to find a way to dive deeper into candidates’ skills and verify their experiences to ensure you’re making reliable hiring decisions. 

The STAR interview format is a great way to do this. With this method, you can ask candidates for concrete examples of their experiences, actions, and contributions at work. You can also probe them further with follow-up questions to ensure you’re getting an accurate picture of their skills and abilities.   

In this guide, we explain the STAR method and how to incorporate it into your hiring process effectively. We also share some sample STAR interview questions to help you get started.

What is the STAR method?

The STAR interview format is a behavioral interviewing technique employers use during hiring. “STAR” stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. 

The method is designed to bring a structured and focused approach to interviewing and primarily focuses on a candidate’s working styles, behavioral attributes, and competencies. 

STAR method interview questions usually focus on asking candidates for concrete examples of situations they’ve encountered in their past experiences – either in a work or educational setting. Questions typically start with phrases like “Describe a situation where,” “Tell me about a time you had to,” or “Share an example of when you.”

The best answers will include clear, concise information covering the following:

  • Situation. The candidate describes the situation or context they were in, explaining the circumstances or challenges they faced.. 

  • Task. The applicant explains the specific task(s) they had to achieve in the situation described. This helps the interviewer to better understand the candidate’s roles and responsibilities in the scenario. 

  • Action. The candidate describes the actions they took or decisions they made to work through their tasks and goals – including how they overcame any specific challenges. This gives the interviewer insight into the candidate’s problem-solving abilities, working style, decision-making abilities, and more. 

  • Result. The applicant defines the outcomes and results of their actions. These could be either positive or negative. They help show the interviewer the impact or value the candidate added to the task or how they rectified a negative outcome. This stage in the method provides an excellent opportunity for candidates to discuss any quantifiable impact they made – for instance, increasing sales by 2%. 

The underlying idea behind the STAR format is that it helps employers assess how candidates have responded to different situations at work – which is a reliable indicator of how they’ll handle similar scenarios in the future.  

How is the STAR method used by employers and candidates? 

Here’s how employers and candidates use the STAR interview method.


  • Frame questions that prompt candidates to provide concrete examples of their previous experiences, behaviors, and traits.

  • Probe candidates to dive deeper into situations, tasks, actions, or results when answers aren’t clear. Employers can do this using follow-up questions. 

  • Use the framework to evaluate or score candidates on their responses to interview questions.


  • Use the STAR framework to prepare for their interviews. For instance, they can think about situations, tasks, actions, and results demonstrating how they live up to the core competencies or values of the job they’re applying for.

  • Adopt the STAR approach to structure their responses concisely and effectively during interviews.

  • Show what value they’ve added in a previous situation by focusing on their role, skills, and outcomes.

What are the benefits of the STAR method for employers?

Using the STAR interview method provides employers with many benefits and helps make the hiring process airtight and reliable. Below are some key advantages employers can gain from implementing the STAR technique. 

Test candidates’ behavioral attributes to check for culture fit 

Effective hiring looks at more than just skills – because even a skilled hire can struggle with performing if they don’t mesh well with your company’s culture and people. 

The STAR method asks candidates to describe past experiences and share how they work through tough situations like team conflicts, difficult conversations, complex problems, and more. 

STAR method questions are a great way to assess candidates’ traits and behavioral attributes. Plus, you can tailor questions to test candidates on your company’s core competencies and values, further increasing your chances of hiring the right person. 

Gain reliable insights into candidates’ abilities and predict future behavior

With the STAR interview technique, you can get concrete examples of candidates’ skills and experiences. This is more reliable than screening resumes or rolling out questionnaires where there’s no way to verify that candidates have truly had the experiences they say they have.

Moreover, with the STAR method, you can ask candidates follow-up questions if their answers are vague or unclear. For example, when a candidate simply describes a situation and what task they worked on, you can ask them to explain their actions and the final outcome. 

In this way, you have a complete picture of how candidates approach different situations and a solid idea of how they’ll behave in similar situations in the future. 

Save time with a structured and concise approach that saves time   

Interviews can sometimes be overly time-consuming, with candidates rambling on or interviewers going off on a tangent. This is often the case when questions or expectations aren’t clear for you or your candidates. 

The STAR method follows a very structured approach to asking and answering questions. Candidates can prepare for their interviews methodically by considering different situations they’ve been in, along with their tasks, actions, and results. 

You can also bring candidates back on track by probing them to be more specific and concise. This way, you get the answers you’re looking for and save yourself and your candidates time and effort. 

Promote fairness and reduce biases in the hiring process 

The STAR method usually involves a structured set of questions. Answers are then assessed on the same four criteria: situation, task, action, and result. 

When you use the STAR method across all candidates, you evaluate them consistently and fairly. This gives you an objective way to differentiate between candidates with similar skill sets and helps eliminate unconscious bias in the hiring process. 

Assess candidates based on the real value they’ll add to the company

The STAR technique stands out for its focus on results and outcomes. Candidates must describe both how they’ve handled different situations and the outcome of their actions. 

For instance, a candidate may explain that improving a particular process saved them and their team members four working hours each week. This answer shows you exactly how they can add value and contribute to company goals. It’s an excellent indicator of the impact the candidate can make at your company in the future. 

15 Sample STAR interview questions

Below is a list of 15 competency-based interview questions designed to elicit responses in the STAR format. You can also add follow-up questions to prompt candidates to go into more detail on specific aspects of their answers.

  1. Describe a situation where you had conflicting opinions or a disagreement with a coworker. How did you handle it, and did you reach a consensus?

  2. Tell me about a time when you had to work on a challenging project with tight deadlines. How did you manage your time and deliver the project successfully?

  3. Share an example of when you had to stay resilient and persevere while facing obstacles or setbacks. How did you stay driven to accomplish your goals?

  4. Describe a situation where you dealt with a difficult client. What steps did you take to handle the situation, and what was the outcome?

  5. Share an example of a project that required you to acquire new skills or knowledge. How did you approach the learning process, and how did it impact the project?

  6. Tell me about a time you took the initiative to identify and address a process that needed improvement. What actions did you take, and what were the results of your implemented changes?

  7. Share an example of a situation where you had to give constructive feedback to someone in a more senior position than yourself. How did you deliver the feedback, and what was the outcome?

  8. Tell me about a project that required cross-functional collaboration. What steps did you take to ensure effective communication and cooperation with members from other teams?

  9. Describe a time when you had to juggle multiple projects or tasks simultaneously. How did you prioritize your workload, and what strategies did you use to stay organized?

  10. Discuss a time when you had to make a difficult decision with limited information. What steps did you take to analyze the situation, and what factors influenced your decision?

  11. Tell me about a situation where you had to take responsibility for a mistake or error. How did you address the situation, and what steps did you take to prevent similar mistakes in the future?

  12. Discuss a time when you had to coach or mentor a coworker to help them improve their performance. What was your approach to it, and what were the results?

  13. Share an example of when you had to take a calculated risk to accomplish a certain task. How did you evaluate the risks and rewards, and what was the outcome of your decision?

  14. Tell me about a project or task where you had to work with high levels of ambiguity and uncertainty. How did you navigate the uncertainty, and what lessons did you learn?

  15. Give me an example of a project where you’ve had to think creatively or innovatively to overcome a challenge. What actions did you take, and how did it impact the project?

What to look for in STAR interview answers

Candidates – especially those who’ve come prepared – will answer your interview questions using the STAR format. 

For each answer, ensure that candidates describe the situation in question, clearly explain their tasks and responsibilities, discuss what actions or measures they took, and outline the results of their efforts.

Additionally, the below factors will also help you differentiate between candidates.


Good candidates will directly address the question and provide relevant examples from their experience. This also demonstrates that they have good listening skills and can intuitively understand the intent behind your question.  


Pay close attention to candidates’ answers to look for inconsistencies or exaggerations. The examples they provide should be realistic and leave no room for doubt in your mind.


Look for specific, detailed answers that provide concrete information about a candidate’s actions and contributions. Candidates should also be comfortable with providing detailed answers to any follow-up questions. 


Strong candidates will be concise, sticking to the points that matter and effectively communicating their experience and actions. A clear, methodical approach to answering questions is a great sign.


Look for answers demonstrating candidates’ understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. This will show their honesty and integrity and can help you better maximize their potential in the future. 

How to use STAR method interviews in your hiring campaign 

STAR method interviews help you understand candidates’ competencies and behavioral attributes. But they can’t be used as the only tool in the hiring process. 

The best hiring efforts include multi-measure testing – which assesses candidates' skills, knowledge, and traits – giving you a well-rounded hiring approach. 

The most effective time to conduct a STAR method interview is after a candidate has completed and passed their pre-employment screening tests. This includes job-specific skills tests, personality assessments, cognitive ability tests, and more. 

TestGorilla’s extensive test library has all these tests and many more. You can roll out tests, track results, and make hiring decisions from an intuitive, unified platform. 

You can also use the platform’s one-way video interview tool to conduct STAR method interviews. Or, you can create your own assessments with custom questions – including STAR technique questions – if this is more convenient than conducting interviews. 

Roll out tests, track results, and make hiring decisions from an intuitive, unified platform.

Combine STAR interview questions with skills testing

Interviews that aren’t well-structured, thought-out, or thorough enough can lead to costly mis-hires, business disruption, and more.

That’s why you need to use a systematic approach like the STAR interview technique during hiring. With this method, you can learn about candidates’ previous experiences – specifically their actions and contributions to company goals. 

This technique lets you verify candidates’ experiences and check whether they’ll mesh well with your company’s culture and working practices. When used alongside other skills and cognitive ability tests, the STAR interview method provides powerful insights into candidates’ suitability for different roles. 

You can conduct various pre-employment assessments and even your STAR interviews using TestGorilla.

Sign up for a free plan, watch a quick product tour, or request a free 30-minute live demo with a TestGorilla team member today. 


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