STAR method for interview questions.
A few weeks ago my learning circle started working through each others’ career checkups. Following that, a few folks started talking about framing their experience effectively in interviews. Around the same time, Thiago Ghisi shared a few nice tweets about using the STAR format to answer interview questions. Pulling those all together, it felt like a good time to pull together a quick template to practice using the STAR format to share experiences. I also write up a few example answers from my own experience.
The STAR format comes down to:
- Situation surrounding your Task
- Task you undertook (or were assigned) to address the Situation
- Actions to accomplish the Task
- Results of your Actions
I’ve personally never used the STAR method in interviews, but have organically gotten to a similar structure. One challenge in interviews is that you want to come across as engaged and present, and it’s easy for structure to get in your way. Even if you don’t directly incorporate something quite this methodical into your answers, I found it helpful to practice with folks on formatting their stories this way.
- STAR: Uber SRE answering, “Tell me about a time when you had to change your organizational structure to solve an important problem.”
- STAR: Stripe Monolith and Service Architecture answering, “Tell me about a time when your initial approach didn’t work out and you had to shift your approach.”
How to use
- Once a year or so, think through your recent work that might work well in a scenario interview (e.g. “Tell me about a time when you…”)
- Fork this template!
- Move the template into a repository of all your STAR narratives
- Answer the top four sections: Situation, Task, Actions, Results
- Optionally answer the other questions below for more practice
- Share your answer with a coworker you worked with during that period of time: what important pieces are missing?
- Share your answer with someone who didn’t work with you at that time: what’s missing from the narrative to translate to folks who weren’t there?
- Reread your narratives before starting an interview process