Earning

When it's time to answer tough job interview questions, the STAR method can help

It helps build "little succinct stories that you can tell to demonstrate certain competencies."

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The job interview is an opportunity to prove to an employer why you're the right fit for the role both culturally and based on your experience. It's also a chance for an employer to get a sense of who you are as a person.

When an interviewer asks you questions like, "What are your weaknesses?" and "Why did you leave your last job?" it's important that you don't just give simple answers but include specific examples.

"You can sell that you're great at anything, but unless you can back it up with some specific example, some case studies, some anecdote from your work history or otherwise," says Amanda Augustine, career expert at TopResume, "there's nothing really concrete to help bolster that argument."

One way to help break down your experience is the STAR method. Here's how you can use it to nail an interview.

'Situation, task, action, results'

The STAR method stands for "situation, task, action, results," and it can help build "little succinct stories that you can tell to demonstrate certain competencies," says Augustine.

Say you're a project manager at an advertising company and a few years ago you were told to lead a team in coming up with four different billboard ads for one of your company's biggest clients. The situation would be your company's relationship with this client, the task would be to come up with ideas for those ads, the action would be the work you laid out and did with your team to deliver for this client, and the results would be the seven billboards you then delivered as options by your allotted deadline.

Or say you do administrative work for a caterer and you were told to organize the logistics for a wedding. The situation would be the wedding, the task would be ordering the ingredients for the food beforehand and making sure it's delivered seamlessly to the event, the action is what you did to ensure that happened, and the results were that the food arrived early and was especially fresh because you figured out how to get some of it from local farms.

"It's a very nice way to summarize a story in a succinct and digestible manner that you can easily leverage for different interviews," says Augustine.

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The STAR method can help you outline 'your top 10 professional moments'

When it comes to these specific examples that prove your strengths and abilities, it's good to use the STAR method ahead of the interview to prep for relevant questions.

"We often, when we're coaching people, will tell them to think of your top 10 professional moments" before going into it, says Brie Reynolds, career development manager at FlexJobs, and the method can help build that narrative of success for each one. "Normally one of those 10 examples that people pick will fit whatever questions they've been asked."

You can use the job description as a guide for the kinds of stories you'd want to tell. "You want to start identifying from the get-go when you're looking at these positions," says Augustine, "what are some of those top skills [listed], particularly if they're soft skills and they're harder to demonstrate with [numbers]."

For skills like conflict management or dealing with competing deadlines, detailed stories that showcase your prowess in these areas can prove you're a good fit.

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You can use the method to answer 'What would you do if ...' questions

You can use the STAR method to answer questions about hypothetical events as well.

When someone asks a "What would you do if" question, using the method to break down into detail how you'd handle the situation "helps the hiring manager see you in action," says Reynolds.

"If you're very vague about it, they're not going to be able to picture that. It's not painting a very memorable picture in their mind of you as a professional," she says. "A very specific example is a really good way to accomplish this, and the STAR method helps you do it in a way that's concrete."

'You never want to sound rehearsed'

One thing to remember when you are using the method to prepare: "You never want to memorize anything," says Augustine. "You never want to sound rehearsed." This could come off inauthentic.

Instead, "jot down a few notes to help you remember your key talking points," she says. "Then practice just telling the story organically."

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