Remember: Situation, task, action, and result. Simple enough, right?
Simple is good and it's memorable, which, in this case, is very good.
Often the most complex interview questions derive from a competency-based inquiry. For example, “Tell me about a time when you faced a challenging situation and what you did about it.”
If you have work experience – if you have been an intern, worked co-op or in a work placement, or flexed your career as a part-time employee – it will be easier to seamlessly answer a competency-based question in an interview. If you have not, there’s no time like now to think on moments in life that have tested your skills and encouraged problem-solving to good results.
Suffice to say, using the STAR method will help in any interview and here is how you do it: When you’re asked to reflect on or elaborate on a time you faced a hurdle and overcame it start with ‘S’ and work your way to ‘R’:
Situation – Communicate the foundational information to lay the groundwork for their understanding of what the situation was that you were faced with.
Task – Explain your role within this situation, for example, were you a team lead or a support? What was it that you were specifically tasked to do?
Action – Explain what action you took within the context of this role and this situation outlined.
Result – Give a high-level overview of what the result was in the scenario you have been discussing and how achieving the desired result helped the team to overcome the obstacles or hurdles that threatened progress initially. Don’t hesitate to explore what you learned from the entire process.
Question: Tell me about a time you confronted a stressful situation and how you handled it?
Situation: Our senior graphic designer left without providing notice and we were in the middle of a large-scale brand strategy project, days left until the deadline, and the clients were eager to see the results. Being short on both time and staff was a great hurdle as getting the project done by the deadline would have been a tall order anyway.
Task: As a key communications team member within the team I was aware of not just the situation but the importance of how we represented the progress on the project to the clients.
Action: To support the team, I worked to assure our clients of the work that was done to-date and carefully crafted a follow-up email with a bulleted list outlining our progress on the project and reassuring that we would be done within the approved timelines despite our scaled-back team. I then went to work overtime with my peers to bring the copywriting, mission, vision, values, and core communications components of the project to the finish line. Because graphic design is contingent on the strategy of the brand and messaging, I also doubled-down on the management of our outsourced graphic designer to ensure that we were consistently aligned on the vision and lessen any margin for error – and time to achieve positive results.
Result: Thankfully, because of our thoughtful approach, quick reaction, and teamwork we were able to produce an award-winning brand strategy on time and budget for a client who then helped us to win more clients because of the positive review they gave.
Remember, you are a star and asset to any team but when in doubt...use STAR.