The STAR response method is helpful for keeping answers to behavioral-based interview questions focused while still providing the detailed information that the interviewer needs. Remember that behavioral-based questions ask about your previous experiences because the way that you handled previous situations is likely to be a good indicator of your future performance.  STAR is an acronym for Situation- Task(s) – Action(s) – Result(s).  Each word represents key information that should be provided in an answer.

Situation: Start by explaining the situation so the interviewer understands the context of your answer. Don’t spend too much time on this. It is not necessary for the interviewer to have a detailed understanding of the situation; they are more interested in how you handled the situation.

Task: Next, talk about the tasks that you took responsibility for completing or the goal of your efforts.

Action: Then, describe the actions that you personally took to completed the task(s) or reach the goal. (Tip: Instead of saying “We did xyx,” say “I did xyz.”) Be sure to highlight the skills or character traits addressed in the question. This is a very important part of your answer because it is essential for you to demonstrate that you have a high level of knowledge of the particular skills the interviewer is trying to analyze.

Result: End by, explaining the positive outcomes or results generated by your actions. You might emphasize what you accomplished, or what you learned.

Example Responses Using the STAR Method

Example 1: Tell me about a significant decision that you faced and how you went about making it

Situation:  “During my employment at XYZ Company, there was this piece of testing equipment that wasn’t working correctly.  It was a fairly expensive piece of specialized equipment so it wasn’t clear whether it should be repaired or replaced.  I worked with my supervisor to make a determination.”

Task(s):  “I was responsible for working with the equipment manufacturer to get an estimate for the cost of repair, evaluating replacement options, and helping my supervisor make the final decision.”

Action(s):  “I worked with my supervisor to brainstorm ideas and to determine what information was needed to make a good decision.  I then ran the equipment until it failed and documented the failure with pictures in a short report.  I then shared this information with the equipment manufacturer and got an estimate of repair costs.  I also evaluated replacement options by identifying the important features of the system and collecting information on potential replacements from several vendors.  Once I had all of the information, I organized it in an Excel spreadsheet and presented it to my supervisor.”

Result(s):  “Once the data for the various options was presented side-by-side it was easy to compare, and the decision was fairly straightforward.  My supervisor was able to make an informed decision and he was happy with my work.”

In this example, the individual demonstrated his or her decision making skills by indicating that:

  • Brainstorming is useful in identifying options
  • It is important to put a plan together to collect the needed information/data
  • Information needs to be well-organized for ease of comparison and review

Example 2: Tell me about a time when you have shown a significant amount of initiative.

Situation: “I was a member of the XYZ student organization and we were planning a display for Engineers’ Week. Our organization came up with a really good concept for the display but was struggling to get the work done. This was going to be a fairly involved display requiring a team effort and many hours of work.

Task(s): “I could see that the effort wasn’t very well organized and felt that I needed to do something if we were going to produce a high-quality display.

Action(s): “Although I was not an elected leader, I approached the organization president and volunteered to help put a plan and schedule together for completing the display on time.

Result(s): “The president was very appreciative of the support that I offered and quickly accepted. The plan I put together was presented to the organization members and received a high level of support. We successfully completed a display for E-Week that received many compliments from students and faculty members.

In this example the individual demonstrated initiative by:

  • Identifying a problem or a need
  • Taking positive action to address the situation
  • Going above and beyond basic expectations of someone in his or her position

Preparing to Use the STAR System

The key to using the STAR method is to anticipate the skills and character traits that an employer is likely to ask about (see ‘Research the Position and the Company’ section on the Preparing for the Interview page) and to have a response in mind respond.  For each skill/character trait, it is helpful to prepare short notes to assist you in communicating competencies to employers. Here are two that are based on the examples above:

Decision Making

S – Equipment repair or replace decision for XYZ Company

T – Support supervisor’s decision by collecting all of the needed data

A – Brainstormed options, put plan together, documented failure, coordinated with
vendors, organized and presented information

R – Supervisor was able to make an informed decision and was happy with my work


S – XYZ org display for E-Week

T – Recognized the need to improve organization of work

A – Volunteered to help and developed a workable plan and schedule

R – Completed display on schedule and received many compliments

The Employment Process Menu


Step 1: Understanding Employers and the College Recruiting Process

    -Maintain a Positive Attitude

Step 2: Determine Career Goals and Skillset

Step 3: Identify Preliminary Target Employers and Industries

Step 4: Develop Effective Marketing Materials

Step 5: Search for Specific Employment and Research Target Companies