We’ve all had that moment where we’re asked a difficult question during an interview and our minds go blank. Our palms start to sweat and we stutter, trying to impress and feeling like we’re failing. Next time you’re asked a difficult interview question, bring the question full circle to your talents and experience with the START method.
STAR: Situation, Tasks, Actions, and Results
The STAR method allows you to answer by providing a Situation, Tasks, Actions, and Results in a logical sequence. If a question catches you off guard, take your time with answering, and follow the STAR format — it’s a great way to answer difficult questions, especially ones that have to deal with negative workplace experiences.
For example, here’s a fairly common question: “Have you ever been in a group that did not work well together?”
To answer this question, you can discuss the situation, relay the task, talk about the actions, and tell about what results you achieved. A good answer might look like this:
Yes, once I was on a team that was given only a few days’ notice that we were covering an important live event. Stress levels were high, and when one team member had technical difficulties several other people lashed out in frustration.”
“We were covering a live event in town and were supposed to be streaming a visiting New York Times bestselling author’s speech to our customers. However, our streaming software wasn’t working properly and we didn’t have time to find another outlet.”
“Instead, I and some of my coworkers began live tweeting the speech while another person recorded the speech on his camera. As soon as we got back to the office, we uploaded the speech to YouTube and linked our customers to it.”
“Our boss wasn’t happy that we hadn’t been able to live stream the event but recognized that we handled it well and had a very high engagement rate on twitter with our customers, the author, and the author’s followers. This led to a 150% spike in sales on that author’s title over the next 24 hours.”
It’s okay if the situation ended badly — own up to it by discussing what you learned and how you would have handled the situation differently. Demonstrate your self-awareness that you’d do it differently next time. Additionally, if you don’t understand the question, it is alright to ask the interviewers to repeat it rather than assume you can fake your way through. Remember, keep your cool! Take your time and go over the STAR method. It’ll make your answers clearer and leave a lasting impression on your interviewers.