How to Use the STAR Method to Answer Grad Job Interview Questions

Posted by GradConnection

The STAR Method is an extremely useful tool to help you structure both selection criteria response and answers to behavioural-based interview questions during the graduate recruitment process. We break down how you can use it to ace your next graduate job interview in this article.

What is the STAR Method?

This structured framework allows applicants to provide as much detail and highlight the extent of their capabilities to the interviewer or recruiter. The abbreviation STAR stands for: 

  • Situation - describe the setting 
  • Task - outline what was required of you in the situation
  • Action - describe the steps you took to respond to the task
  • Result - describe the outcome of your response to your actions

When should you use the STAR Method?

The STAR Method should be used when answering behavioural-based interview questions, often asked in the video or 1-on-1 in-person interview stage of the graduate recruitment process. Behavioural interview questions are competency-based and often used to test skills such as time management, leadership, problem-solving, creativity, teamwork, conflict management and more. They will commonly start with, “Describe a time when you....” or “Talk about a time when you demonstrated…” See more examples of the most common grad interview questions or our ultimate guide to acing graduate interviews

How do you use the STAR Method?

Here are some questions to consider for each step as you plan your response to each question. A strong response will focus predominantly on the “Action” stage as this provides examples of your skills, showing your competency for the role. A solid understanding of the model will allow you to address each step in an interview situation where there is limited opportunity for preparation. 

  • What is the context of the situation?
  • What was your role in the situation?
  • What were the requirements of your role?
  • What was expected of you?
  • How did this fit within the broader goals of the company?
  • What was the task?
  • What were you expected to do?
  • What made this task difficult or challenging?
  • What were the consequences of falling short of your obligations?
  • What did you do?
  • How did you decide what to do?
  • What were the steps involved?
  • What did you have to consider?
  • What was the outcome?
  • What were the short-term and long-term results?
  • What was the response of your supervisor or manager?

Example Responses

Tell me about a time where you demonstrated your problem-solving skills in an event planning context. 

Situation: I was working as an Events Officer at the charity XYZ Organisation. I was assigned to organise the fundraising for an auction event that was being held to raise money for a scholarship fund.

Task: I was concerned about our current budget as it appeared disproportionate to the scale of an event that would attract affluent benefactors. I needed a plan to find sponsorships to increase our chances of achieving our funding goal. 

Action: I decided to first calculate the expenses that were critical to holding the event. To cover the additional expenses, I approached local businesses whose values were in line with our charity for sponsorship. I created a brochure that highlighted the benefits of sponsoring the event, including publicity and the potential to help gather funds for an important cause. I also reached out to the local politician in the hopes that any participation on their behalf would encourage high-profile individuals to attend. 

Result: I was able to convince 7 local businesses to contribute funds to cover expenses for the event. One such business was a local car dealership that agreed to offer a $100 donation to the scholarship fund on every car sold. We were able to raise $2000 through this initiative. The local politician also agreed to donate a hamper to the individual that donated the most funds during the event. This encouraged a higher turnout to the auction and more bids. By the end of the night, we were able to raise enough funds to cover the scholarship fund.

Describe a time where you had to employ teamwork skills. 

Situation: I was a Research Assistant working on a paper about economic policy in Singapore. I worked alongside three other people, and we were all supervised by the Research Officer. 

Task: The Research Officer assigned us all a separate role in finishing the paper. I was assigned the role of editing and proof-reading the contributions of the other assistants. This created a problem where I was only able to do my work once the other assistants had completed their own. I wanted to avoid a situation where I was left doing the bulk of my work in one go, especially considering that at the time I was a full-time student. 

Action: I decided to coordinate with the other researchers and we created a project timeline for ourselves that was separate to the deadline given to us by the Research Officer. Each assistant was assigned a deadline based on their own schedules and workload so that all the sections of the report were completed by different dates. 

Result: The result was that the assistants were able to forward me their parts of the report on a staggered basis so that I was not editing the whole paper right before the deadline. We managed to complete the paper earlier than expected because of our organisation and teamwork, and the Research Officer was very impressed. The paper ended up being shortlisted for an academic award. 


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