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Understanding the STAR Interview Format

When interviewing candidates for a job opening, employers need to ask them a variety of questions to decide if they are the right person for the role. One type of question that can help employers get to know candidates better is a behavioral question. Read on to learn examples of behavioral questions and how the STAR format can help candidates provide quality answers. 


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Related: Phone Interview Questions to Ask Candidates


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What is the STAR interview format?

The STAR interview format is a technique candidates can use when answering behavioral interview questions. STAR stands for situation, task, action and result. By using the STAR interview response format, candidates can prepare quality answers using real-life examples.

Behavioral interview questions can help employers determine if a candidate can handle certain aspects of the job. These kinds of questions assess if a candidate has experienced a relevant situation, how they acted during the situation and how they define certain concepts, such as a high-pressure situation or a challenging task.


Many behavioral interview questions begin with the following:

  • Tell me about a…
  • Describe a situation…
  • Give me an example of…
  • Have you ever…

Benefits of the STAR format

The STAR format is a great way for candidates to provide concise and useful answers. With this method, they can structure their responses to behavioral questions. By asking these kinds of questions, you can get to know your candidates better and determine if they have the background to be successful at your company. The STAR format gives interviewees a chance to show you how they provided value to a situation and the challenges they have overcome.

According to a survey of over 2,000 job seekers, only 30% say the questions they were asked at their last interview were “very effective” at assessing their fit for the role. Asking STAR interview questions can be a good way to help candidates feel like you’re asking the right questions to get to know their skills and experience.
Only 30% of job seekers say the questions they were asked during their last interview were “very effective” at assessing fit


What to look for in an answer that uses the STAR format

With the STAR format, a candidate creates a story with a conflict and resolution. You can tell if a candidate is prepared by how easy their story is to follow and understand. 


Here is what each part of the STAR format includes:

  • Situation: The candidate describes the scene and provides relevant details of their example. Look for an answer that explains the context of the situation and why it connects to your question. 
  • Task: Next, the candidate describes their role in the situation. This can help you determine what level of responsibility they had in their previous roles. 
  • Action: They explain how they addressed the situation and what steps they took to overcome the challenge. A good answer shows how the candidate added value to the situation and made logical decisions.
  • Result: At the end of their answer, the candidate explains the outcome of the situation. A quality answer includes concrete examples and quantifiable achievements. They should explain the direct effects of their efforts in their answer.

Related: Interview Questions and Answers


Examples of STAR format answers

When a candidate uses the STAR format correctly, they use each part of the technique to answer their question. Here are a few good answers using this method:


Question: Tell me about a time you overcame a challenging situation at work.

Situation: “At my previous job, our senior graphic designer resigned without any notice. Since she led the graphic design team, we initially didn’t know what to do in her absence.”


Task: “As the junior graphic designer, I decided to take it upon myself to make sure all of her work was completed on time and to the client’s standards.”


Action: “To do this, I met with the creative director, and asked him to train me in the areas of her job I was not familiar with. Then, I worked through my lunch breaks for a week straight to get the work done. I delegated easier tasks to the interns.” 


Result: “In the end, the client ended up loving the work. We were actually able to get the work done a day early. The creative director was so impressed by my efforts that he offered me a promotion as the senior graphic designer.”


Question: Describe a situation when you had to work with a difficult customer.

Situation: “When I worked at the garden nursery, one customer was upset that we did not have her favorite tulips in stock.”


Task: “As the customer service representative, it was my responsibility to think of a solution to her problem. A major part of my job was to make sure the customers left the store happy.”


Action: “After checking our inventory, I saw that she was incorrect, so I kindly explained that we moved the tulip display. I guided her to the display. She said that we didn’t have enough for her garden, so I contacted our seller to speed deliver more of the bulbs.”


Result: “Since I took the time to work with this customer, she went from upset to happy during our interaction. Later that evening, I noticed that she left us a 5-star online review and mentioned my name.”


Frequently asked questions about the STAR format

The STAR format is a useful technique for candidates to prepare their responses to behavioral interview questions. Here are some common questions employers ask about the STAR format:


What are other behavioral interview questions that use the STAR format?

The STAR format is useful for any kind of behavioral interview questions. Here are a few common behavioral interview questions employers ask:

  • Have you ever had to work with limited resources? What did you do to adapt?
  • Tell me about one of your greatest achievements. How did you get there?
  • Describe a situation where you made a mistake. What did you do to fix it?
  • Give me an example of when you led a team during a challenging time. 


What types of roles are behavioral questions good for? 

Behavioral questions are useful when interviewing for roles that require communication, problem-solving, decision-making, leadership and teamwork. They are a great way to see how candidates have used these skills to overcome a challenging situation, and they can give you insight into their thought process when they need to make decisions at work.


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