Job interviews are stressful. Especially when you are preparing to face the interview for your dream tech job; there is so much self-inflicted pressure. While technical interview questions are tough, they’re straightforward — you either know the answer, or you don't. Behavioral questions, on the other hand, are tricky. Technically, there is no right or wrong answer, but any hiccups while answering may result in you not getting the job. Knowing the STAR method of answering interview questions will help you to prepare and answer behavioral questions better.
The STAR method is simple — it is a structured approach to answering behavioral questions by detailing the Situation, Task, Action, and Result of the specific scenario. Essentially, the STAR method of answering helps you focus on the details and avoid providing a generalized answer.
Having trained over 14,000 software engineers, we know what it takes to crack such interview questions. Our alums consistently land offers from FAANG+ companies. The highest ever offer received by an IK alum is a whopping $1.267 Million!
At IK, you get the unique opportunity to learn from expert instructors who are hiring managers and tech leads at Google, Facebook, Apple, and other top Silicon Valley tech companies.
Want to nail your next tech interview? Sign up for our FREE Webinar.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What are STAR interview questions?
- How to answer STAR interview questions?
- How do I prepare for the STAR interview?
- STAR interview questions and answers
What Are STAR Interview Questions?
The STAR interview questions are usually generic, scenario-based interview questions. They are asked to learn about your behavior and work ethic. The goal of these questions is to understand how you will respond to high-pressure situations. Recruiters want to ensure they hire people who can easily walk through the maze of challenging office scenarios and meet their targets.
Many STAR interview questions are pretty standard. You only need to spend some time finding relevant stories and examples from your past work experience. Then, you can practice your answers using the STAR method. The STAR method is a structured approach to answering such behavioral questions by detailing the Situation, Task, Action, and Result of the specific situation.
You should ensure that the answers you provide highlight your personality and portray you as an asset to the organization.
How to Answer STAR Interview Questions?
The STAR technique allows you to articulate your thoughts in a well-structured manner that the interviewers can easily understand:
- S - Describe the Situation: Begin by setting the scene and explaining the situation. Only focus on brief information relevant to your question.
- T - Focus on the Task: Once you have explained the situation, jump straight to the challenge you had to face. This will help you explain how you took action to address the challenge. Remember to be specific about the scenario and underline the actual problem.
- A - Explain Your Action or Solution: Now that the challenge is explained, you have to explain how you addressed the challenge, what solution you proposed, and what action you took. Ideally, it should be the steps you undertook to reach your goal. Instead of using generic sentences like “I did research” or “discussed with peers,” explain a detailed plan of action you took.
- R - Discuss the Actual Results: Finally, let them know how you completed the task assigned. Highlight your strong skills here and explain how they also helped your organization. If you want to talk about a mistake, you should tell them how you learned from it and what steps you took to recover.
Top tip: Always take the high road while answering such questions, and never put down any of your previous coworkers or employers, even if they were at fault.
How Do I Prepare for a STAR Interview?
To prepare for the STAR interview:
- Go through the job description and understand what the recruiters are looking for
- Choose strong stories from your past for the common interview questions
- Note down key details such as company names, projects, essential metrics, and so on
- Prepare answers for commonly asked STAR questions for your job description and practice your storytelling
To ace an interview, you must be prepared to narrate great but true stories about your past achievements to set you apart from the crowd and portray your expertise in the field. With some practice, it is possible to answer STAR questions with confidence.
STAR Interview Questions and Answers
Let’s look at some examples of common STAR interview questions and how to answer them.
Common STAR Interview Questions and Answers
1. Give us an example of a time when you made a critical mistake at work.
- S - I was newly promoted as a project manager and I was excited about meeting with a new client.
- T - When the client asked for a delivery timeframe for their app, I was excited to impress them, and gave a very optimistic answer.
- A - My team was not happy about it and the delivery of the app was delayed. We lost that client because of the missed deadline. I then understood the importance of providing an optimal deadline that will allow us time to resolve roadblocks. I worked with my team to understand the TAT for different parts of a typical project and created a framework to better estimate TAT.
- R - I started setting more realistic deadlines and was able to deliver all my projects on time.
2. Tell me about the conflicts you had with your team. How did you handle it? Were you able to persuade them to align with your views?
- S - Usually, I have a good rapport with my team. However, one time, while working for company XYZ, we had to start working with a newly purchased software.
- T - I already had experience with the software, so I was assigned to introduce it and its features to my team. The company had also brought in a person from the software company to explain the features. He was not happy with my practical approach and decided to go ahead with the training without including me in organizing the training.
- A - I approached him in person and suggested splitting the responsibilities. He took care of software orientation while I explained the practical application of the software and trained my coworkers on implementing it.
- R - In the end, my coworkers understood the theoretical software features and practical implementation of it. With my leadership, the software implementation within our team became a success.
3. What is your most outstanding achievement?
My biggest achievement is empowering my company to adopt an automated filing system for overall project management.
- S - I joined a company as program manager, but I noticed immediately that the team was struggling to meet deadlines, despite the developers putting in their best efforts.
- T - They were not able to allocate the right resources based on the project roles. The filing system was spread across multiple systems and the team was struggling to find all relevant information for role allocation.
- A - I talked to my manager to introduce an automated filing system and introduced a trial version of document management software. We started with a few team members and noticed a huge boost in productivity.
- R - I pitched the results to the higher management and they agreed to switch to the automated filing system that resulted in a 30% increase in productivity.
4. Tell us when you delivered above and beyond your roles for a task.
- S - I was working as Product Manager and learned that the Android app development team was struggling with resources. A leading developer had quit and the deadline was fast approaching. The documentation was created, but it was incomplete.
- T - Product delivery was delayed because HR found it difficult to find a new developer and the team was struggling with incomplete documentation.
- A - Even though I was a Product Manager, I started working on documentation as I had previous Android app development experience. I updated the documentation and helped the development team with necessary information.
- R - With our combined effort, we were able to launch the app on time and we got a 4.5 star rating on playstore.
5. When was the last time you failed in your goal? How did you deal with that?
- S - During my initial days as a website developer, I was working with a client who wanted to make website updates in a short duration.
- T - I had to make changes to the live website within two hours.
- A - I made changes directly on the live website without testing because I wanted to complete on time. However, it backfired and I had to undo everything. The process had to be rescheduled once again and the client was furious because the update didn’t happen when needed.
- R - I realized the importance of testing, and now, I always use testing servers to validate everything before going live.
6. What did you do when you found your superiors in the wrong?
- S - My manager assigned a new project to us and gave us a set of data to work with. We had to start designing based on the given data.
- T - I noticed that the given data was outdated. I knew in my heart that using the old data will affect product quality. Other members of the team weren’t interested in sharing their opinions because the manager is generally unforgiving.
- A - I asked for a private meeting with the manager and calmly told him that the old data is not usable. I also gave him resources and recent data that we can use.
- R - He was happy that I was able to source relevant and recent data and he approved it.
7. Sometimes, work pressure may be too much. Were you overwhelmed with your workload? How did you handle it?
- S - When I was working as a team leader, my manager asked me to create a visual presentation for her and it must be done within five hours.
- T - Previously, I always received feedback on improving the visual appeal of my presentation. So, I was nervous to create a presentation for a big client within a short duration.
- A - I was anxious, but I quickly collected my thoughts and used newly learnt skills to create a visually appealing presentation. Those five hours were stressful, but I managed to complete the presentation on time.
- R - The presentation went well and my manager was also happy with the way it looked. We ended up getting the contract later.
STAR Interview Questions and Answers for Managers
1. What can you say about your management style?
I believe that managers should allow the team to be innovative and be willing to offer assistance when needed.
- S - When I was working for a startup company, resources were usually pretty limited.
- T - I once had to complete a project with a tight deadline, and we were short on resources.
- A - I chose a pace-setting managerial style. I took up a few tasks myself and asked my team to volunteer for extra tasks. I set up a fast pace for the project and reassigned tasks to another worker if the first one was not able to perform.
- R - It was hectic for the team, but they were happy that I was working alongside them to complete all the tasks. Our project won an award and my supervisor asked me to conduct a workshop based on my experience.
2. What do you think about the roles of a manager?
I believe that a manager should focus more on communication and identify the strengths of team members. I am always a good listener because I want to assign roles and tasks based on what the member can accomplish.
- S - In my previous company, I developed a habit of meeting with my team members once every month and listening to what they have to say. This helped me to give feedback about their progress.
- T - One of the team members said that she thought her software development skills weren’t put to good use in the project as she was assigned the role of client communication.
- A - I reassigned responsibilities and found some challenging development tasks for her.
- R - With the right challenge, she thrived and helped the team complete the project without any time delay.
3. How do you motivate your team?
As a manager, I have realized that positive feedback goes a long way to motivate my team members. While some people thrive with criticism, most people respond well to positive feedback. By working with my team and understanding their behavior, I use positive feedback most of the time.
- S - in my previous job, we received 4 critical projects from different clients at the same time
- T - I was asked to handle all 4 projects at the same time, managing about 20 team members overall
- A- I split each project into small, manageable tasks and assigned them to my team members based on their expertise. Even new developers who had just joined the team were able to complete small tasks with minimal training. I sent positive feedback emails appreciating the work done by the team members for completing the assigned tasks.
- R - It helped build team morale and they pushed each other to complete all the projects within the deadline. All our clients were happy.
4. How did you deal with a problematic employee?
As a manager, resolving conflicts between teams is a regular part of the job. I have found that it is effective to listen to employees and understand their concerns before labeling them as problematic.
- S - When I was leading a software production team, two of my team members caused delays in project deliverables because each of them argued that they did their part correctly while the other one did everything wrong. As a result, the project was unfinished by deadline.
- T - I was responsible for getting the project back on track and delivering it on the updated deadline.
- A - I reviewed the communication between the team and found out that both the team members didn’t understand their roles correctly. I reassigned their tasks and reallocated their roles to quickly complete the project.
- R - With regular review and effective communication, the entire team came together to complete the project within the new deadline, putting aside their differences.
5. What will your colleagues say about you?
I think my team members would call me optimistic and a team player. I always see challenges as opportunities. I ensure that my team gets all the resources they need so that they can complete the project within the deadline.
- S - In one of my past jobs, my team was upset about budget cuts for IT resources.
- T - Our team wanted IT resources to complete research and gather data for our projects.
- A - I brainstormed and came up with some simple solutions that helped us gain access to cloud resources without costing more for the company. I also got higher management to implement cloud resources.
- R - It greatly helped not just my team, but my other coworkers as well because IT resources are needed everywhere.
6. How do you define success?
I feel that setting small goals and meeting them is a good way to measure success. By outlining the objectives and breaking down the task, I find it easier to track progress, monitor results, and ensure overall success.
- S - At my previous job, we had to deal with a major application upgrade.
- T - Our client wanted numerous changes in their platform and many modules had to be updated simultaneously to achieve the result.
- A - I worked on the project schedule and allocated different modules to my team members. The short achievable goals made it possible for them to complete their assigned task effectively. We collaborated with the testing team to test module changes as and when they are done. Instead of viewing the application upgrade as a whole, we approached module wise.
- R - We were able to complete the upgrade process in time and our client was happy that the new upgrade was also consistent throughout the platform.
7. Tell me about a time when you had to placate a dissatisfied client.
- S - As a team leader with a startup, I had opportunities to communicate with clients directly. One time, a client expressed disappointment when the last-minute changes they needed for their mobile app were not delivered and they wanted to go live in the next 2 days.
- T - The client had given last-minute change requests directly to one of the team members instead of following the procedure. Another member from the client team had given another request to a team member during a friendly call. As the interface change requirements were not properly documented, the last minute changes were not implemented before product delivery.
- A - I understood the client’s disappointment because they didn’t get the changes they wanted. At the same time, the development team has access to requirements document and when the new requirements were not updated, they delivered without making the changes. I explained our position to the client and promised them that we will make changes to the app and deliver within 2 days. I also helped them get familiar with our platform so that they can update the changes in the requirements on the portal.
- R - My team members worked really hard and we were able to deliver the changes to the app within 2 days so that our client can go live without missing their schedule.
STAR Interview Questions asked at Amazon
While STAR interview questions are asked at most FAANG+ companies, they are particularly popular at Amazon interviews. Amazon has a dedicated round called Amazon Bar Raiser, where STAR interview questions related to their Leadership Principals are commonly asked.
Here are a few examples:
1. How did you solve a pain point for the customers?
- S - While I was working with XYZ for their cloud product, the first version was released without customer research. The product was developed based on inputs from sales engineers. It was not popular among customers.
- T - I was assigned to determine the reason for the slow movement. I did quick usability tests and found that customers had difficulties navigating the interface.
- A - I took a list of customers who had purchased the product and met with them to get their feedback. I was prepared to ask interface-related questions according to my test plan. I created a customer needs matrix to prioritize features.
- R - When the changes were made in the second version of the product release, our existing customers were happy with the new updates, and we also got several new customers.
2. Tell us about your simple solution to a complex problem.
- S - When I was working in ABC Solutions, the company faced difficulty retaining experienced developers, and software product quality suffered. It resulted in spending a lot of money on hiring and training new software developers.
- T - As a team lead, I had to figure out the systemic issue that resulted in high turnover.
- A - I immediately set up meetings with my team members to listen to their opinions and to evaluate the issue. As I started asking questions, I identified communication gaps between the team members and one of the project managers that put undue stress on the team. He was overwhelming team members by disrupting their work priorities. Even though he was experienced, I had to communicate the issue with my manager.
- R - As a result, my manager contacted the HR and the management decided to let go of the disrupting manager and hire a replacement. This resulted in a reduction of turnover by 60% and our team’s productivity instantly improved by 40%.
3. Tell us about your instinctive decision and its impact.
- S - While I was working with a mid-market client ABC, they were planning to move to the cloud. The original plan was to lift and shift one of their web apps for testing and development, and it was a small project, less than $10K.
- T - Management was not interested in spending more time and money, but it was a relatively complex job.
- A - I understood management's concern, but I went ahead and spent more time than allotted as I had done an architectural assessment. I put our client's needs above everything and convinced management to allot more for this project.
- R - The lift and shift were completed ahead of schedule, and the total contract value exceeded six figures. Our management then started focusing more on clients' needs.
4. How can you influence positive change?
- S - I worked as a manager for a core coding team. We were presented with project options to choose between a telehealth platform or AI prosthetics. My team felt that we needed to choose a telehealth platform because it would be easier compared to AI.
- T - I felt that there is more scope for AI prosthetics and my team is capable of doing the coding. As their manager, I had to make the decision, but I didn’t want my team to be unhappy about the project they are working on.
- A - I created summarized sheets showcasing the market needs for AI prosthetics and their scope. I also highlighted the coding technology we can use that my team is already good at. I made them understand that it won’t take a lot of time to develop AI prosthetics coding. They agreed by looking at the data.
- R- We created one of the widely used AI prosthetic limb coding and our company went on to win more similar projects. Such projects earned a lot of accolades for my entire team and we won awards for our projects. It also helped our company establish itself in the AI prosthetics market.
5. Tell me how you prioritize work when juggling multiple projects.
- S - In my previous role as a team leader, I often worked on at least three to four projects at a time with about 15-20 team members. Sometimes, I was also required to complete urgent updates or configurations based on client requirements.
- T - As a team leader, prioritizing work was not only important for me, but I had to communicate the priorities to the team members as well.
- A - I used my calendar and alert system to schedule my work. Every day in the morning, I created a spreadsheet with a list of tasks along with their priorities. I set up my calendar and alert for my listed tasks. I assigned tasks to my team members and shared that with them so that they can also prioritize their work first thing in the morning.
- Sometimes, other managers may also delegate some work to my team members. I always kept an open line of communication with my team members so that I clearly know whether they are working on their tasks. Depending on the priority, I also interact with other managers to ensure that my team is not overwhelmed.
- When urgent updates came up, I scheduled my daily tasks accordingly and got my team members on the same page.
- R - We were able to complete urgent software updates for a client within 2 days when the average turnaround time is 5 days.
Ready to Nail STAR Interview Questions?
Interviewers already know about your technical skills, educational skills, and performance in your previous jobs from your resume. So, STAR interviews are all about getting to know whether the candidate will be the right fit for the current opening. To ace an interview, you must be prepared to narrate great but true stories about your past achievements to set you apart from the crowd and portray your expertise in the field. With some practice, it is possible to answer STAR questions with confidence. Now, getting that dream job of yours isn’t far fetched.
And if you need guidance from FAANG+ experts and 360-degree interview prep training, join our Free Webinar.