How to Answer STAR Interview Questions

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Use the STAR method—Situation, Task, Action, Result—to answer interview questions and ace your next interview.

[Featured Image] Woman in glasses interviewing a second woman while sitting on a couch in an office

What are STAR interview questions? 

The STAR acronym refers to answering behavioural questions in a job interview. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Structuring answers in this order helps you tell compelling stories about how you’ve handled specific workplace situations. STAR answers give employers clues about your experience, values, personality, and how you’ll perform in the position you’re applying for. 

Behavioural questions can be challenging to prepare for and answer, requiring you to recall details of your professional history and deliver stories on command. With practice, you can master the STAR method, discover new ways to describe your qualifications and compel employers to see you as a valuable asset. 

How to answer behavioural questions using the STAR method 

It’s helpful to learn to recognise behavioural questions when they come up during an interview by listening for phrases like, 'Tell me about a time when' or 'How have you handled,' followed by the scenario that your interviewer wants to know more about. 

Here are three career-specific examples of behavioural interview questions: 

Data analyst: "How have you handled getting project results that surprised you?"

User-experience designer: "Tell me about a time when a UX project did not succeed." 

Social media marketer: "Tell me about a time that you launched a social media campaign that exceeded the expectations of your team."

When this type of question arises in an interview, remember to structure your answers using the four components of the STAR method. 


Begin your answer by describing a specific workplace situation relevant to the interviewer's question. Include details about when the situation occurred and the company you were working for. 


Describe your role in the situation, including what was expected of you and any tasks or projects you needed to complete. 


Next, describe your actions to resolve the situation, complete tasks or projects, and fulfill your responsibilities.


Finally, describe the result of your actions. Was the situation resolved? What was the measurable impact on others on your team, the company, or customers? What did you take away from the experience that helped you improve?

STAR method interview questions and answers

To better prepare for your next interview, research common behavioural questions in your career field, including tougher ones such as 'Can you describe a time you failed?' or 'How have you handled negative feedback in the past?' Before the interview, use the STAR method to prepare potential answers. 

Here are three examples of behavioural questions and STAR answers from which you can draw. 

Behavioural question: "What do you do when you disagree with someone at work?"

STAR answer:

  • Situation: "At company X, my managers decided to consolidate our three products into one while still trying to sell to three target customer segments. Because I knew the needs of our three segments well, I believed that we needed to keep three separate products to meet customers’ needs, but the managers did not follow my recommendation." 

  • Task: "I was responsible for gathering insights into our customer segments and redesigning the marketing of one product to generate more leads and drive sales." 

  • Action: "While marketing the generic product to specific customer segments was a challenge, I spent extra time on market research and enlisted the help of other teams within the company to gather fresh insights. I then split-tested ad campaigns to find the most effective versions of the ads."  

  • Result: "Sales initially suffered after the product change, then rose while the ad campaigns took effect. Then, sales levelled off for several months, and the managers decided to reinstate the three separate products and even add new, unique features that were better than the original. Within three months, sales quadrupled due to better customer segmentation and product placement."  

Behavioural question: 'Describe a time when a project's requirements changed in the middle of it. How did you handle this situation?'

STAR answer: 

  • Situation: "While working for company Y, my team was responsible for deploying a new software program for our customers’ users. Halfway through, the customer requested very specific changes that would extend the deployment by two months."

  • Task: "My role was to monitor the deployment to our test servers and keep the customer abreast of those results leading up to the live deployment to accommodate their mid-point requests and beat the extended two-month deadline."

  • Action: "Building from prior deployments, I implemented a method of communicating weekly updates to the customer and requesting their feedback using a Google form."

  • Result: "We experienced minimal interruptions during the live deployment and beat our extended deadline by two weeks. The customer was very happy and contracted our team for another project." 

Behavioural question: "Tell me about a time when you handled a high-pressure situation."

STAR answer: 

  • Situation: "At company Z, I was given a large media assignment and a short turnaround period to complete it. This was for a big initiative by the public relations team to improve company Z’s image after a big controversy."

  • Task: "My role was to reach out to media contacts to secure favourable coverage. However, it was difficult to achieve this as the controversy escalated."

  • Action: "As the deadline loomed, I asked for an extension and increased my efforts to find friendly media contacts. I reached out to dozens of media outlets, sent personalised messages, and set up meetings over three weeks."

  • Result: "The result was that several top media outlets published favourable stories about company Z, and we were able to retain a large per cent of our loyal customers." 

Next steps 

As you continue along your career path, keep a list of common behavioural interview questions handy so that as situations arise that you think you would be illustrative in an interview, you can capture valuable insights while they’re fresh. Record your experiences using the STAR method and use them to prepare for future interviews. 

Improve your storytelling skills for multiple workplace purposes, including crafting STAR answers to behavioural questions, with Storytelling and Influencing: Communicating With Impact from Macquarie University. 

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