How to Use the STAR Method to Ace Your FAANG Interview

updated on 09 December 2021

Nailing FAANG interviews requires practice. FAANG Interview preparation involves planning to ensure you’re presenting your best experiences and achievements to the interviewers 💯. And for this, you must have heard about the STAR approach to prepare your responses.

But are you using it the right way? 🤔

Let’s find out! 🔎

What is the STAR Technique? 🌟

The STAR Technique
The STAR Technique

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. It is a widely used method to answer questions in behavioral interviews. It essentially helps you create a good story around your achievement or the event you want to talk about by clearly stating the situation you were in, and explain what actions you took to achieve the objective of the task and what the results turned out to be.

While this might seem very simple, a lot of candidates often fail 👎 to use the technique in the right way. But before we discuss more about the STAR method, let us first briefly understand the intent of behavioral interviews.

All FAANG companies give great importance to behavioral interviews. These questions make up around 50% of the interview and help interviewers understand what you’ve done in the past and whether you’ll fit into the company’s culture. They want to learn more about your behavior and who you are to find out if you’re the best fit for the role. In essence, they want to know your story - that is what behavioral interviews are all about! These stories can be as simple as describing a time when you took initiative in a group project, which would reflect your proactive attitude, or a leadership role you took at work or university, which would demonstrate your leadership skills, or something as simple as your habit of preparing to-do lists for the work you do, to demonstrate you are an organized person. And mind you, you do not need to have work experience in a professional setting to share these stories. They could be from your everyday life or projects and events you’ve been a part of at university.

Related: How To Crack FAANG Tech Interviews

How to Use the STAR Technique?

FAANG companies want you to use the STAR technique to answer the questions.
FAANG companies want you to use the STAR technique to answer the questions.

The STAR technique can help you structure your answers to these questions. Answering behavioral interview questions is all about storytelling - honest, real stories about events that can help you convey the transferable skills from your life and experiences that’ll help you in your new role.

Some examples of STAR interview questions are:

“Tell me about a time you failed and what you learnt from it.”
“Give me an example of a difficult decision you’ve made in recent times.”
“How do you deal with a situation where someone disagrees with you?”
“Describe a time when you accomplished something you’d decided.”
Etc...etc..etc.

The list of these questions could be endless. But that doesn’t mean the preparation is too

The best way to answer them would be approaching them using the STAR interview technique as follows;
S - Talk about the Situation at hand
T - Task(s) or the goal(s) you were working towards
A - Action taken to address the situation
R - End Result of the action’

A good response must contain everything - the Situation, Task, Action and Result.
A good response must contain everything - the Situation, Task, Action and Result.

Just like a story, your responses should have a beginning, middle and end. Here’s what we mean by it:

  • Begin by talking about the situation you had on hand or the problem you had to address. This also involves talking about what happened, who was involved and when did it happen. 
  • Then talk clearly about the task(s) what needed to be done to address the situation.
  • Go ahead to talk about what action(s) you took to resolve the problem or accomplish the task. Talk about how you narrowed your steps down to what you did, what was your responsibility in the entire actions and why you did what you did. 
  • Finally, talk about the outcome. What was the result of the action? Did you succeed? Did you fail? What did you learn from it?

Let us understand it better with an example..

...well, a good AND a bad example.
Suppose you’re asked:

Tell me about a time you were under a lot of pressure at work. How did you deal with it?

A poor answer ❌  to this question would look like:

“In my previous role, I was assigned to a project with another team member, who quit a few months after we started working on the project. When he left, the responsibility of that entire project was on me, and I found that particular period of time very pressurizing.”

This answer does not provide enough context about the project and doesn’t describe what task the candidate had on hand. Although the candidate managed to state an incident when they were under a lot of pressure, the answer does not demonstrate how they dealt with it and presents them to be a candidate who would hit a dead-end under pressurizing situations and fails to prove the candidate as someone who would make their way through difficult problems.

Don’t worry. We’re here to help you.
Don’t worry. We’re here to help you.

On the contrary, an ideal answer ✅ to this question using the STAR approach would look like:

S(Situation)
- In my previous role, I was assigned to a project with another co-worker for a very important client who’d been a legacy customer for our organisation for several years. However, my co-worker quit a few months after we started working on the project. 

T(Task) - While I was already looking after a few other projects, this project’s complete responsibility was also assigned to me, since it was not possible to introduce a new team member at such a later stage.

A(Action) - I knew we would lose a significant amount of business if we failed to deliver the project as per client expectations and decided to devote extra time by making myself completely available to the client on evenings after work and weekends as well. 

R(Result) - When we completed the project, the client was very happy with my performance and referred us to two new clients that ended up providing a total business of INR 40 lakhs.

This answer provides complete information about the situation, task at hand, the actions taken to deal with the situation and the end result. The end result is also quantified which helps the interviewer understand the impact of the action that was taken.

Also read: Best interview preparation tips to get hired at FAANG and other top tech companies

Do’s and Don'ts when using the STAR method

While the STAR method is a great technique to prepare your answers, here are a few things to keep in mind when using it:

  • Always think your examples through. Whenever you’re met with a question, take a moment and think through the story you want to tell. Pick an incident that is closest to what the interviewer has asked you about. 
  • Always try to quantify the results to show what impact your work made. It helps them understand the measure of the work you’ve done. 
  • Ensure your response is crisp and concise. Time is often critical in interviews and you do not want to bore your interviewers off to move to the next question before you’re done talking. 
  • Answering questions is not always about sharing success stories. Feel free to share about the shortcomings as well. It helps the interviewer understand that you have an eye for detail and passion to continuously improve with every task you perform. 
  • Finally, always share what you learnt from the task and what your key takeaways were.

    A few things to avoid doing would be
  • Never share answers that lack substance. While answering behavioral questions is often like storytelling, you don’t want to miss out on important details that would convey your competencies. 
  • Share real stories, never make up one. It is absolutely okay to say so if you haven’t experienced the situation you’ve been asked about. The interviewers are there to help you and want you to succeed, providing them with honest responses.
  • Never over prepare. It is always good to be prepared, but present your authentic self in the interview. 
  • Avoid sharing stories that only reflect how good you are. Everyone makes mistakes and every task is accomplished only when several people work towards it together. Ensure you show yourself as a team player.

Conclusion:

All FAANG companies focus equally on behavioral interviews. Although they might seem like a conversation where you’ll be sharing your experiences, it is much more than that. Interviewers often have certain guidelines or job requirements in front of them that they use to assess you. While it is impossible to tick off every single point from those requirements, it is important to share experiences that show you’re a good fit and competent candidate for the role. Using the STAR method currently can help you crack your next FAANG interview! 🎊

Good luck!

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Here is a short infographic you can save and share to quickly remember STAR method to ace your FAANG interview.<br>
Here is a short infographic you can save and share to quickly remember STAR method to ace your FAANG interview.

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