Got a job interview and ready to crank out statistics of your accomplishments? Hold on. Take a deep breath. People are far better at remembering stories than any other type of information. Hiring managers are no different -- the statistics may not be remembered, but the story about the work will be remembered. So turn that data center migration, or coding a new e-commerce module into a memorable story, rather than a bunch of factoids. Here's two methods of storytelling, each providing the classic starting point, adversity overcome and successful ending with tangible results.
Context, Actions, Results - CAR Method
The first method, my favorite, is the CAR method. Essentially, you describe your work by starting off with the context of the event. Then you talk about the actions you took to deliver your work. Then you describe the results the business achieved from the work. Context:
You want to try and match up the context of your example with that of the job description. The closer the match, the more likely you will have commonality with the new gig. For example, describe scope and scale. "This project was to consolidate our data centers from five to two. The work involved analyzing, inventorying, and then moving over 8,000 servers." Actions:
Discuss not only the actions you took to deliver successful work, but also the setbacks, obstacles and difficulties you needed to overcome in order to have that success. "The project was going well, but then we started to take much longer to deliver the process documentation than planned. So I met with the management team and we reviewed possible ways to mitigate the problem. We looked at adding temps to do production work..." Results:
End the story with tangible benefits to the business that are reflected by numbers, not by assertions. For example, provide the money saved by consolidating data centers, or how coding a new e-commerce module speed up orders. "Because of the new module I coded, the business was able to reduce the cycle time for processing an order from four days to two days." Why is the CAR method my favorite for answering interview questions? Because if you don't have a good answer to a question, you immediately have a framework to tell your answer. That can help you avoid a confusing narrative with your answer.
Situation, Task, Action, Results - STAR Method Situation:
Similar to context, this is the situation you were facing when doing the work you will later describe. Task:
What task were you given within this situation? If you were in a situation where you and your manager just witnessed a car wreck, for example, what task did your manager give you to do? Action:
Address what you did to resolve the task that you were given. As above, ensure you show obstacles that you overcame to achieve your goal. Results:
Business results you achieved from your work, just as above.
Method to the Madness
When answering interview questions, people often go wandering all over the place. They assume the hiring manager knows certain things, but in actuality doesn't. As a result, they fail to deliver what was accomplished by their work. These two methods of answering interview questions provide you with an easy way to organize your answer, stay on track, and ensure you end with the business results of your work.