Tricky, answering interview questions. Half the time, we are all over the board with our answers. And when we practice answering interview questions, we don’t know how to start.
Before you can mess with the rules, you have to know the rules. A good rule for answering an interview question is to go out and get yourself a CAR. Not that car. A CAR. You need the Context, Action, and Result to answer interview questions. Have a CAR in your back pocket and you can take the interview anywhere you want to go.
No one understands your situation better than you. Unfortunately, you provide answers that assume the hiring manager knows the situation you went through to get your results. Not so. Every company culture is different and every company has different problems to solve so you have to explain the context of what you did to show your results.
What was the situation in the department or project? Was the situation dire? Full of conflict? A dearth of money or time? What, exactly, was the situation when you, our hero, entered the scene from stage left to save the day?
A paragraph or two about the situation you encountered when saving the company provides context to the hiring manager so there will be understanding of why you did what you did.
What actions did you take to solve the problem, turn the situation around and save the day? If the interview question was “tell me about a time when your team experienced conflict and what you did to resolve it,” you need to state the actions you took to help channel the conflict into a productive decision.
Actions can demonstrate your job skills, your motivation for doing the work or how you attempt to fit in with the team. Know which of these actions are needed to answer the interview question.
At the end of the day, hiring managers want to hire people who produce results and can help them achieve their goals. Without showing the results of your actions with numbers, compliments or changes to process, what you did to solve a problem won’t come across because nothing was resolved by your actions.
Know the results you are going to show to answer each interview question.
Going through this process to answer an interview question — Context, Action, and Result — gives you the framework to answer any interview question. More importantly, this process gives you the ability to tell great interview stories because there is always a problem to solve — Context. Plus a hero who can save the day — your Actions. And satisfaction provided to all — your Results.
Think about it: people remember stories far more than they remember anything else. Why not be the hero of your interview by answering your interview questions with Context, Actions, and Results?
Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations. In 2005, Scot started sharing these hard lessons at CubeRules.com, a site devoted to Career Advice for knowledge workers, whom he calls Cubicle Warriors.