Ready, Set, Switch! SOART Out Your Interview Responses

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You’ve earned your seat at the finalists’ table, but there’s still some critical preparation left to do. Interviews are anxiety-provoking and the best defense is preparation.

That can mean a lot of things: researching the company, dry cleaning your best suit, or figuring out how to avoid traffic on interview day.

All are important, however, knowing the product (you!) is the most critical aspect of your prework. You may be inclined to skimp on this step since, hey, who knows you better than you? But savvy interviewers notice and won’t be impressed that you tried to wing it. So before the interview, take time to SOART out your responses.

A SOART Story is a concise example of an achievement that demonstrates a given competency. It consists of five brief parts:

  • Situation – A description of the context and key players in your example.
  • Obstacle – Relevant challenges that developed.
  • Action – Specific actions you took to overcome the obstacles.
  • Result – The concrete or measurable outcome of your actions.
  • Takeaway/Tie-in –  What you’ve learned and how it makes you a strong candidate for this role.

SOART stories are a great way to respond to behavioral questions, which typically sound like, “Tell me about a time…” or “Describe a situation when…”  These are common in interviews and designed to uncover specific competencies relevant to predicting success in the job.

For example, the question, “Tell me about a difficult client you worked with and how you handled it” strives to get at your ability to effectively engage the competencies of customer service, influence, and possibly conflict management or creative problem solving. Responding to behavioral questions in a thorough yet concise manner will win you points, and SOART stories provide an easy structure to remember and use during the interview.

As you prepare for an interview, you’ll want to create seven to eight SOART stories so that you have a variety to choose from. Some SOART stories can work for different competencies, but avoid using the same story twice in an interview. Choosing recent examples (within the last two to four years) is preferable, but it’s most important to select a story that best showcases the skills the employer is looking for. So, if an older accomplishment or even a volunteer project best highlights a given competency, use it!

Here is an example:

Interviewer: “Tell me about a time you had to fix a major problem for a customer.” (Competencies: Agility, Resourcefulness, Creativity, Problem-solving).

Your Response: “When planning the annual conference where we bring in over 300 team members from offices across two continents for a full week, our usual venue was suddenly unavailable due to a major renovation project resulting from a kitchen fire (Situation).

In addition, our budget for the meeting was cut by 10% due to a need to reallocate funds (Obstacle). I immediately got on the phone with my contacts and started researching new venues (Action) since many of the attendees had already booked their flights (More Obstacles).

After several conversations, I found another local venue that could accommodate the size of our group, but it was more expensive than our regular location (More Obstacles). So, I got creative with the menus to get the price lowered (Action). I also negotiated with our original venue to see if they would offer our company a 25% discount next year if we guaranteed the booking, since we were inconvenienced this year (Action). They agreed, so the reduced cost of the conference over two years enabled us to actually save money (Result) and the conference attendees enjoyed the change of scenery (Result).

What I learned from this situation is that limited resources can inspire creativity and that keeping strong relationships with vendors is worth it, which is something that’s also important in the customer service position in your new territory (Takeaway).”

Final thoughts on SOART stories: The key goal in an interview is to connect to the hirer, and stories are very powerful in eliciting that connection. They hook a listener (situation), enable them to feel the conflict (obstacle) and bring them through (action) with a triumphant ending (result) and a valuable lesson (takeaway).

Happy hunting!

For more in the “Ready, Set, Switch!” series, click here.

Reposted from: Forbes.com

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